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Amrita Tripathi

Writer/ Founder/ Former Journalist

Books by Amrita Tripathi

Blog posts April 2014


If you're sitting here in India, you can't be oblivious to the election mania. We are in the middle of the 9 phases, and it's as mammoth a logistical exercise as it seems an emotional one. (Not for nothing is this called the largest democratic exercise in the world). Four phases yet to go, and under a month till counting day.

May 16 is bold, circled in red in many diaries and ... may just be giving some of the key players sleepless nights. Not just political players either.

In the past, it's never seemed like quite such a dire fight. To the finish,  I daresay, but then the joke is truly on us. Because nothing is final in politics, as you know. And having written that, I think, how short *is* collective memory, how short are our attention spans? 

If you look at independent India's chequered history, how can the elections of 1977 not be seen as an epic moment? The imposition of Emergency was a travesty, and as soon as it was lifted, proved to be a/the major issue that election. How was that not a dire moment?

The electoral process is a corrective, in this country.

The elections in December 1984 (after the assassination of Indira Gandhi, and the horrific anti-Sikh riots) which gave Rajiv Gandhi such a massive mandate must have been an epic moment. The 1996 elections didn't give anyone a clear mandate, and resulted in a hung parliament. The country went back to the polls in 1998, and then 1999... Which is when we saw the NDA govt in power, and the Congress then (as now) seeing the urgent need for introspection and re-assessment. In 2004, things had turned right round - which not too many people saw coming. Which is why you see the Congress leaders in public refer to 04,  in 2014, saying... you never can tell. (And you can't - witness Mayawati sweeping the UP polls in 2007, which no one predicted, either, if memory serves).

But what is it about *this* time round that feels so epic? 2014? It's gladiatorial, and we've been told it's a clash of ideologies, (not civilisations!) It's a battle for India's heart and soul, India's spirit and nationalism, You're with us or Against us... (In which case, please head off to Pakistan)... And so it goes!

You're seeing the pithy catch-phrases and slogans, the big sales pitches and you're bombarded day after day with ads so  you can't remain oblivious (which is a good thing)... And yet you're not entirely on solid ground in terms of substantive, tangible issues. Who stands for what, really? Whose agenda is being served by whom? Why is there this fear psychosis? Where is the name-calling and aspersion-casting going to lead us?

When will we in the bubbles and big cities hold off on the mock outrage ("How could he say xxxx?") and realise just how politically manipulative and sharp those making the most vile statements are -- as they appeal to one vote-bank after another. 

And then some.

When will we have our faith restored in certain vital institutions? When will we be able to set aside the cynicism and hold off on the pre-judgement... and believe people again? Where is credibility and why has it been in such short supply? (I did have a conversation just today on "facts" and how you can't believe "facts" being touted as such by anyone, anymore. What *have* we come to?)

India feels like a livewire at this point... And of course the media's part of that feeling. But more importantly, this election is a touchstone for many things. Not least of which is a country's belief in itself, in progress, and in the need to shake up the system. (How many people are voting one way as a way to reject the other? A negative vote is a vote, is a vote, you say, but it says a lot more about the choices at hand).

For too long we've listened to half-truths and outright lies, propaganda masquerading as facts. For too long, it's felt like we stood by, and let other people define our narrative. Voting (on a micro- and macro-  scale) is the way the country re-defines its own. Outright optimism or naivete, you say? It may feel dire for many, but I can't help but note (and hope) that the electoral process is a corrective... and a reality check.

So here's looking past the hyperbole, to May 16.


(*This blog appears on as Election Mania, What's At Stake)

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