For the best experience, open
on your mobile browser or Download our App.

Civil Society Emerges as Quiet but Formidable Challenger to the Modi Govt in the 2024 Elections

India may have to brace up for tumultuous weeks following the counting day. In the event, it is the civil society that will have to roll up its sleeves and be prepared to rescue our democracy and prevent the current regime from stealing this election.
Representative photo of civil society groups' protest in New Delhi. Photo: Sangeeta Braooah Pisharoty/The Wire

Many political parties and platforms opposed to the Modi dispensation are putting up a resolute fight in these general elections. But a much more formidable challenge to it, albeit a quiet one, is being mounted by civil society.

Scores of civil society organisations from across the country with little ambition to gain office are working with unimaginable zeal to rescue the core values of our Republic. The likely defeat of the Modi regime will be more of an outcome of their efforts. Opposition parties are merely going to be the incidental beneficiaries of those efforts.

The current regime, however, has too much at stake and is unlikely to quietly leave office in the event of a defeat. There are loud clues that the regime has been making moves to preclude the possibility of its defeat. Before dwelling on why the regime is worried about leaving office, what it is afraid of if it is no longer in office, and what is at stake for it, we need to recollect the various measures the regime has already taken to avert a probable adverse mandate.

The regime has eliminated the role of the Supreme Court in the selection and appointment of the Election Commissioners. Whether the government-appointed Election Commissioners will do the regime’s bidding is a matter of speculation or suspicion. However, the worrying truth is that today its impartiality has become questionable. The irrational and unnecessarily long-drawn election schedule announced by the Commission reeks of its willingness to accommodate the ruling dispensation’s preference. The abnormal indulgence shown to the prime minister and leaders of the ruling party when they so openly violated the Model Code of Conduct only makes the ECI’s impartiality even more doubtful.

Also read: Election Commission Mum as BJP Video Openly Incites Hatred Against Muslims Again

The regime moved to freeze the bank accounts of the Congress party, crippling its putative challenger. It put in prison a sitting as well as a former chief minister. The regime prevented these two leaders from campaigning against it and rendered the opposition’s onslaught that much weaker.

The core of the electoral process is hollowed out. The regime is using unfair and strong-arm tactics with impunity to get its candidates elected unopposed. Nomination papers of candidates belonging to the main opposition party were invalidated. Candidates of smaller parties and independents were pressured to withdraw, and in some instances, they were prevented from filing nomination papers. There are reports that people suspected of voting against the ruling party were prevented from casting their votes in several places. The government’s enforcement and investigative agencies were deployed to coerce leaders of rival parties to switch sides. Leaders of some regional parties were brazenly arm-twisted to join the ruling alliance.

The prime minister used government platforms to announce that his return to office is a foregone conclusion. He used his address to the parliament not merely to express his hope but to proclaim the certainty of his return to power. He even declared his return to office with his party winning a certain number of seats. He did everything possible to make people forget that he is a lame duck PM waiting for a renewal of mandate by popular vote.

Let’s now look at what is at stake for the regime if it were to lose power.

Also read: Phase 3 Underlines That the BJP Is Being Subjected to a Death of a Thousand Cuts

The frantic efforts the regime made to prevent the details of electoral bonds from coming out into the public domain are now known. It is the Supreme Court’s insistence that finally forced the State Bank of India and the Election Commission to divulge the details of donations to political parties through electoral bonds. How quid pro quo deals worth several thousands of crores were struck between the ruling party and its donors is now public knowledge. If it were to leave office, a hostile government’s probe could reveal many more damning details.

The ruling party is likely worried that if it were to leave the government, PM CARES funding details will also be revealed. The ruling party has managed to subvert a thoroughgoing probe into the Rafale deal by giving information in a sealed cover to a complying Supreme Court bench. More likely than not the probe into the deal will be reopened. Deployment of military grade surveillance software, Pegasus, was not investigated fully. The Supreme Court was unable to elicit a simple yes or no answer from the government to the question whether it has purchased the spyware. A thorough probe of this might happen.

Revelations about the opaque process through which many public assets were sold for dirt cheap prices to the regime’s cronies can expose the Hindutva-crony capitalist nexus. Investigative journalists found that there is a gap of about Rs 60,000 crore between what the BJP spent in the last ten years and what it officially said it received as donations. The current regime surely fears a probe into this.

If the current regime does not return to power, its various acts of corruption, manipulation, cover ups will be out in the public. The regime’s data manipulation and monetisation, corrupt deals, misadventures on foreign soil will be probed. That will put the current ruling dispensation as well as its mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, in a spot.

The details that could come out have the potential to discredit them so thoroughly that it could take them decades to regain respectability to make a serious bid for power in the near future. Exposure of Modi-Shah excesses could do such damage to the Hindutva forces that it will be akin to the setback they suffered after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.

With its cupboard full of such ugly skeletons, the BJP and its mentor would naturally be worried about the strong electoral headwinds.  Therefore, they would do everything possible to remain in office. Vacating the seat of power would spell disaster for the Hindu Rashtra project. With its centenary just a year away, the main protagonist bodies of the project could ill-afford such a setback.

There is every likelihood that the present dispensation would, therefore, try to do everything to steal this election. Unlike the earlier General Elections, the present election is unlikely to conclude with the conclusion of polling on June 1 and declaration of results on June 4.

India may have to brace up for tumultuous weeks following the counting day. Opposition political parties seem ill-prepared to ensure that the will of the people is faithfully reflected in the voting machines.

In the event, it is the civil society that will have to roll up its sleeves and be prepared to rescue our democracy and prevent the current regime from stealing this election.

Parakala Prabhakar is a political economist and author of The Crooked Timber Of New India.

Make a contribution to Independent Journalism
facebook twitter