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India’s Parliamentary Elections: Why Has It Become ‘Presidential-Like’? – OpEd


Several observers, journalists and critics of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been pointing out that the ongoing Indian parliament election looks like Presidential election, focusing on one man and not really the election of people’s representatives as intended in the Indian parliamentary system.

They have been blaming Mr. Narendra Modi for this scenario. In support of their view point, they point out that while Modi’s political party BJP has formed alliance with a few other parties under the banner National Democratic Alliance (NDA), campaign is being done amongst the people by the ruling party not in the name of BJP or NDA but in the name of Mr. Narendra Modi. People are being “brain washed” to vote for Mr. Modi rather than being appealed to vote for BJP government or NDA government. The critics further say that this has been deliberately done by Prime Minister Modi, bringing the focus on himself. According to them, this is Mr. Modi’s disservice to Indian system of parliamentary democracy.

While it is true that the parliamentary election is taking place like the Presidential form of election focusing entirely on Mr. Narendra Modi, the question is whether Mr. Modi is responsible for this.

The fact is that the opposition parties in India are largely responsible for this situation and Mr. Modi is only responding to the scenario.

The ground reality is that there is no leader in the opposition political parties (most of whom are really leaders in the state level with their influence restricted to one or two states ) to match Mr. Modi in charisma, oratory skill , personal integrity and leadership qualities.

When Jawharlal Nehru and Indira Gandhi were the Prime Ministers and parliamentary election took place at their time too, there were several stalwarts in the opposition parties like Rajaji,. Jayprakash Narain, Lohia,Acharya Kripalani and others . People had a definite choice . It appears that such a situation is not the case now.

Aware of their limitations, leaders of several political parties, most of whom are regional leaders, have joined together to oppose one man Mr. Modi.

In the process, they all seem to have concluded that Mr. Modi’s fair image amongst people has to be effectively demolished and that is the only way that BJP or NDA can be defeated in the election. Therefore, in all their speeches ,the opposition leaders of various parties started personally targeting Mr. Modi and abusive language were liberally used calling Mr. Modi a thief and even going to the extent of stating that even Mr. Modi’s claim of belonging to a backward community is false. Mr. Modi was personally blamed for every development that took place in the last five years of his governance and no other leader of BJP and NDA was criticized with such vehemence. The net result of this situation is that Mr. Modi became the single and sole target for the opposition parties and obviously Mr. Modi has to fight back and explain his stand and view point.

The fact remains that Modi government has initiated many proactive and imaginative schemes in multiple directions in the last five years, keeping the complex requirements of India in view. Of course, some of such measures have not yet yielded the expected results in a way that people could feel and benefit. However, most of his actions are work in progress stage as of now. Opposition parties know this and they cannot take him on such issues like clean India campaign, opening millions of bank accounts for poor people , skill development programmes, digitalization etc. Therefore, to paint Mr. Modi in black , an attempt has been made to call him corrupt and using words such as thief.

Now, voters in India are left with no alternative other than viewing parliamentary election as decision to vote for Mr. Modi or not to vote for Mr. Modi. As the process of elections are going on, nobody else is being discussed and the merits and demerits of individual candidates are not being analysed and evaluated. Every candidate representing Modi’s party are being evaluated as Mr. Modi himself and merits and demerits of Mr. Modi as seen by the voters is the only factor in exercising the franchise by the people in favour of one candidate of other. Candidates belonging to opposition parties are being evaluated as representing anti Modi force.

The opposition parties with no coordinated principles or policy programmes and with considerable mistrust between themselves have no alternate leadership to highlight against Mr. Modi.

At this state, while the media projects that Mr. Modi is well ahead in the election contest, 2019 parliamentary election in India will go down in history as a contest regarding the acceptance or otherwise of one man Mr. Narendra Modi. This has never been so in the history of parliamentary election in India so far.

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N. S. Venkataraman

N. S. Venkataraman is a trustee with the "Nandini Voice for the Deprived," a not-for-profit organization that aims to highlight the problems of downtrodden and deprived people and support their cause. To promote probity and ethical values in private and public life and to deliberate on socio-economic issues in a dispassionate and objective manner.

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