Deciphering the strategy
BJP is not on its strongest wicket in Gujarat but it might still win.
In a federal Union like India, the States have ceded a lot of self-governing power to an external entity, erroneously called the Centre. This Centre appoints the Chief Election Commissioner, who heads the Election Commission of India. Since people of the States have ceded power to Centre in trust, including the power to hold State elections via the Election Commission of India, when this office become politicised, it is a matter of grave concern. Because, a biased Election Commission of India will help the Centre and the party in power in the Centre, in Union Parliament and State Assembly elections. This subverts democracy and takes away sovereignty from the people themselves.
A biased Election Commission is the sign of a banana republic. From the recent signals being sent by the Election Commission of India and its Chief Election Commissioner, there are good reasons to believe that the Indian Union is on the way to become exactly such a banana republic. But unlike the original banana republics, the consequences of the banana-ness is very high in the Indian Union because this means the enslavement of 1.3 billion people by undemocratic schemes initiated by New Delhi. The present Delhi regime is moving ahead in full steam to destroy one public institution after another – institutions that symbolise the contract of trust between the citizens and the state. The whole world should take notice.
The elections of Gujarat are due this year. This is the Prime Minister Narendra's native state. His rise to BJP's leadership and to the nation's Prime Minister has been aided by 2 key factors – one, his role during the 2002 anti-Muslim riots in Gujarat and two, his touting of Gujarat being a 'model' which served as a testament to his ability to govern and do welfare. This time around, BJP is not on its strongest wicket in Gujarat. It might still win, but the over-selling of the "Gujarat model" (shown to be completely under the mark when you look at human development index, women's empowerment, and hunger data, and not Adani-Ambani –FICCI-CII endorsements) has meant that the credibility of the Union government's chief hugely depends on a convincing win in Gujarat. Here, 'convincing' would naturally mean BJP has to do better than it did last time in the Gujarat Assembly elections when it used to be a State election and not poster-boy state in the run-up to and after the Modi-Prime-Ministership. That scenario seems tough and thus BJP has been trying to influence the Election Commission of India to serve its own interests. When the ECI becomes partisan, this destroys the very basis of democracy. Indira Gandhi's regime, another "strong-leader" quasi-dictatorship, saw such fundamental erosion of democratic rights of people and democratic character of the state. Under BJP's Modi, a similar move is being in all fronts. These are extremely dark times.
The election dates of Gujarat were supposed to be announced by the Election Commission of India along with the dates for the elections in Himachal Pradesh state. This was widely expected as according to previous conventions. But this did not happen. The game was clear to everyone. The BJP was in a bit of a backfoot in Gujarat on various economic downturn issues and the noises weren't good. If the poll dates were announced then, the model code of conduct would have set in. That would have put a stop to stop-gap election time sops and project announcement to do last moment hoodwinking.
The Union government would be announcing projects in Gujarat and then only the Election Commission of India would announce dates. Thus, the ECI as an institution would have been into a joke and like the Reserve Bank of India, another quasi-independent state institution would have become an extension of the ruling party. As subsequent events showed, this is precisely what happened. A bullet train project was announced between Mumbai (where Gujaratis own business) and Ahmedabad (the biggest town of Gujarat) – a project worth 1 lakh 10 thousand crore Rupees. That's more than the double of the total annual budget of West Bengal being invested in a high-speed railway project between 2 cities connected by multiple flights, regular buses and fast trains in which 40 per cent of seats go vacant. This is not some bullet train project. This is a subsidy to the BJP election fund in Gujarat by the public revenue and tax from mostly non-Hindi state citizens. It is a scandal. And Delhi media clapped. Because a certain set of cronies very pally with BJP owns most of Delhi media. That's how sleazy and cynical this gets. And the announcement of various new projects in installment after Himachal Pradesh poll date announcement and much of this is to be paid for by Union government funds. Modi visited Gujarat twice in 2 weeks while he did these announcements, including even the smallest of projects, thus reducing the absentee Prime Minister of the Indian Union into a full-time block level election campaigner. The desperation and anxiety of the BJP showed. And the Election Commission of India played in tandem. Only after this elaborate farce was acted out that the Election of Commission of India announced the Gujarat poll dates, even when major Opposition parties had been making noise about the motive behind the delay in the announcement.
Highly worried about the elections that would be held under the control of such an ECI, the Congress(I) party asked for a paper trail for vote verification by voters. The ECI refused. Any institution interested in transparency would have cooperated. The refusal was ominous. This went to the courts and the courts ordered that a paper trail be kept. But this is just one instance. Because one has no clue about the ways an election can be fixed and thus one is in the dark about how to stop all those ways in such a partisan context. The ECI doesn't seem to care about its public reputation and seems to value much more its loyalty to the powers that be. All States must look closely at what this ECI potentially represents with the BJP trying to use its funds to get into various non-Hindi states, given that assembly elections in those non-Hindi states happen under the control of ECI. The citizens of Indian Union are staring at the hollowing out of another state institution but the political party of Hindi-Hindu-Hindustan.
Now let me get to something, which may be incidental or sinister. The present Chief Election Commissioner of India, Achal Kumar Joti had a previous boss till 2013. Achal Kumar Joti, the Chief Election Commissioner of India, was the Chief Secretary under the then Chief Minister of Gujarat. And this happens to be the first Election Commission of India in many decades against whom a charge of such explicit bias has been raised. Thus, when Union Parliamentary election happens in 2019, with these elements in charge of running it, there must be extreme vigilance for peaceful and fair transfer of power is at stake – with the fate of 1.3 billion on the hook. It doesn't stop with the ex-Chief Secretary of Gujarat. BJP's president is fellow Gujarati Amit Shah.
Reserve Bank of India has seen huge erosion in trust due to its blind execution of directives because a handpicked Governor and a Gujarati, now heads RBI. The 5 richest people in the Indian Union are all Gujarati – who make huge sums in crony deals, crony commodity contracts, crony supply contracts and such other well-crafted loots of public money. Those who have taken most money from government banks and have not given it back, among these worst defaulters, Gujaratis dominate the list. I am not saying that it is a racial issue. I am suggesting that a certain mafia clique has taken over and these patterns are just a scene of how deep is the rot and how predictable is the pattern of the rot.
(The views expressed are strictly personal.)