Exit Polls: The Blaze of Superstition
At the outset I must admit I never entertained any intention to comment on the Gujarat election or its possible outcome. However, this election, which was fought directly under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, fell significantly below the levels of decency in the strategy and the speeches of the BJP. The second largest party, Congress, also remained where it was 22 years ago - on the path of soft communalism. Rahul Gandhi sprouted a tilak on his forehead and went around temples of Gujarat with Congressmen vying to tell one and all that he was a true 'janeudhari' Brahmin. With more or less similar 'highs and lows' both opponents appeared on the same side in this election battlefield of corporate politics of this neo-liberal era with no real opposition in sight.
The BJP now no longer needs to remember the karsevaks who were burnt in a train compartment in 2002. Under Modi's leadership, it has gone much beyond that with its communal politics. Not only the Congress, other secular intellectuals have also not even dared to raise questions about justice following the assassination of thousands of Muslim citizens in the riots, the raped women and the plundered and destroyed properties in its wake. At least the Gujarat elections this time have become 'Muslims-free'. This is a big victory for the RSS.
The Gujarat elections have also made it clear that the Congress does not have much concern for secularism, as Sonia or self-proclaimed secular soldiers keep tom-tomming relentlessly. The Congress does not have any sympathy for the hardships which the farmers, laborers, small entrepreneurs, unemployed and students have been facing due to neo-liberal policies. The crisis through which the largest minority is passing cannot be a problem for the Congress too. The Congress has not organized any resistance against the continuing mob-lynching of minority citizens. Rather the Congress wants Muslims to become so scared that they will become its permanent vote bank in the future.
Prior to Amit Shah, Rahul Gandhi had tried to regain the lost state of the Congress by going to Dalits' houses. Rahul Gandhi did not get any success there because the Dalits have been politicized. They deal with the RSS by dealing with its political power, but do not look at the Congress. If Muslims too get politicized, then Congress politics will never be able to stand independently like before.
It is also true that the victims of the suppression of neo-liberalism might someday bring ‘Tilak’ and ‘Janeudhari’ Congress to power due to its countrywide organizational network but thsi will not be any sustainable develpoment.
Meanwhile, the RSS-BJP will continue working on the communal agenda and BJP will again come back to power with full force. For instance, despite the secular governments in Uttar Pradesh for nearly two decades, the BJP had a clear sweep in the last Lok Sabha and Assembly elections. The secular governments and their intellectual supporters could not stop the BJP juggernaut. Those who insist on debating or opposing the separation of communalism from neo-liberalism, are responsible for pushing the country and society into deep sectarian trenches.
Even if Congress wins in Gujarat it will not make a difference to the ongoing nexus of neo-liberalism and communalism. The chief minister will not be able to get along with RSS-BJP and the example of Nitish Kumar exemplifies that there is no guarantee of the situation stabilising for long. What is the guarantee that tomorrow Lalu Prasad Yadav's son will not go with BJP to become the chief minister? Secular stalwarts like Mulayam Singh Yadav have formed their governments in collaboration with Kalyan Singh. Those secular intellectuals who do not tire of giving secularism certificates to Congress, bypass the 1984 riots in which thousands of Sikh civilians were murdered in the country's capital; and till today no one person is punished.
Shankar Singh Vaghela has rightly said that Congress has taken the 'supari' of winning the elections for the BJP. Otherwise it should have started preparing for the elections six months earlier. Only then it would have got some workers who can become the backbone of the assembly elections. But Congress does not need party workers - it is only interested in making Rahul Gandhi the prime minister of the country. Such an election is a comment in itself. Little else can be said about it.
After the last phase of elections, the hue and cry of exit polls compelled me to make this comment. Exit polls were introduced in 1991 with the introduction of new economic policies (liberalization). Liberalization soon morphed into neo-liberalization and made rapid progress in corporate politics as well. The exit polls excelled during this period and have become an integral part of the elections of corporate politics today.
In the neo-liberal period, nobody is satisfied for more than a moment. Every next moment should be something more and the lust for more satiation continues relentlessly. This hankering is true for religious-social identities, for political parties as well as for individuals. From market politics to politics of market, this sentiment pervades in every sphere at every level. This new trend has developed and grown stronger under neo-liberalism. Something should keep happening in life - even if it is a lie! The exit polls have become an extremely popular and enthusiastic medium to appease that trend.
There can be different ways to present something new and to create new buzzwords. But there is a common truth - all this happens within the purview of corporate politics that carries forward neo-liberalism. It is considered to be a sign of backwardness to even discuss the Constitution of India in this overwhelming neo-liberal narrative. Why would anyone wish to stay behind? All want the first and foremost share of the left-over that is falling from the neo-liberal loot of the country's resources and the labor. In the Indian society, divided in many castes for centuries, neo-liberalism has created this new fraternity!
It is not that there is no discussion of alternatives in this world of neo-liberalism. It is very much there. However, the revolutions are sporadic and momentary and do not discuss alternatives to neo-liberalism. That is considered to be unreasonable. They have coined the term TINA - there is no alternative. In order to destroy genuine alternative ideas and struggles against neo-liberalism and its motivating force of corporate politics beginning just after 1991, the bugle of 'alternatives' and 'revolutions' was blown from time to time. That exercise still goes on.
Modern industrial civilization has its own superstitions. In the modern myths of ‘progress’ and ‘development’, millions of people have been sacrificed due to these superstitions. This destruction and damage goes on uninterrupted and millions of lives are being destroyed every day and an unprecedented environmental crisis is baring its teeth.
Exit polls are also a superstition. To spend four days, the two opposing sides (who are really one) are living that superstition. Those who doubt the scientific basis of the exit polls as well as those who swear by it - all are living in a dream world. Those who say there is no scientific basis for the exit polls, they are also blindly dreaming despite the prediction of exit polls that the Congress will sweep in the real results! Despite the good news of the exit polls for the BJP, 'bakhts' too blindly wish Modi's magic to keep on!
The situation of the 'bhakts' apart, this numbing superstition is also reflected in the bad state of secular civil society. It clearly lacks the determination and resolve to meet the challenges head-on. This inability is not without a reason. Civil society, unfortunately, is not ready to rein in its class interests, inherent selfishness and temper the accompanying haughty commentary such an attitude germinates. It is totally blind to the fact that with its indifference and callousness, it too has a hand in the damage to the secular, democratic and socialist fabric of modern Indian civilization, howsoever good or bad it may be.
Dr. Prem Singh teaches in the Dept. of Hindi, University of Delhi.