The Indian elections have kicked off, and unsurprisingly, they are already controversial. Delhi CM and Aam Aadmi Party chief Arvind Kejriwal is already claiming that “votes have been deleted on an unprecedented scale”.
PM Narendra Modi is accusing the Congress of being soft on terrorism and, indirectly, unpatriotic. Some accusations of code violations are being taken up by the election commission, many others are allegedly being ignored. The security situation, meanwhile, remains tense. Seven people were killed in attacks in occupied Kashmir and eastern India where Maoist insurgents were blamed for a bomb that killed a BJP lawmaker.
Voting for the 543-seat lower house has been staggered between April 11 and May 19. Thursday saw elections being held in 91 parliamentary constituencies across 20 states and federally-administered regions. Next week, voters will go to the polls in 97 constituencies across 13 states. Results will start coming in from May 23.
Modi has asked first-time voters to dedicate their votes to the martyrs of the Pulawama attack. But dead men can’t run in elections. Only the incompetent PM under whose watch the attack happened can. But despite economic problems caused by Modi’s failure to create jobs — a 2014 election promise — or improve farmers’ lives, the BJP has entered the election as the frontrunner, on the back of a campaign of Hindu supremacy, warmongering and deceit. And yet, although the BJP — which had a simple majority with 282 seats in 2014 — is expected to lose a number of seats, it should still be able to counter any Congress gains with the help of its allies.
Heavy voter turnout appears, so far, to be helping Modi, whose politics has turned this election into something that many news outlets have called a battle for the soul of India. Given that a number of people surveyed have cited cow vigilantism and India’s ‘successes’ during recent border skirmishes, it seems more like a battle to give India back a soul.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2019.
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