Clarity in Confusion

Modi 3

Election in the first phase in Assam has generated fresh enthusiasm and hope among democratic and progressive circles.Gaurab Gogoi,Congress candidate in Jorhat constituency, where the local Congress chief had recently defected to the BJP, appears likely to score high and win despite the fact that the late Chief Minister’s son is a relative stranger in these parts.Estimates of voter turn-out vary between 75 pc and 80 pc,sure sign of anti-incumbency in electoral discourse.

The entire state cabinet and the tallest leaders  of BJP rampaged up and down the constituency camping there for days hurling sneers and downright abuse against Gogoi and Congress and hotting up the air with the usual artifice of distortion of Rahul Gandhi’s words and belittling Gogoi’s competence.Gaurab maintained his composure,coolly and clinically shooting down BJP’s false claims and exposing the gaping holes in its defense of its calamitous policies.

In another big constituency,Dibrugarh farther east,Lurinjyoti Gogoi of Asam Jatiyo Parishad,part of INDIA ALLIANCE has won tumultuous and unexpected popular acclaim for his fledgling organization with his energy and passion seen in the fight,hitting back at BJP and the dubiously nationalist AGP with well-marshalled facts and figures and sharp,clear arguments.In the campaign for the second phase Opposition candidates have been working according to plan with infectious passion and direct hits at the weak spots in the Goliath’s armour.Akhil Gogoi,Ajit Bhuyan Rajya sabha member and other leaders of the opposition alliance are addressing big public rallies tirelessly and with resolute dedication.Civil Society groups have been active in their own way.Gradually a thaw has appeared and is widening by the day among the inert and lifeless masses frozen by fear and despair.

Campaigns in Karimganj, Nagaon,Dhubri and Barpeta are also picking up putting the ruling alliance on the defensive and visibly nervous.Old slogans and catchwords like attempts to lay all corruption at the door of the Congress have failed this time to gain currency as the present BJP government is already tainted with so many scams,however furious its protests.

 In spite of the bragging by BJP leaders that they would trounce opposition candidates by four to five lakh votes their growing anxiety is evident in the way they are now cultivating Muslim voters after openly and and brazenly reviling Muslims,calling them ‘Moghuls’ and boasting they could do well without ‘Miyan votes’.Brand new development schemes,cash transfer under fancy names and swearing firm commitment to development of Muslims now mark their campaign in Muslim areas.Phase-wise election helps to get around restrictions in Model Code of Conduct.

DEVELOPMENT is now the magic catchword spectacularly  conjuring up sweeping wide highways,bridges and flyovers.But it is hard to see what benefit these have conferred on local people,though they can now watch thousands of trucks roaring into and out of the state every day.

 Local press reports have given details about a large number of EVMs malfunctioning and voting starting late yet stopped punctually leaving many voters out.A Guwahati-based daily,AMAR ASAM, a report has appeared carrying the disturbing news that the monitor of the CCTV installed in the Strong Room for EVMs after election in the Tinisukia constituency, has been dead for the last four days.There Lurinjyoti Gogoi is posing a powerful challenge to former Chief Minister and now a central cabinet minister Sarbananda Sonowal.One hopes the issues have been reported to  ECI  and will be duly addressed.

But there is a hitch,and one hopes it will be addressed competently,clearly and firmly.Against all expectations the Congress has refused to yield even  one seat to CPI(M),though the latter is organizationally strong in many areas of the Barpeta constituency where it is fielding its own candidate,sitting MLA Manoranjan Talukdar.Congress candidate Deep Bayan is a relative newcomer  and reportedly not very well-known there.This unexpected development might open a way for the ageing AGP candidate Phanibhushan Choudhuri to scrape through. Though deeply disappointed and hurt local CPI(M) leaders have NOT  decided to break with the opposition alliance.

A much more dire and ominous situation has arisen in Kerala where Rahul Gandhi the unacknowledged but virtual face of the opposition alliance and the Kerala Chief Minister have engaged in bitter mutual recrimination.Since a contest was inevitable there should have been discussion of possible seat-sharing.If it is ruled out by Congress gaining more seats in the last election there could at least  have been agreement on tactics of the opponents and mature choice of words in their mutual criticism.

I don’t  know who threw the first stone but Rahul Gandhi was provoked enough to practically demand that Pinayeri Vijayan be arrested on charges of corruption.One would have thought that differences in policy had left enough room for legitimate and searching debate without descending to this level. Let both parties leave such unseemly conduct behind and engage in sober debate to prevent further damage to the alliance.

One cannot help feeling that there is still time to sort out differences on the major issue of economic policy.There is little doubt that many of our present ills are consequences of neo-liberal capitalism and the extraordinary unchecked concentration of capital,leaving the condition of the people totally out of consideration altogether.Should the BJP kind of money transfer,a reckless poll-related policy without any serious overall effect remain the only solace for the people as the giant corporates rumble on crushing and gobbling up every source of wealth?What kind of checks and balances could be devised to control their heedless rapacity?Should people WORK for earning a livelihood or subsist wholly on government doles?

Is there scope for MSMEs to generate well-earning jobs in this desert and how can the state play a catalytic part?The horrifying proliferation of crimes is a direct product of this situation.While Congress would most probably prefer an amicable relationship with corporate giants except ‘cronies’,CPI(M) would certainly vote for strict monitoring and control.If giant corporates deliberately weaken or demolish the conditions of democracy,how can they live in peaceful co-existence with champions of democracy?

Meanwhile Prime Minister Modi has dropped the pretensions of sainthood and vigorously resumed his tried and tested role in Rajasthan.The masses are to be presented with an enemy to attract all the rage of their frustration.So the familiar old combination of Congress and Muslims are again dredged up and refurbished as the desirable targets of popular wrath,leaving big business free to ply their trade in safety and comfort. Nailing the lie and the distortion of truth has been relatively easy. But if the vicious means of vicarious revenge catches on there might be a rather intractable situation for the opposition.They should remain on high alert for such eventualities.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator

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