Tuesday, June 18, 2024
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Assembly elections: It is in your hands for making historic change

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As a lifelong student of history, I feel compelled to present a historian’s perspective of whom to vote for in the forthcoming assembly elections in Assam, Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry. I elaborate my voting preference that will bring peace, prosperity, and development under existing condition. 

As a precautionary note, this article is not for die hard party members or who had already made up their mind but for those young voters and others who have not made up their mind and open for different point of view. Based on my analysis my preference for different states are as follows.

Assam- Choose anyone though BJP is a better choice.

Kerala- Avoid Congress, continue with LDF and give a chance for BJP.

Puducherry– Choose anyone

Tamilnadu- Continue AIADMK and Vote against DMK

West Bengal: Give a chance to BJP but keep it in tight leash by giving TMC a close fight.

Before going through rationale of the choice let me burst some myth.

Myth 1: We are electing the best possible candidates. This is the laughable myth. We are just choosing the one who is the better among the worst. We are eliminating the worst and choose the one who will do least harm. Avoid the most harmful one.

Myth 2: We can vote for the best candidate and they will do good for the constituency. NO. We must choose the party or leader and candidates do not really matter. Remember – Shri.Vajpayee provided good governance despite the MPs who made up his coalition. Nitish today provides a reasonable government with same group of people who were there for the last twenty years- same type of people Lallu had. Only difference is Nitish is not Lallu.

Myth 3: I Another misconception is individual votes do not matter. That is NOT true- 70% assembly constituency is so close that every single vote matters. In the last election in Madhya Pradesh many assemble constituency was won by less than 100 votes. So is the Bihar election. In 2016 ADMK had only 447332 more votes than DMK and that led to 36 more seats and that shows the power of each vote.

Let us go through each state with short historic primer that is relevant for elections and decide what is best choice.

Assam:  Assam is one of the oldest ethnicity and a race into itself for more than two thousand years. It has distinct language and rich history, and it wants to preserve it. Assamese have fought and stood against what they considered the foreign invasion from time immemorial.

The migration of sturdy but different ethnicity people from the area currently carved into Bangladesh is an issue from 1920 on wards. For right or wrong reasons, the Assamese feel that they will slowly lose their race identity because of this migration. There has been three NRC exercise so far   but none of them resolved this fear. This is not resolvable because no mechanism exists to dislocate people who had lived for generations in a place without causing great harm.

 Neither the BJP nor Congress has a plan that will assuage this fear and solve it without human tragedy for the migrants. However, the current Congress leadership in Delhi does not even understand the identity issue and is divided party with no strategy or plan. They will also not work of any development activity and hence I recommend voting for BJP despite its overt verbal jingoism against minority. BJP will not do anything that will upset the delicate balance though they will make sound bites.

Puducherry:  It is a small and lovely place and people can vote to anyone of their choice and none of the serious issues exist in this tiny union territory.

Kerala:  Kerala is home to Christians before the Saivite Adi Sankara was born in 8th century AD. It has also a strong Islamic community and has minuscule Jewish population. This is God’s own country with good healthcare, education, mountains, backwater, and beautiful coastal area. For all its captivating beauty the society is underperforming as its economy is based on remittance from middle east. The stereotype is its extremely hard working people live outside Kerala and those tend to protest and dissent work inside Kerala. This has led to stunted growth and few opportunities for employment.

Both UDF and LDF the current players are bane to Kerala and must be dislodged because of its harmful polity, policy, and party. LDF has mesmerized people can go to Wuhan to study nursing than government or private start quality nursing school in Kerala.  UDF (Congress) is a party of multiple dynasties and it is hard to believe that it recently started having an association with extreme elements of Islam.

So, the obvious choice is BJP? Nope. BJP must find a way to bring the minorities who make up 45% population feel comfortable with it. Though they had been successful to minuscule extent with Christians they had a long way to go for Muslims. BJP must eschew some of its strong position on religion before we can recommend.

