Sorry folks if this post is not coherent and focused on a single topic. I have so many things racing through my mind about these elections that this is more like jotting down quick notes and observations.
Yesterday, I had remarked about how the mood in the secular camp has been very shifty and nervous ever since the first phase of the election took place in Uttar Pradesh. As I said, 73 seats is a pretty decent chunk out of 403 seats. If the “grand alliance” is getting pushed to 3rd position, the journos simply can’t find the Akhilesh wave they were hoping for. In desperation, they have had to lean on crutches like claiming BSP or RLD ahead. Some have suddenly discovered the importance of not believing in rumors about who is leading … a realization that seemed sorely absent during Bihar.
Here is another one who clearly knows that the election has gone off script.
The second thing I want to say today is that the BJP deserves a pat on its back for excellent messaging. The party has pressed home the narrative of a victory in Phase 1 and you can see the pressure working. This is a sea change from Bihar, where the right wing seemed stunned into silence after the first phase of the poll. At one point, the opposition narrative enjoyed total monopoly of the media and the internet … and Team PK convinced everyone that Modi had in fact stopped his rallies and quit the Bihar battle.
And just in time, Amit Shah steps in
The news has already spread that Mayawati has done better than SP in the first phase. It obviously makes sense for Shah to deepen the confusion among the M voters. Considering the high concentration of M voters in Phase 2, it is an absolute imperative for BJP to split the M vote. Even if the M vote moves en bloc to Mayawati (which won’t happen), it’s still a net gain for BJP. Because SP workers will feel like they are at the bottom of a deep well if 3 phases of the 7 phase election get over and their party is yet to win a single round.
The third note that I want to make is something I feel very strongly about. It’s about Dainik Jagran publishing its exit poll despite EC guidelines to the contrary. Now I know that the real reason M K Venu and the rest of the liberal media are angry with Dainik Jagran is that their poll showed BJP well ahead…
They know that the BJP’s messaging has been brilliant and that it’s working. But let me come back to my original point. I can’t tell you how much I want to believe M K Venu here.
Indeed, somebody needs to have a showdown with the Election Commission in the Supreme Court of India. For a long time now, the EC has been issuing diktats that seem to be in clear violation of basic freedoms of expression and association. Somebody needs to test the constitutionality of this stuff in a court of law.
Long time readers of my blog will remember that I have always felt very very strongly about freedom of expression. Why, for instance, should political parties stop campaigning 2 days before the election? Who gives the EC the right to issue such arbitrary guidelines? Why can’t a political party put forward its point of view in a free country? Do we lose freedom of speech 48 hours before the election? Where is that written in the Constitution? And why can’t we run opinion and exit polls and show them on TV when elections are in progress? These are privately financed polls shown by private TV channels. Where is it written in the Constitution that the Election Commission has de facto control over the press when the polls are going on?
You know, the EC used to ban broadcast of exit poll after elections begin. This time they have gone a step further and ordered that you can’t even perform exit polls! The unelected, power-mad overlords at the Election Commission just keep grabbing more and more of our rights. In 2007, the Election Commission threatened to derecognize the BJP because they did not like the communal content in a campaign CD released in Uttar Pradesh! What the hell! How can EC have the power to kick out hundreds of elected MPs, MLAs and Chief Ministers because they did not approve of the speech in some campaign CD? The BJP had to apologize, withdraw the CD and grovel before the EC. Why?
Speech is speech. Why should anyone have to grovel before a sarkari bureaucrat because they exercised that right? Is this Soviet Russia? And I must make it clear that I am not complaining only about what the BJP had to suffer. I am equally disturbed by the EC’s clampdown on Azam Khan during the 2014 election. In fact, I applaud and salute Azam Khan for having the courage to drag the EC to the Supreme Court then 0ver being banned from campaigning. In contrast, Amit Shah tamely apologized and chickened out. Someone has to stand up to the EC bullies and I don’t care who does it : Amit Shah, Azam Khan or Dainik Jagran.
Let’s see whether the bullying bureaucrats at the EC get their way. It won’t matter even if they lose in court. At most, they will incur a small fine. But it will set an amazing precedent … once the ice is broken, every media outlet will jump in and start showing exit polls (the TRP is worth much more than the small fine). It is only through widespread disobedience of the Election Commission’s so called “codes of conduct” that we can get our fundamental freedoms of expression back from under the boot of the bureaucrats.
The final note today is about Uttarakhand. The Congress ran a very lazy campaign there, while BJP reached out to every part of the state. It is only in the last 10-15 days that Congress actually tried its hand at campaigning, with Harish Rawat being the solitary soldier. But Modi’s multiple rallies in Uttarakhand in the last few days have demolished any minor gains the Congress could have made.
The crowds and the enthusiasm in Uttarakhand have been “2014 grade”, even as the small state seems totally in awe of the Prime Minister. And in a state with lots of defense personnel, Modi is really rubbing it into the Congress over OROP and the surgical strikes. Suffice to say that Congress has no hope there.