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India's Potemkin Election

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India is about to undergo another Russian-style sham election whose results are already foreordained. With no free press, and opponents routinely jailed on trumped-up charges Modi is certain to win another big majority. The wonder of it is that most Indians don't seem to mind. 

Always a rather grubby affair, as if put together by minimally competent quiet quitters, Indian democracy is now in serious trouble. To be sure, its formalistic trappings remain in place. Nearly a billion Indians will file into polling stations starting on 19 April. The world’s biggest election to date will take place in seven phases staggered over a Trussly span of 44 days. Results will be announced on 4 June.

Yet what will transpire will not be, in any meaningful sense, an electoral contest. Narendra Modi, India’s ruler since 2014, will trounce his rivals for a third time. And if the cards appear stacked in his favour, it’s because he owns the pack. Cobbled together at the eleventh hour, the hapless, heteroclite alliance ranged against him, the Indian National Developmental Inclusive Alliance — INDIA for short — has had to suspend campaigning for want of funds; its bank accounts have been frozen by Modi’s government ostensibly on account of tax evasion.

Smaller parties, too, don’t stand a chance. Arvind Kejriwal, locally in power in devolved Delhi, has recently joined some of his party mates in prison. Kickbacks on liquor contracts are alleged, though everyone sees the ruse for what it is: a means to destroy the Common Man’s Party, which has for long been a burr in the ruling BJP’s saddle.


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Unfortunately, like many populists, Modi has a strong basis of support among Hindus esp. from the upper castes or those who like to think they’re from those castes. I have to listen to praise of this guy from my own in-laws. He’s a nasty bit of work but sadly a lot of India is cheering him on at the moment. Elections there have always been a murky affair with oodles of dodgy dealing going on. That regrettable aspect hasn’t changed much under the new man. 

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