A journey of The Iron Lady in the era of 1971
Fresh out of school in 1988, being a total neophyte and desperate to become efficacious, I looked around to get a sense of the political paradigm around me. With the firm belief of making myself worthwhile during the animated yet entertaining political discussions that everyone around me was having, I quickly started joining in the conversations my elders were having, whether at home or at the tennis club that I used to frequent. With the risk of exposing my ignorance, I began to listen and strategically back the most vociferous yet popular personality that I could hide behind, mainly to mask my ignorance! For a teenager, it wasn’t a bad strategy and certainly not in isolation! “Bofors” was the main buzz at that time and the political tensions and discussions that I had witnessed, made me curious as a cat! Being on the verge of being eligible to vote, as the voting age was being lowered to 18, I quickly latched onto the morning newspapers, to begin with. Soon headlines found its way into interviews and finally into editorials which were either for or against the ruling dispensation. With time it wasn’t too difficult to identify the political patronage or affiliation of a publication with a particular party or group. Video magazines, television bites and interviews were also watched keenly by me to get myself into the groove of the lingos and the trends.
The most important lesson that I learned many years later was to keep emotions and personal expectations out of the equation as I had my first encounter with a rude awakening on the result day of the 1989 general elections! The lesson from the reveille was that “Personal expectations cloud one’s judgment” and that one could easily vanish away from reality on the ground at a speed which may not be too different from Einstein’s law of relativity. I came to realize much later that a person could easily be in la-la land, but can be convinced that only he or she was in the real world! Also, likes and dislikes of a personality could be very dangerous because being a very sharp double-edged sword, it would usually catapult one to defend or attack a celebutante with or without menacing and thus being at risk of not being objective and equitable.
My expected glory as a debutante was quickly swivelled and gyrated into self vilification as I could not comprehend a charmer like Rajiv Gandhi losing the election. It was a catastrophic occurrence for me as my surety of the outcome was wrong and self-infliction of uncharitable thoughts was frequent and I was feeling like I was standing in a doorway diffident and abashed.
The final stupor, but discernment came when the NDA govt led by Vajpayee was voted out of power in 2004. It was a Déja-vu for me and to my dismay and horror, 1989 had re-enacted on me. I was shell shocked by what had happened and only by 2005 was I able to dispassionately take cognizance as to the “Arth” of the phenomenon. Another lesson that I learned was that “Just stating the obvious on the occurrences was not good enough, but it was important to assess the rationale.”
The recently conducted general elections are not only amazing many a political pundits and analysts, but also sent many of them back to the drawing board for a reassessment of the fundamentals driving opinion-making and predictions, over many elections. The magnitude of the voting percentages in favour of the ruling dispensation was not only stunning in terms of numbers, but even more, because the voting percentages of 2014 and 2019 were more or less the same! This is amazing as it means that considering more or less the same population size of those who voted in both these elections, nearly 25% of those who voted in 2014, for non BJP parties decided to switch to the BJP. This is phenomenal!
However, to osmose and deduce Indian electoral politics, it is imperative to take cognizance of the occurrences and mosaic from the famous 1971 “gareebi hatao” election campaign.
On the backdrop of inequitable distribution of growth and emergence of the leftist and radical Naxal uprise ideologies, mainly inspired by massive land grab, Indira not unaware of the consequence and success of these occurrences, was quick to latch onto the Oppositions charge of “Indira Hatao Desh Bachao” and counter-attacked fiercely with “Gareebi hatoo, Desh Bachao.” Sensing a sticky political wicket Indira decided to take the Bull by the horns and upped the Ante on the campaign trail. All contentious issues like price rise, economic hardship, the Bangladeshi immigrant problem and the socio-political storm that it created were dealt with by her campaign brilliantly and she diligently maneuvered the entire election and took on the opposition with some magnificence. Indira often stood on an open car for hours involving radical rhetoric to enthuse the masses and created a narrative and mass euphoria while eventually and decimating of various setbacks, it was this election that clearly defined the leadership of Indira Gandhi as she turned a dribble defeat into a magnificent victory by displaying tremendous political astuteness and craftsmanship to stamp her authority on the Congress party.
With 43.6% of the popular votes Indira’s UC (R) garnered 352 of the 518 seats in the fifth Lok Sabha, the election to which took place between the first and the 10th March 1971. With a meagre 51 seats , Morarji Desai’s NCO in-spite of an alliance with the NDF managed to drop 65 seats from the previous elections and garnered only 24.34% of the popular votes, The Congress, on the other hand upped it’s tall by 73 seats and this was done by help of 2.9% swing in it’s favour of the popular votes.
To be continued in 1977…
Anubhav Poddar — Like to be well informed observer/thinker on politics and business. Make my ends meet by running an nbfc!
Follow Anubhav on Twitter : @anubhavpoddar