EDITORIAL: 2019’s casualties

NEW DELHI (The Statesman/ANN) - Soon after the sun sets this evening the heat and dust of the most deplorable of election campaigns in Indian memory will be overtaken by the no-less fiery predictions of who the exit polls will project as winners.

Without waiting for those obviously varying assessments, it would be safe to determine at least two losers ~ the credibility of the Election Commission and the cherished apolitical character of India’s armed services. Both reputations built over decades now stand tattered, and will require Herculean efforts to restore what the citizen used to take for granted.

The damage inflicted for short-term gain may never be repaired ~ that it is the underlying truth to the shameful story of the polls for the 17th Lok Sabha. To add to the pain is the nationwide frustration that the “principals” would hardly lose any sleep over what they have collectively bequeathed to the people. True that the world’s largest election has become increasingly competitive after the generation of leaders who struggled for the independence of their people faded away, but it would be fair to ask if they would have deemed their sacrifices to have been authenticated by the developments of the last six-eight weeks.

The polarisation of society on the basis of religion, caste, community and region has injected a malevolent dimension to the divide-and-rule theory of the imperial colonisers. At least then, Indian was not turned against Indian, the minorities left wondering where their home was. And the subsequent political one-upmanship never descended to questions about wives, forbears, etc.

All that and then the assassin of the Father of the Nation is hailed as a deshbakht. The conversion of a parliamentary democracy to a personality- driven presidential pattern of governance makes a mockery of the celebrated mantra of Unity in Diversity.

And what of the watchdog? Until reprimanded by the apex court the Election Commission remained a mute spectator to political abuse, and when it did act its impartiality was open to question. The three-man body has little right to continue to hold office ~ unlike Caesar’s wife it is not above suspicion. Some even contend that its partisan function in the last few days provided unexpected cement to efforts to forge Opposition unity ~ May 23 may answer that charge.

Only the sympathetic would deem the damage to the military as “collateral”: while the rank and file may be forgiven for perceiving so-called nationalism as a reward for years of indifference, the conduct of some members of the brass’ leadership reveals worrisome inclinations.

In 1975-77 the civil administrative apparatus was similarly enfeebled, but when the people had their say the Army, reportedly, stood firm and refused to oblige the “extra-Constitutional” wielder of political clout. If such a situation was to arise again would upholding the sacred statute remain of paramount importance? Not everybody is so sure a second time around: the “Generals” have created such doubts.

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