Secularism for Poplularism? Religious Fault Lines in Indian Election

By Editor

Throughout human history whether it’s elected representatives or constitutional monarchy, religion has always played a dominant role in usurping or embalmment to power.   In India every major election till date has been tinged with the colors of faith but this election has more hue than others. Apart from some genuine discussion most of the excitement seems to be concentrated on dividing votes on religious grounds. Though religious ballyhoo cannot be avoided the core issues of good governance, corruption and growth are being sidelined.

Growing up in middle class India has its trials. One doesn’t feel the brute force of social and economic hardships like the poor but life is not a bed of roses either. Earlier generation had government jobs, pensions and a sense of security but our story is entirely different. Relentless competition for admissions into medical schools and engineering colleges takes most of the time and energy of Indian youth today. Following the dreams or what Americans describe as life, liberty and pursuit of happiness takes the backseat under the gnawing realities of life. Chinese have their labor to work in factories, India have its youth to fill the cubicles of IT companies, call centers, hospitals, hotels and corporate offices. It’s not that communal issues are not relevant to us but for majority of people jobs, rampant corruption, inflation, installments and family responsibilities don’t leave time for anything else. Hindus, Muslims, Christians, all face the same struggles of day to day life. If communal tensions are a reality so does the harmony that exists among Indians of different sects and faiths.

Now let’s talk about our main characters in this electoral story. Narendra Modi does have an upper hand when it comes to popular choice for the prime minister’s office and the argument his opponents are giving is that of a communal chaos that country would fell into if he comes to power. Gujrat riots are an undeniable dark chapter in India’s history and Modi’s exoneration or conviction will be a subject of debate for the rest of his life. It’s just something he would have to live with but the progress and peace in Gujrat that followed during his tenure will be his trump card to Delhi if things go his way. Many of the parties and politicians blaming him for communalism have their own blood stains of sectarian violence. It may sound like his defense but why blame one when others are tainted as well. Arvind Kejriwal and his party had a promising start, they offered something different from the regular politics and they still might get more chances to prove themselves but the upstart party seems to be deviating from the staunch line of fight against corruption they once took. Public dialogue that was trademark of Aam Admi Party has not been present in its Lok Sabha campaigns which are more positioned as a secular option of BJP. There come and go styled government in New Delhi might come back to bite them in this election. As for Congress, secular or not they might and most probably will have to sit this one out. They like everyone else have a sense of what’s coming at the end of election season. If it happened, poor leadership and governance will be there undoing in 2014.

No matter what pundits, clerics or the experts say. India is not Middle East or Nazi Germany. Yes, we do have times in our history sullied with religious intolerance. After all, it resulted in the partition of our country but much of chaos theory being presented to the public in regards of these elections is purely unfounded. The actual ground realities of sluggish economy, stifling inflation and gas prices, absent electricity, long lines for water, women security, corruption needs to be addressed right now. Stability, good governance and decisive leadership are what people need and they are going to vote for it.

One Comment

  1. Keep up the great work. I prefer the way you used many examples.