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HomeFocusCaste-Based Census will Be Major Issue in 2024 Polls: Pradeep Mathur

Caste-Based Census will Be Major Issue in 2024 Polls: Pradeep Mathur

It is important to educate people about diversity and its importance and also about democratic temper to strengthen our democracy



PROF PRADEEP MATHUR is a veteran journalist and Media Guru. Besides, he is a well-known political commentator. In an interview with MOHD NAUSHAD KHAN on the current political scenario, especially assembly elections in five states, he said elections are very important for democratic polity but they are not the be-all and end-all of democracy. Democracy is much more than elections. For democracy the most important thing is democratic temper of our leaders and masses. Excerpts:

As we see, assembly elections are on, the campaign is going on and some states have already polled. So, what’s your reading of the campaign trail about Assembly elections?
These days it has become a little difficult to understand what is happening on the ground. One thing is that I am not of an age to do field reporting and the other thing is that it has become rather difficult to believe what the media is reporting. You never know what media is reporting is fair and objective or is biased. In fact, the credibility of media is unfortunately very low now; therefore, it has become very difficult to analyse a situation on the basis of what you learn from media.

However, by an overall assessment of the situation and by our understanding, I feel BJP is in a very tight corner. As such it has been losing ground for the simple reason that the grip of the top party leadership in the states has weakened and therefore, there is widespread dissention in the party. Moreover, issues like unemployment and price rise have made a big dent in the party’s appeal among the masses.

People are also very conscious of the fact that all the promises that were made by the BJP government at the Centre or the states have not been fulfilled. There are two or three things that have severely damaged the reputation of this government. One thing is the Prime Minster hasn’t spoken a word about Manipur. Another thing is he hasn’t explained his relationship with Adani. So people ask why he is not speaking on charges of economic malpractices of Adani and still criticizing the Opposition parties of corruption. All these things have slowly eroded the credibility of the BJP.

Now our middle class people, who were once full of prayers for Modi, are having serious doubts in their minds about his intentions. There are many other sections of society like farmers, government employees and students who are not happy with government policies. If the Congress campaign has really made a dent and the crowds in the meetings of Congress leaders are a sure indication, I think BJP is in for a tough time. I think poll prospects for the BJP are not good.

Either way the Assembly elections result goes, how do you think it’s going to impact 2024 general elections?
It is going to impact in a big way. This is wrong to say that assembly elections won’t have any impact on the Lok Sabha elections. It never happens this way. It is always a question of the image of the top leader. What has happened is Modi somehow was able to create a larger-than-life-size image for himself. If this image is dented, I’m sure it is going to have an impact in the 2024 elections also.

Modi’s image did not work in West Bengal and Karnataka elections. It is also not looking like working in these assembly elections. So how will it work in Lok Sabha elections? So I don’t subscribe to the view that Assembly election results and Lok Sabha elections will be different.

What do you think are going to be the issues before the electorate in the 2024 elections? Which issues are going to dominate?
As far as Congress is concerned, they are talking mostly about unemployment, price rise and communal divide. The Opposition is also going to make caste-based census as a major election issue.

BJP won elections in the past on basically three issues. One was corruption, the second was Ram Mandir and the third was promise of giving a very efficient and committed government. Now corruption is not going to work as an issue for them because people can see that in this government too corruption is rampant. So, I think BJP can’t go to the people in the next election and say that we are not corrupt and others are corrupt. If they say, so nobody is going to listen to them. Second, the image of a very strong united party determined to do things for the country is also not going to work because everybody knows that there is a lot of dissension in the BJP itself. The third thing is that the BJP government has not been able to fulfil many of the promises made to people. So, they will have to look for some new issues.

How do you think the caste-based census issue is going to work in 2024?
Oh, this is a very important issue. The problem is that the benefits of economic development have been most unevenly distributed. This was a problem before also and now it is a much bigger problem because only certain people are getting benefitted from government policies. Therefore, an election-time political debate on the caste-based census is going to expose the real economic scenario of the people in this country to the disadvantage of the ruling party.

And I think this is going to damage the BJP because so many castes have not benefited even one bit from this economic development. Now one can say that sale of cars has gone up, air tickets are not available but it is only a certain section of society which is getting all these benefits. Larger masses are not getting anything. So, I think caste-based censorship is going to expose the myth of development in the Modi era.

Will the caste-based census overshadow BJP’s Ram Mandir rhetoric?
Sure, it is going to overshadow many issues. This is a very good Opposition device to break the BJP’s hold on Hindu community per se.

Do you think the opposition will remain united till 2024?
Opposition parties will come together and they will fight BJP together. They have a compulsion to remain united as they fear a threat to their very existence under this regime. I have no doubt that they will fight against the BJP in the next election as a united front.

Keeping in mind the 2024 polls, what according to you are the challenges before our democracy?
Elections are important for democracy and there is no doubt about it. But democracy as a whole is not only elections. Democracy is many times bigger than elections. For democracy, the most important thing is democratic temper. If you don’t have a democratic temper, merely casting a vote will not make any difference.

For democratic temper, there should be a sense of equality, compassion, and tolerance for dissent. In the recent past, there has been a steep decline in democratic temper.

Elections are held and governments formed in our country but the true essence of democratic temper is missing. Post-Independent rulers were of democratic temper and they tolerated and even appreciated dissent. But today the situation is very different. There is no tolerance of dissent in the top leadership.

The best thing India has is its diversity and without appreciating diversity of our culture one cannot understand the democratic temper. The biggest challenge before the 2024 elections is to raise the issue of diversity. It is important to educate people about diversity and its importance and also about democratic temper to strengthen our democracy.




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