secular polls
   Date :29-May-2019

THE truth in the statements of various leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cannot be denied that the recent elections to the Lok Sabha defied all age-old logic of religion-based and caste-based electoral equations, though there may be some who may want to contest the idea. From this angle, the current elections were most secular in recent years and proved that the vice-like grip of religion-based and caste-based electoral equations on the battle of ballot is easing out fast. That was the reason why Mr. Narendra Modi also asserted on his first post-poll visit to his constituency Varanasi that chemistry has triumphed over electoral arithmetic. By any standard, this is is a very welcome development for Indian democracy. There is no doubt that the beginning of this change started showing itself in the last elections to the Lok Sabha in 2014 where fairly silently, lakhs of people voted defying caste considerations and altered the electoral map of the country giving the BJP a clear majority on its own.
In the succeeding five years, a lot of negative propaganda was played out by the Opposition, but nothing of that mattered to the voters in 2019. The current elections carried that process of demolishing old equations still further and gave the BJP a still greater margin 30-plus seats beyond the half-way mark. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA), too, carried along more or less in a similar manner when most constituents demolished caste equations and garnered votes beyond their own expectations.
In fact, this was the biggest cause of the Opposition’s discomfiture as well as embarrassment of many media people who had made poll predictions based on religion-based and caste-based considerations. Most of those predictions went wrong because the voters did not pay any heed to those and chose candidates on merit rather than on narrower considerations. In most elections until 2014, religion and caste played key roles in deciding electoral fortunes of candidates.
With the ascedency of Mr. Narendra Modi and a careful build-up of public opinion by the BJP and its allies, the nature of popular thinking started changing for the better. The process of change did not happen in a day, but took a slow build-up over years. Yet, it manifested in some measure in 2014 and became a full-blown one in 2019. For those who believe in an inclusive, secular democracy, this is a welcome development since it indicates how meritocracy has begun making its presence felt in a decisive manner. It must be admitted, however, that establishment of a truly secular electoral process may take quite some time from this point onward. For, habits die hard and social cast does not melt so easily. Yet, it is a matter of happiness that the welcome process of demolition of caste-barriers in electoral equations has begun though belatedly and is showing signs of settling in.
This is welcome. India may never be erase caste as a social phenomenon, but there is little doubt that it would reduce its importance in electoral equations. Top use Mr. Modi’s language, it can be said safely that in some more time, religion and caste will play an ever shrinking role, promoting chemistry over arithmetic, making the voters look for merit rather than for religious and caste affinities. Eventually, this thinking will move into other domains of public life in the country and will bring about a more positive change in the social architecture. To this day let us all work. Let us start demolishing the caste divides that kept the larger Indian society split in ghettos with acidic intensity so far. Let us stop calculating electoral gains and losses on the basis of religion and caste. This is certainly a tall order, but Mr. Narendra Modi seems to have made it look easier than it actually is. May this process enhance itself!