Real change will tear apart walls, stop wars, unite people not of a country alone but of the world, reduce inequalities, banish hunger, and eliminate poverty.
History is replete with examples of battles between pro-changers and no-changers. After the curtain raiser of 2021, the year 2022 promises to witness another epic battle.
Climate change is the hot topic of the day. As you read this, COP-26 would have come to an end, countries would have made promises, many of those promises will not be kept (e.g. funding), yet the pro-changers can go back with the satisfaction that they had won small victories and prepare for the next battle. Political battles are not different.
Everyone desires change but, in some cases, the change that a section of the people wants will take a country backward in time. In the United States, the state of Texas has passed a law that will effectively ban abortion in that state. Such a law denies the agency of a woman over her body. In India, some people are bent upon changing names in the false belief that, by doing so, they will re-write the history of the country. The most recent example is the Indian Railways, which has changed the name of Faizabad junction to Ayodhya cantonment.
Real change will tear apart walls, stop wars, unite people not of a country alone but of the world, reduce inequalities, banish hunger, and eliminate poverty. Still, there will be differences of religion, race, language, caste etc, but humankind must accept the differences and celebrate what is common. That day, however, is far away.
Meanwhile, we can wage the battle to change what is plainly wrong, such as the erosion of personal liberty, the misuse of law, the debasement of institutions, intimidation, majoritarianism, authoritarianism and the promotion of a personality cult. (Why should a vaccination certificate carry the photograph of Prime Minister Modi?)
Battle without Weapons
This is a political battle that can be fought without weapons or violence. It can be fought by the common citizen. Remember Winston Churchill’s description of the working of a democracy: “the little man walking into a little booth, with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper”. It is indeed as simple as that, only the little pencil has been replaced by the little button.
Last week, little men and women walked into little booths and voted, according to their preferences, for ‘change’ or ‘no change’ in 14 states. These were mainly by-elections to state Assemblies, 30 in all. Three Lok Sabha seats also elected new representatives. By and large, the ruling party of the state was the winner, but one exception was significant. In Himachal Pradesh, where the BJP rules and which is home to BJP president Mr J P Nadda, the Congress won the sole LS seat and all the three Assembly seats. More significant were the vote shares: the Congress’s was 48.9 per cent, the BJP’s 28.05 per cent.
Similarly, in Maharashtra, where the Congress won the sole seat, its vote share was 57.03 per cent, and the BJP’s 35.06 per cent. In Rajasthan, the Congress won both seats, and its vote share was 37.51 per cent, and the BJP’s 18.80 per cent. The differences were unusually large.
In states where the Congress lost to the BJP, the difference was narrow. In Karnataka, the two parties won one seat each, and the vote shares were the BJP 51.86 per cent and the Congress 44.76 per cent. In Madhya Pradesh, where the BJP won two seats to the Congress’s one, the difference was narrower: 47.58 per cent to 45.45 per cent. In Assam alone was the difference large.
A New Wind
In the six states where there was a straight fight between the Congress and the BJP, based on the vote shares, the Congress was the undoubted winner. Besides, overall, the BJP won 7 seats and the Congress won 8. There is a new wind behind the sails of the Congress.
However, it would be totally wrong to draw any final conclusions for three reasons. The first is that in four states — Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana and West Bengal — where the two main contenders were BJP+ and a regional party, the Congress was squeezed out of the race. The second is that in four of the five states that will go to elections in 2022, the BJP is the ruling party and the Congress has to fight political power and money power. The third reason is that the Congress has to overcome a huge deficit (currently 52 seats vs the half-way mark of 272) and therefore it needs allies.
A decisive vote for change alone will unseat the BJP in the next LS election. Such a change of government is necessary if the voters are concerned about the sluggish growth rate, soaring prices, high unemployment, divisive and discriminatory laws, misuse of law enforcement agencies and pervasive sense of fear. Presently, the relentless price rise alone seems to be playing on the minds of the voters. The other negatives may have a subliminal influence. On the other hand, Hindutva, Ayodhya, Pakistan-is-the-enemy, immigrants-are-termites etc continue to have a disproportionate influence on the minds of voters, especially in the Hindi-speaking states.
Will the regional parties be content with no-change or will they be true to their reputation of being pro-changers? These are questions that every political party — and every voter too — must answer.