The readers’ poll conducted by British Herald labelled the honourable Prime Minister of India, Shri Narendra Damodardas Modi, as the world’s most powerful person of 2019. Especially after his landslide victory in the Lok Sabha elections, there are very few people out there who can now doubt the Prime Minister’s strengths. After 2014, almost every election has been swayed away by the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) led National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Out of the 29 states in the country, NDA is in power in 19 of those. So, is the party fulfilling every promise they vouched for in their campaigns and are working extremely well, which is making the saffron power grip the entire nation or is there some other reason that is helping them win the elections?
There has been a change in the manner in how political parties are approaching voters through their campaigns. Major issues and problems of the common people are addressed at a later stage. Firstly, they try to target religious minorities and dissenting individuals, with propaganda rooted in domestic divisions and prejudices. One way of creating this domestic division is with the help of fake nationalism which is instilled in the mind of the general public with the help of false information. The rise of nationalism and populism as of late has caused disruption in financial matters, environmental factors, and issues with respect to income, and administrations all over the world. Nationalism is built on the philosophy that an individual’s loyalty and actions to the nation-state surpass other person’s or a group’s interests. This sudden surge in nationalism and patriotism since 2014 has been done in order to create a war hysteria in our country. This has been done in order to shift people’s focus from main issues in the nation towards national security and so far, it has proved extremely beneficial in order to win the elections.
This phenomena of creating conflict with other nations in the name of “National Security” in order to mobilise support for elections has not been uncommon in our country and has been done a few times before. The 1971 war which led to the creation of Bangladesh resulted in huge support for Congress, headed by Indira Gandhi at that time. Two decades later, the Kargil war was fought under a BJP-led government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee. India held polls after few months of India’s military success and BJP returned to power once again. Opinion polls conducted before the tensions with Pakistan mostly predicted BJP would struggle to win a majority because of a slowing GDP growth rate, low rural incomes and the government's inability to provide more jobs. With Modi's record of economic proficiency and good governance under scanner, he progressively depended on his party's version of extreme nationalism in order to mobilise support of the people. So, the URI and Pulwama attacks, whether or not actually instigated by our friendly neighbours, played right into Modi’s narrative. While the Congress prioritised job creation and farmer distress in its manifesto, BJP had put national security right at the top along with old promises such as building Ram Temple in Ayodhya and scrapping article 370. Along with this, a strong IT cell and “alleged” control over the media helped the party in spreading fake news and images which resulted in misguiding the general public. Even the massive social media following of the party leaders coupled with pointless campaigns such as “MaiBhiChowkidaar” movement, shows how easy it is to divert people’s attention from the real issues.
Not only in India, but this art of waging into wars regardless of winning them is practiced all around the world. In June 1981, Israel's Prime Minister Begin directed a strike on Saddam Hussain's Osirak atomic reactor and a month later, as a famous hero he won a really close election. In 1996 Shimon Peres instructed a huge air strike against Hezbollah in Lebanon, a couple of months before an election, which he lost by a slimmer margin than anticipated. It is also predicted that as tension between the United States and Iran soars, President Trump wouldn’t hesitate into launching a war with Iran in a desperate attempt to win re-elections in 2020.
However, this tactic may not work all the time. India’s intervention in 1987 was a peacekeeping attempt in Sri Lankan Civil War when the Congress’ Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister. In the 9th Lok Sabha elections (1984), three years before the intervention in Sri Lankan crisis, the Congress had an edge by winning 404 seats (a record number of seats since the first Lok Sabha election). However, post Sri Lanka Civil War, and during the 1989 elections, Congress experienced a massive jolt. Though Congress was the single largest party, but it just got 197 seats. One can also argue that the reason why Narendra Modi won the 2019 elections was not because his primary focus was on national security but the fact there was no strong leader in the opposition shifted the votes in his favour. Thus, lack of choice for the Prime Ministerial post and not his popularity swayed the votes in his favour.
David Keen in his famous book Useful Enemies has rightly said that conflicts between nations are driven by economic and political opportunism. We need to understand that the victims as well as the sore losers in these conflicts are the citizens of the nation whereas people running the countries are the real winners. Politicians may change over time, however, the dirty politics they engage in won’t ever change. Winning elections is important, but creating hatred and fear among the people in the name of protecting the home country is really harmful for the society in general and involves serious repercussions. Ultimately, it’s the people who need to call out these manipulative personnel and make sure they don’t try to divert their attention from the real problems in the country. For the fake nationalism that is being brewed in the country, Mahua Moitra, an MP of the Trinamool Congress from the state of West Bengal gave a wonderful maiden speech in the parliament on 25 th June, 2019. She said, “There is a powerful and continuing nationalism that is searing into our national fabric. It is superficial, it is xenophobic and it is narrow. It's the lust to divide and not the desire to unite.