Alpesh Patel’s Political Sketchbook: Ask Not For Whom the Bell Tolls – It Tolls for the New World Leader of Democratic Nations

Alpesh Patel Wednesday 12th June 2024 07:01 EDT

I write to you from Spain. As Europe in its elections swings to the right, India moves to the left.

In a surprising turn of events, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) did not secure the expected sweeping victory in India's recent elections. This outcome, contrary to the expectations of many political analysts, is a testament to the resilience and complexity of Indian democracy. Rather than signaling a setback, this election result could be a positive development for India, quelling fears of authoritarianism and showcasing the strength of coalition governance.

There have been concerns of outside election interference from internet influencers and Western media. Did they swing the vote? Based on the document "The Invisible Hands: Foreign Interference in Indian Elections 2024 - Disinfolab Report," here are some issues with the election. Whatever happened, the PM won, and India is stronger for it. But the playbook of election interfering is one that the UK/US and France needs to watch out for too as they are in elections now too.

  1. Funding Sources: Significant funding from Western philanthropic entities like the Henry Luce Foundation (HLF) and George Soros’s Open Society Foundation (OSF) was channeled to various fronts to influence Indian elections. These funds were directed towards academic, media, and activist organizations to create and propagate specific narratives.
  2. Creation of Narrative Themes: The primary narratives constructed included themes like "Declining Democracy in India," "Hindu Majoritarianism," and "Fascism." These themes were consistently pushed to paint a negative picture of the Indian government and its democratic processes.
  3. Influence through Academia and Media: Key individuals, particularly from Western academia, such as Christophe Jaffrelot, played a central role in crafting and disseminating these narratives. Articles, op-eds, and interviews were published in influential Western media outlets and were often quoted by Indian media.
  4. Online and Offline Events: Numerous online webinars, conferences, and physical events were organized by groups funded by HLF and OSF. These events focused on contentious issues like caste census, religious freedom, and political violence, further embedding the constructed narratives.
  5. Local Conduits and Collaborators: Indian organizations and activists were co-opted to act as local conduits for these foreign-funded narratives. These collaborators helped in amplifying the messages within India, lending them an air of credibility and indigenous origin.
  6. Digital Platforms and Misinformation: Digital platforms were extensively used to spread misinformation and biased content. Organizations like the Digital Witness Lab at Princeton University were involved in debunking counter-narratives and reinforcing the targeted messaging.
  7. Protests and Demonstrations: Coordinated protests and demonstrations, such as those organized by the South Asia Solidarity Group and the Foundation London Story, were staged to create visible dissent against the Indian government. These events were publicized to influence international and domestic perceptions.
  8. Continuous Monitoring and Adaptation: The efforts were continuously monitored, and strategies were adapted based on the evolving political landscape in India. The sustained funding ensured that the interference efforts were robust and could respond dynamically to counter-efforts by the Indian authorities.

A Check on Authoritarian Concerns

One of the most significant implications of the BJP's inability to secure a decisive majority is the alleviation of concerns about creeping authoritarianism. Critics have often pointed to Modi's strongman image and the BJP's majoritarian policies as potential threats to India's democratic fabric. However, the election results suggest that Indian voters are not monolithic and are willing to challenge any perceived overreach.

The presence of a strong opposition and the necessity for coalition-building mean that power will be more diffused. This distribution of power can act as a safeguard against authoritarian tendencies, ensuring that diverse voices and interests are represented in the governance process. It reaffirms the checks and balances essential in a healthy democracy, where no single entity can dominate unchallenged.

India wins and the PM wins. The interferers are the real losers.

The Beauty of Coalition Politics

The emergence of a coalition government, while often seen as a sign of political instability, can actually enhance democratic governance. Coalitions necessitate negotiation, compromise, and consensus-building, reflecting the multiplicity of India's social and political landscape. This form of government can lead to more inclusive and representative policymaking, addressing the concerns of various stakeholders across the nation.

In a coalition setup, smaller parties and regional interests gain a voice, ensuring that governance is not just top-down but also accommodates local and regional aspirations. This dynamic can foster innovative solutions and more balanced development, as policies are shaped by a broader array of perspectives.

A Vibrant Democratic Tapestry

This election has debunked the myth of a polarized India. Instead, it reveals a country that values democratic principles and is willing to engage in the electoral process to effect change. The diversity of outcomes across different states points to a nuanced electorate that votes on local issues and governance performance, rather than being driven by overarching national narratives alone.

Moving Forward: Strength in Diversity

A peaceful election where the leader of the opposition was not put under criminal trial as in America, or the Legislature stormed at the outcome (again USA) means America now should look to India on how to conduct democratic elections. India the Western democratic world should look to a new world leader of democracy – India.

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