The elections in India for the 17th Lok Sabha (Lower House of the Indian Parliament) is a mammoth exercise. 900 million (more than the populations of USA, Canada, 29 countries of the EU and Japan as well as 20 countries with smallish population in the Caribbean, Central America, Pacific Rim) are entitled to vote.
1 million polling booths and other mind boggling administrative data in a country, rather a subcontinent of contrast and challenges, comprise of the the Indian election. Five of the seven phases have been polled and approximately two third of the electorates have voted.
Poor even uneducated, people with several challenges have walked miles, stood under the scorching heat, faced terrorist attacks, and yet by and large the elections are going peacefully and they are recognised as free and fair.
Even in Britain, the “free and fair” has its own limitations. Do you remember the campaign three years ago during EU Referendum? Lies, exaggerations, scare mongering about immigrants et al. In India such drawbacks are existing as well. Surprisingly in the relative sense, much less than here or the US, because of its size and contradiction and the number of eligible voters, especially in some risky areas.
There are two main national parties in India. The ruling NDA led by BJP and the Indian National Congress. Prime Minister Narendra Modi claims, mostly convincingly, that his government has given India a development model within the democratic norm. India has steadfastly refrained from one party rule or dictatorial governance, yet the economic and social progress is much more than previous 190 years of British rule and ‘Company Sarkar’. World Bank, IMF and many other corporate houses have given the NDA government good marks for overall economic and social progress.
Mr Rahul Gandhi, President of the Congress party, claims that there is no development and the government is telling lies. Poverty is increasing, the minorities are persecuted, there is an increase in terrorism and Narendra Modi is a corrupt politician. I believe such are wild and unfounded allegations, if not outright lies and huge exaggerations.
I would make two points clear and unequivocal. Indian democracy as it is now is not perfect but it is as good as any and better than many.
Second, India is for all Indians, irrespective of faith, caste or place of residence, every Indian is entitled to equality, justice and fair play. I must concede that there are ghastly incidents of lynching or mob violence, but they are rare. Narendra Modi has not only denounced them but the perpetrators have been brought to the books.
Social media is playing a pivotal role - no doubt. Unfortunately the modern mass communication can be useful as well as misleading.
But some truths must be recognised. Fake news is a fact of life, sadly here, there and everywhere. But the Indian voters are far more experienced and alert, which sadly some British media groups, with well their resourced bureaus in India have failed to be aware of.“Facts are sacred, opinion is free.”
Compared to previous regimes there are lot less communal violence now. Narendra Modi’s government in Gujarat or at the Centre has never favoured any community over another in their economic or welfare policies.
In the economic performance, this government like previous governments have not been able to look after the agriculture sector properly. The policies waiving farm loans is untrainable and virtually a bribe. It is also a fact that laws governing trade unions and land acquisitions are not modernised adequately. There are many more ills in India at present.
But when some reputable British media claims Mr Modi is danger to democracy and his government has crushed the religious freedom, I must say that facts are deliberately ignored or twisted. Some religious zealots from all groups come out with nasty and provocative statements, it is an exception, rather than rule.
Another allegation gaining currency is that free press in India has been cowed down. With utmost respect to the British media, they are ignorant. Indian press of all the varieties is flowering and by and large well resourced. It’s free as press, perhaps much more than some monopoly ownership in the UK or USA.
Comments made by so called experts who visit India for short term or live there without knowing the language, history, culture and nuances of the country are not conveying their truth to the readers, viewers or listeners here.Some sectors of British media are surely very selective. About the expulsion, persecution and even rape of the Pandits from the Kashmir valley are purposefully forgotten. Where are the British press when oppressed Muslim population in Xianxiang completely ignored or marginalised because you need Chinese investments?
Most of the above observations have been conveyed to me by our readers, mainly people from Hindu, Sikh, Jain and Buddhist backgrounds, who form over 2 million population of this country. They focus on education, professions, business, commerce, entrepreneurship and other positive aspects of life, with the least presence in Her Majesty’s prisons. British Indian population are much less in mainstream politics and many feel pained when India or Narendra Modi are vilified on purpose.
Election campaigns are never perfect. But our readers believe that British media when just concentrate on negatives are not only doing disservice to themselves but make British Indians target of ignorant and intolerant people.
It clearly appears that Mr Modi will be the next Prime Minister of India. As in the past, Britain, USA and other countries will as usual make a beeline to invite and receive him, mainly because they have a lot to gain from India.