In the month of June, as the BJP and the entirety of the saffron legion were still reeling from the humiliation of the Bengal elections, they decided to gear up for the game changer that would be the Uttar Pradesh panchayat chief elections.
To save face in front of their beneficiaries, political comrades and enemies alike, they had to win it by hook or by crook. Anyone can guess about the events that transpired during the course of the elections.
However, to venture further into the murky territories of political misdemeanours, one would have to lay to rest the mindset that exists concerning the state of Indian politics. It is true that Indian politics is a jungle, and it is the deepest, darkest jungle one can venture into.
The proverbial jungle is one marked with webs of lies, deceit, conspiracies and murder. It is almost as if one is stuck in an Anurag Kashyap movie. Electoral manipulation, thus, plays a significant role in the entire process and the void only widens further once you try to understand its nitty-gritty.
What Is Electoral Manipulation?
Electoral manipulation and illegitimate electoral practices have been synonymous with Indian politics for a dangerously long time. There have been election scenarios where streets and alleys have been lined with corpses and shell casings of the previous night’s war.
This scenario rings fundamentally true for the scenario that prevails through the lengths of the Indian hinterland during the election season.
However, to understand the consequences of electoral manipulation and misdemeanour, one would have to know what it means in essence. According to the Wikipedia article concerning electoral manipulation that I excavated from the deep depths of the internet, it states the following;
“Forms of electoral fraud sometimes referred to as election manipulation, voter fraud or vote rigging, involves illegal interference with the process of an election, either by increasing the vote share of a favoured candidate, depressing the vote share of rival candidates, or both.”
Thus, to elucidate on the same, it may be stated that electoral manipulation, in essence, refers to the illegitimate tampering of electoral data or messing up the entire course or a part of the course of the electoral process. It can begin from a mere usage of a fake voter, but it may rise to the nth degree when the democracy remains but a shell of what it once was.
A few ‘democracies’ have already taken shelter under the connotation of token elections where the citizens get zilch choice in the person they wish to vote to power or the party. The irony of the situation is that they mandatorily have to vote for them, making the bold pretext of democracy gaining highlight.
History Of Electoral Manipulation In India
During the authoritarian rule of Indira Gandhi’s party, the instances of electoral manipulation were mostly witnessed in the form of strong-arming the opposition parties into submission to make them unable to work their way into power.
The sad truth of the instances of Gandhi’s rule lies in the fact that this form of manipulation is not always taken into account as manipulation.
Thus, effectively, it has become a fact of today’s politics in the country. Each and every state of India records cases of poll booth takeovers and violent outbursts against the opposition parties, be it for State elections or the Centre.
Electoral Manipulation In Bengal
Upon attaining power in 1977, after the course of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency, the Left government came into power. It was alleged that the cadres of the CPI(M) and the associated Left parties had committed extreme electoral malpractices during the Panchayat elections. These allegations stood firm and constant through the entirety of their rule in Bengal.
Effectively, it was alleged that since Jyoti Basu’s rule through Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee’s rule, the elections were more often than not almost always rigged.
The CPI(M) would employ the ease of modifying the electoral ballots, while sometimes, if absolutely necessary, they would strongarm the competing candidates into dropping their nominations.
The CPI(M) had learnt the course of committing electoral malpractices from the INC itself, the devil they swore to never become. However, politics’ two sides are almost always eroded, to say the least.
Thus, in 2011, after 34 years of Left Front rule, Mamata Banerjee ousted the CPI(M) from power, and she vowed to change the face of Bengal.
Unfortunately, nothing changed, and Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress remained just as infamous for her electoral malpractices, however alleged.
To be fair, stating that a certain situation is a mere allegation should seldom deter you from believing the possibility of the said instance happening. To put matters into perspective, in the 2018 panchayat polls, the TMC had won 34 per cent of the total seats uncontested.
This instance is further supported by the fact of TMC cadres being exceptionally infamous for their usage of devious tactics to eliminate competition.
Unlike the CPI(M) who were infamous for tampering with the ballot votes, the TMC has been guilty of storming poll booths and strong-arming opposition candidates from not filing their candidacy. However, with the BJP at the helm, things are a tad bit different now, with communalism claiming its piece of the cake, while party takes a back seat.
Uttar Pradesh Panchayat Chief Polls
It must strike as super strange to anyone reading this as to why I spent a gazillion words rambling about Bengal’s state of affairs if all I wished to speak about is Uttar Pradesh.
However, to understand the state of India’s politics now, it is necessary to take notes from the many generations of this democracy. The elections held in Uttar Pradesh to decide upon the 476 block panchayat chiefs were marred with electoral discrepancies to the T.
The hallmark of BJP’s electoral manipulation comes in the form of devising an ‘Us vs Them’ narrative, as could be seen in Bengal. In the past few years, starting from 2019’s general elections, the BJP has seen a humongous rise in prominence in the state of Bengal.
However, with their rise, instances of communal riots also rose to their pinnacle. Uttar Pradesh, is no stranger to communal riots itself, as in the past couple of years it had become a common occurrence to find another Muslim man being beaten up to death for consuming mutton or anything that resembled livestock.
The saffron party already had its work cut out for it, and they did the bare minimum of what they had to do. Numerous opposition candidates were pressurized into retracting their nominations, while others who didn’t were charged with a flurry of cases for both minor and major offences.
Many were harassed and threatened to retract their nominations, making it easier for the BJP by the day to attain the coveted seats for the chairmanship.
The result of it being 349 block chairpersons getting elected unopposed. The BJP had a field day with the results but the same cannot be said for its opponents.
The state of India’s democracy has always been in shambles. Maybe it is time to finally retract the clause of it being a democracy from the Constitution.
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