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Against the Prime Priest: The Alternative Agenda, Defiance, and Optimism of INDIA

Regardless of the outcome, whether the INDIA opposition emerges victorious or faces defeat, they have achieved a remarkable feat in the face of tremendous adversity. They have breathed new life into India’s stifled democracy and given hope to citizens who do not conform to the BJP regime’s agenda for India.

Illustration by Pius Fozan created with help from AI Image Creator

A lot of big numbers about the size of India’s election operation have been thrown around, and the world press has latched onto it in awe. Yes, there are 969 million eligible voters, comprising 497 million men and 471 million women — our data methods still adhere to binary gender categories. This voter base exceeds the combined populations of the US, Brazil, Russia, Japan, the UK, France, and Belgium. There are 1.5 million polling booths set up in some of the world’s most remote places, including mountains, near glaciers, and forests. Nearly 5.5 million electronic voting machines, 15 million polling officials and security staff, and about 400,000 vehicles are deployed. More than 2,600 political parties are contesting the 543-seat lower house of parliament.

The BJP's Dominance and Tactics

This intimidating data gives the impression of a mammoth election operation — the largest ever undertaken on the planet. However, what most of us have overlooked is the colossal political empire and infrastructure the ruling party has built over the past decade, posing a significant threat to democracy. The incumbent Prime Minister Modi’s party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is the biggest beneficiary of electoral donations, amassing 12,930 crore rupees in its coffers. They have established modern corporate-style offices in nearly all 290 districts, with ambitious plans to expand to 887 districts across India.

In stark contrast, consider the plight of the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress. Despite its national status, the party’s bank accounts are practically empty, unable even to cover basic utilities and staff salaries at its headquarters. This dire financial situation renders it incapable of mounting a successful campaign, which demands significant financial and resource mobilization. Adding to its woes, the Income Tax department raided and froze most of its bank accounts, citing irregularities dating back three decades. Yet, the issue extends beyond mere financial constraints — several regional and national leaders have defected from the party to join the BJP, allegedly under pressure from federal law enforcement agencies.

In an era where there’s no established blueprint for curbing and overcoming the resurgence of far-right movements worldwide, the far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India has not merely leaned on narratives but has brandished a divisive sectarian narrative on its familiar and advantageous terrain. This battleground is set against the rival Congress, which the BJP vilifies as malevolent, a foe of Hindu pride, and a hindrance to their aspirations of forging a Hindu Rashtra. As Manoj Mitta aptly puts it, “Hindutva as a state practice is Brahmanism camouflaging as nationalism.”

When an entire political opponent has been demonized and relegated to a symbol of menace for the majority, combating the far-right becomes a daunting challenge. It may even appear insurmountable, yet India’s broad-based opposition — the INDIA alliance — has illuminated a path forward. Non-populists and opposition factions must stake their claim on their own battlegrounds rather than falling prey to the far-right’s rhetoric. The far-right excels at disseminating their narrative and translating it into votes.

Often, both abroad and in India, populists such as Prime Minister Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), aided by partisan television media machinery and corporate supporters, have executed two key strategies with precision. Firstly, they assert their capability to alleviate the nation’s woes and restore former greatness and glories — the concept of Vishwa Guru. Secondly, they assert their exclusivity in achieving these goals, and position themselves as the righteous warriors combating Congress — the alleged villain that oppressed Hindus, stripped them of their dignity, and subjugated them. This is a recipe for discrediting and dehumanizing their opposition, and thereby undermining their legitimacy.

Presenting a Cohesive Alternative: Strategic Positioning Against Far-Right Narratives

Against all expectations, the non-populists and the opposition bloc — in this instance, the INDIA alliance — overcame seemingly insuperable challenges. These hurdles encompassed the conflicting interests of coalition partners and the oppressive actions of federal agencies. The incarceration of incumbent chief ministers and party leaders, raids on opposition figures, and defections all threatened the coalition’s cohesion. Nonetheless, the Congress and its alliance partners remained resolute, presenting a unified alternative agenda centered on critical issues such as unemployment and income inequality which clearly resonates with the people. They refused to be ensnared by the BJP’s divisive rhetoric, standing firm despite overwhelming obstacles and adversity.

Reclaiming Ideological Roots

Beyond victory or loss, the INDIA opposition bloc in the ongoing general elections presented a strong, optimistic, inclusive alternative and defied the totalitarian far-right populist regime of the BJP. This defiance unfolded amidst the oversight of one of the grossly incompetent and biased Election Commissions, presiding over what many deem as the most unfair and unfree elections since India’s independence.

Previously, the Congress party was observed dabbling in soft Hindutva rhetoric, often mirroring the BJP’s rhetoric, engaging in a futile competition with the BJP on those terms. Instances such as Rahul Gandhi donning a "Janeu" (a sacred thread) or visiting temples epitomized this approach. However, in a marked departure, the Congress retraced its ideological roots, presenting a manifesto grounded in secular and progressive principles, and meticulously addressing the urgent challenges confronting India.

Unlike its previous stance, this shift distinctly delineates the alternatives offered by Congress and the BJP to Indian voters. This clarity is not merely ideological but also momentous from an electoral perspective. Voters are no longer confronted with two homogenous, indistinguishable options; instead, they are presented with two contrasting and substantive choices. This newfound clarity empowers voters and enables them to make informed decisions devoid of ambiguity.

A Triumph of Democratic Resilience

Regardless of the outcome, whether the INDIA opposition emerges victorious or faces defeat, they have achieved a remarkable feat in the face of tremendous adversity. They have breathed new life into India’s stifled democracy and given hope to citizens who do not conform to the BJP regime’s agenda for India. Their display of bravery, competence, and integrity serves as a testament to the resilience of democracy. They are proof that even the mightiest and the most formidable totalitarian regimes cannot expect to simply overpower India with their hegemonic strength. They will face resistance. This resilience is not just a triumph but also a rallying call for India’s suppressed democracy.


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