Given no alternative, I would recommend LDF as a choice and with strong voting for BJP in places where it can win so that the assembly will change from UDF/LDF dynamics. If BJP can get 20 seats that usher change for Kerala. I would like to see Metroman Mr. Sreedharan sitting in Kerala assembly as a sign of change.

The choice to pick up LDF instead of UDF is to recognize that as a party it still respects individuals whereas Congress is gradually losing connections with people. In closing, I urge people to see many photographs of the candidates of the municipal election. They are young, handsome women with good education and spark in the eye. Before they rot in the current situation, if a new vibrant party comes that will be a game changer. Until then LDF is the choice for majority with BJP gaining momentum.

Tamilnadu: It is one of the oldest and greatest civilizations and spread across the known world even before 6th century AD. It is home of wonderful temples dotting every street, every corner, and every village. Tamils have built temples from known historical periods that stands tall with unique architecture. Each temple reminds three elements- rich spirituality of Hinduism, everlasting architecture and melodious hymns written in the name of the presiding god. These hymns constitute a spiritual literature that has no parallel in any language including Sanskrit. These hymns are up to 1000 years old. Then much older Tamil Sangam has a repository of literature of Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and non-religious epics that is so vast, old, covers wide topics and to study even the essence of it will take more than a lifetime.

Any person whom you may come across in Tamilnadu will be immensely proud of their Tamil ancestry and rightfully so.  But the irony is that they do not know any of these literary gems. Because Tamil culture is predominantly spiritual, and the atheist and Dravidian movement has disparaged it and relegated to a place that no one is even aware. It is a sad reflection that to cater to politics Tamils has ignored their own cultural roots and literature.

The Dravidian parties, particularly DMK has manufactured many layers of hatred – Brahmins, North India, Hindi, and as time went by to woo minorities started hating Hinduism and Hindu gods. To outdo DMK, many smaller parties pandered to more hatred, caste divisions and incisive sub-nationalism and spew imagined victimhood.

The argument that the backward class and Dalits have become better off because of Dravidian rule is not supported by any evidence and their status is it same as in other states like Andhra, Telangana, Maharashtra, or Gujarat. In fact, very recently DMK elites made comments about Dalit that shocked me a lot that the party is so caste conscious at the highest echelons of party.

The Dravidian politics pioneered in profiteering that Sarkaria commission termed it scientific corruption because it is not easy to catch them. This is illustrated by how DMK’s first family has become rich beyond imagination by business of politics. The close family, their children and grand children of Mr.Karanunithi  constitutes a dynasty of  100 people and they control very large enterprises. Compare this with Bihar’s Lallu who is languishing in jail for so long now.

AIADMK started exactly like DMK but over a period became more nationalistic, religious, and less hurtful. They do not have the first family and that makes them less jingoistic. Since they cannot use “hate” tactics they had to perform on governance and they did perform surprisingly better than expected in the last four years under the leadership of current CM , Mr.EPS.

I verified the claim that the state has cleaned and rectified many lakes, pond, and deepened water storage capacity is true to large extent. Cauvery water dispute is resolved thus bringing refreshing water situation for a drought prone state. The state is calm without serious disruptions and economy is marginally improving. Surprisingly for the first time the state is surplus in electric power. The CM and others do not display overbearing attitude and quite reachable and they managed the natural calamities like cyclones and Covid 19 quite satisfactorily. Maintained a good relationship with Central government bringing more developmental work.  Mr.EPS/ OPS provided Tamilnadu a responsive government in the same order as Mr.Nitish Kumar and Mr.Navin Patnaik though unfortunately more corrupt.

I recommend voting for Mr.EPS/OPS and their alliance to reward for a decent role by a non- dynastic politician to continue their good work. This will encourage people to govern reasonably to get second term. I did the google analytics of DMK and Allied parties’ speeches and writing and it is 400 times negative and hateful than ADMK. That is not good for the state – it will create toxic climate. And DMK, whose leader personally attacked Mr. Modi will not be successful in coordinating development activity. So, it is a good case to Continue AIADMK of Mr.EPS and Vote against DMK.

