Indian elections


With general elections in India just a few months away, it looks like battle lines are drawn between national and regional political players. The Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) have formed an unholy alliance to counter the right-wing Bharatya Janata Party (BJP) in Uttar Pradesh (UP), the most populous state of the country.
The key reason for this alliance is BJP’s widely perceived ‘divisive politics’ which has come under greater scrutiny of secular and leftist groups. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has largely failed to contain communal politics and riots across various parts of the country. Hard-liners in the party’s ranks are not only openly inciting violence in their speeches but also fomenting hatred for minority communities, especially Muslims and Christians. The ascension of Yogi Adityanath in UP during March 2017 was a turning point for state politics. His policies until now have been detrimental to the cause of communal harmony.
Anti-Pakistan and anti-Muslim sentiments have been rife for years with senior officials openly threatening nuclear strike on Pakistan preceding the previous general elections. This signifies how religion is used as a wider political tool during election season, and the current scenario is nothing short of playing with the public’s emotions.
Veteran Bollywood actors Naseeruddin Shah and the late Om Puri had already expressed their overall concerns in this regard on certain occasions.
However, it is disheartening that other such celebrities haven’t been quite vocal and instead chose to become either the National Democratic Alliance (NDA)-led government’s brand ambassadors or silent spectators unwilling to raise voices.
In terms of turning the political tide in its favour owing to a wave of stringent criticism over its controversial economic and communal policies, all indications show that the BJP is trying to win over the public through agenda setting theory. Not only news channels such as Zee News and Republic TV are being used for political aspirations, but cinema is also playing a key role in this regard. Controversial films such as Uri, Thackeray and The Accidental Prime Minister are being released around the elections with the sole objective of dissuading the public from voting secular parties such as the Indian National Congress (INC). Other upcoming films such as the biopic on Narendra Modi would also likely play a huge part in promoting a soft image of the BJP.
This nexus between the government, big corporations and the film industry is based along the lines of Hollywood where certain films have played a pivotal role in promoting stereotypical views on certain ethnic groups and countries.
However, if looking through pragmatic lens, such measures could be damaging for the ruling party since it is already falling behind in terms of winning over voters. National parties such as the INC are in fact regaining ground with regionalism also on the rise.
India’s economy is witnessing a slow decline and the government has fallen short of its much-hyped slogan of Acche Din (good days).
Apart from sloganeering and playing divisive politics, nothing substantial has been done for basic necessities. Major corruption scandals such as those relating to the French Rafale jet deal have caused immense shockwaves within New Delhi’s power corridors.
INC president Rahul Gandhi has often chided the government for its apparent ineptness and disregard to the people’s hopes. However, it must be noted that his own party has ruled India for most of its history and it cannot be absolved of its own shortcomings.