A new era
As India’s 900 million voters head out to exercise their franchise on Thursday, the nation stares at a new chapter that would usher in an inspiring change, setting fresh precedence by itself in the midst of myriad ethnoreligious triumphalism and political opinions. This election will uphold the authority of commoners, their nationalist narrative, aspirations and expectations, political preferences and indomitable spirit to alter the course of history. But it is important to note that conducting elections in this country is not an easy task. In India, where more than one in four people are considered illiterate, where voters speak around 22 official languages and thousands of dialects, where tribal communities have been living without water, electricity or basic amenities, schools and hospitals for epochs, where people have to climb mountains and cross swamps and forests to cast their vote, the exercise could be a quite challenging one. Hundreds and thousands of individuals are caught in the vortex of political oppression, be it in the name of religion, caste or communalism, coupled with stuttering social mobility and faltering growth. This has led to a feeling of exclusion and prohibition. It is definitely not a good sentiment to have, especially when elections are approaching. India has always been known as one of the most tolerant countries in every sense. However, in the present scenario, beyond the theatrics, there is a lot of intolerance and it does have a lot of ramifications. National responses highlight dissent and anger, pressing for mutual respect and tolerance in public discourse as they feel communal polarisation has hit an all-time peak. Writers, authors, visual artists, theatre personalities and thinkers are emphasising on a change of government at the Centre, the reasons for which are very clear. Former bureaucrats and diplomats have also written to the President of India complaining about the Election Commission suffering from ‘a crisis of credibility’, whose “independence, fairness, impartiality and efficiency are perceived to be compromised today, thereby endangering the integrity of the electoral process which is the very foundation of Indian democracy.” The group also accused ECI of acting with “lethargy” in respect of the Namo TV channel (until yesterday) and transfer of three top police officers and the Chief Secretary in Andhra Pradesh and four top police officers in Bengal. The perception of an ever-vigilant ECI undoubtedly has an impact on the voters. Thus, it remains to be seen over the coming 40 days as to how the reasoning, experience and rationale of the nation’s top election body make it possible for India to begin a new era in the country’s history.