West Bengal : Before advising anyone in Bengal I will plead that I am no match for their political punditry and debating skills. Everyone knows Bengal has given many scholars, poets and artists that it is unmatched in recent history by any other state.

Going back in time, the history of Bengal is one of subjugation by foreign invaders from sea starting from Arabs, then Europeans followed by defeat and colonization of it. Invaders can only win wars as the people responded with renaissance throughout the colonial history. This shows the spirit of Bengal that you can never win them by force. As the sun sets, Calcutta presents an impressive skyline over the bridge over the river Hubli. It vouches for the state with full of resilience that stood the great famine, traumatic and bloody partition and many times the influx of refugees.

Even after independence Calcutta was financial, cultural, and industrial capital of India but things took a downward trend. The post independence history of West Bengal is a history of rebellion, constant protest, and dissent to any formal authority as well as to Delhi and they acted as though ‘Republic of West Bengal’ than a state. This led to business leaving and investment dwindling and it is no longer the economic engine as it used to be.

 Whether it CPIM, Congress or TMC all acted in one common denominator. Their Anti-business and Anti- Central behavior have sucked the spirit of development and enterprise. The argument that WB still has some industry/mining is contrived because a place like that would have been in different trajectory had it been business friendly.

Bengal is thwarted by political violence and refugee problem. The political violence is almost like Maoist China where political parties and government becoming one and creating corruption, commission, and political feudalism. How would one defend that WB is one of the two states that is still not rolled out One nation, One ration card except defying common good? This is a simple tool to help millions of migrants and even Arunachal Pradesh has rolled out.

The other aspect is the refugee or migrant from Bangladesh. TMC leader who once opposed the immigrants in 2005 and jumped in the parliament well has now made a complete u turn. Not only she supports refugees, but her appeasement policy has reached such a level that about 150 Muslim scholars wrote her an open letter to not to be soft on some of their coreligionist when they do misdemeanor.

Now who can solve the refugee and development problem?

The refugee problem cannot be solved to anyone’s satisfaction but there is a conducive environment to prevent further inflow. Bangladesh in the last twenty years have taken development agenda and grown to a point that its human index is better than West Bengal. They also have an incredibly good bio-metric NRC that will aid in enforcing deterrence from people crossing with support from Bangladesh. No one expects the status of who ever in West Bengal to change but with some practical measure the inflow of people can be stopped.

On Development and growth, we are in a crossroad. Bangladesh is growing economically and as a society it is stable neighbor and is getting confident. If India and Bangladesh can work together both countries’ economy will grow particularly around the states bordering it. Apart from it, the connectivity to states on the east like Manipur, Tripura etc. can happen through the waterways, road, and railways across Bangladesh.

Recently the bridges that are being opened is a good sign. The railways that are going to ply now augur well. But the relationship must be built, and it needs to happen faster, quicker without fear, imagined or real of any influx of migrants. Once we reach the Manipur and Tripura, we can cross into other ASEAN countries opening a new gateway to the east. This will be huge and a visible change.

To fully benefit from the great and visible changes happening in Bangladesh and usher in not only development in West Bengal but making West Bengal as the gateway to the east and ASEAN and act as the anchor for growth we need to change. The change is to respect investors, growth, and respect for common good and strong working relationship with Delhi. TMC, Congress and CPIM do not have this in their DNA. I think BJP is the only party that can do it because of their DNA.

We do not want BJP to go overboard with its refugee/migrant plank and needs to be kept under tight leash and tone down its religious rhetoric. Also, we need a vibrant party that will give comfort to the Muslim population and hold BJP in check and that is where TMC can do a great service. BJP is a choice as they can bring change with extraordinarily strong TMC to keep it under check.

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