Indian students react to BJP’s resounding win

Youth leaders from main political parties share their views on elevation of Narendra Modi as next prime minister.

Akbar Chaudhary from AISA feels that national election was a referendum on one person [Baba Umar/Al Jazeera]
Akbar Chaudhary from AISA feels that national election was a referendum on one person [Baba Umar/Al Jazeera]

Voters in India have given a thumping majority to the right-wing opposition Bharatiya Janata Party led by its controversial leader, Narendra Modi, who campaigned on the plank of economic growth and job creation.

The outgoing United Progressive Alliance government led by the Congress party has suffered its worst ever poll defeat on the issue of corruption and failing economy.

The BJP and its allies have won 336 seats, way more than the 272 needed to form government, in a 543-seat parliament.

Modi – who has been the chief minister of the western Gujarat state since 2001 – is credited with bringing development in his home state and running an efficient business administration, something he has promised to emulate across the country.

However, he has been criticised for handling of the religious riots in 2002 that left hundreds of Muslims dead.

The BJP leader is immensely popular especially among the youth, but remains a divisive figure due to his perceived anti-Muslim bias. Critics have also accused him of being too friendly to few business leaders.

Al Jazeera speaks to student leaders from main political parties to get their views on the elevation of Modi as the next prime minister of the country of 1.2 billion people.

Amrish Pandey, Spokesperson,  National Students’ Union of India, affiliated with the Congress

Amrish Ranjan Pandey, National Students’ Union of India [Baba Umar/Al Jazeera]

Students affiliated with the Congress party are in a shock. United Progressive Alliance government led by the Congress party did a lot of work during the past 10 years. This kind of mandate from people was not expected. I think Congress party could not sell its its past performance to the people.

The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, however, managed to highlight Congress party’s weaknesses. The BJP secured such a large vote share was because it exploited people’s emotions and innocence. We know that Narendra Modi is not a clean person, yet people voted for him, while forgetting his past mistakes. The BJP has promised to change the country and transform it into a country like the US and people bought into these imaginary promises.

The Congress party won for the second time in 2009 because of Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act – MNREGA [a multi-billion dollar jobs scheme which is also one of the world’s biggest social welfare schemes]. It is shocking that people forgot it. On the other hand, the BJP polarised the society. I wish the BJP keeps its promises it made to the people, but poll-related promises are never made to keep.

Rohit Chahal, National Secretary,  Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad,  affiliated with the  BJP

Rohit Chahal, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad [Baba Umar/Al Jazeera]

I am not surprised by the election results. We were working on the ground. Prior to the parliamentary elections, the support for the BJP was clearly visible in the assembly elections last year. The difference between Modi and the Congress party’s Rahul Gandhi is that the latter was projected as a youth leader but he was never connected with the youth. Also millions of young people this country want jobs, which were not increasing during the (outgoing) UPA government. Women want security, which the Congress party terribly failed to offer; and on corruption, Congress party crossed all the benchmarks. The ABVP, which is the world’s largest student’s body with 2.2 million members, made it sure that these issues were debated within our society.

The Congress party never raised the issues that concerned the youth. For example, the issue of attacks on Indian soldiers by Pakistani forces on the border, infiltration of Chinese army into Indian territory; illegal migration of Bangladeshi’s into India and Maoist attacks on soldiers in central India. Congress party always avoided strong action against these countries. But the BJP won’t.

I was surprised to see that the Congress party was relating national polls with the issue of roads, electricity and drinking water which should have been discussed during the local bodies and assembly elections. This was a national election and the BJP had to raise issues of national importance.

The BJP has always been accused of polarising society. In fact, it is the Congress party that has always grabbed Muslim votes by keeping the community backward for decades. But in this election, Muslims have turned against the party. Otherwise it wouldn’t have been possible for the BJP to bag more than 70 seats in Uttar Pradesh alone where Muslim population is huge.

Sucheta De, President,  All India Students Association

Sucheta De, All India Students Association, Communist Party of India – Marxist-Leninist [Baba Umar/Al Jazeera]

The national election result was unprecedented. People chose the BJP because there was no other option. But in a democracy, if people have to choose a candidate, they should be allowed to choose it on the basis of information. Now here, what we saw is that Indian media batted for the BJP. Questions on Gujarat carnage vanished from the media. This election demonstrated that the power of money could undermine democratic set-up.

There should be a debate on where did this money came from? Who funded costly campaigns of the BJP and since India remains a poor country, who funded Modi and what were the aims behind it? If this money has come from a particular corporate, the question is who is this government going to benefit.

A perception was created that this election was contested on development and good governance issue when Modi and his close aide Amit Shah made highly communal speeches. For example, Modi insisted that those performing Durga Pooja were Indians and those who don’t should be sent to Bangladesh. Media didn’t highlight it. Who can forget that a four-year-old boy in Gujarat was sliced in a saw mill by Modi supporters. Media only chose to side with the perpetrators this time around.

I feel we will also face challenges in the future under the BJP government. They may want to change the syllabus of history, political science and even geography. The administration inside the university could get tougher. They have done it in the past. During the BJP’s previous rule when Murli Manohar Joshi was the Human Resource and Development Minister, the BJP changed syllabus of political science in many colleges. History was distorted to show Muslims in a bad light. Factual inaccuracies were introduced in books to paint a rosy picture of the Gujarat state.

I am surprised that some of my close relatives also voted for the BJP. But they don’t know what has happened in Gujarat riots; and who was behind it? Media has shown them a different picture of Modi.

Areeb Rizvi, senior member,  Jamia Students’ Solidarity Forum,  Pro-AAP

Areeb Rizvi, Jamia Students’ Solidarity Forum [Baba Umar/Al Jazeera]

We had speculated the BJP’s win but our effort was to support any strong candidate who was contesting against the right-wing party. I believe it’s a stereotype that only Muslims are against the BJP. Dalits (formerly untouchables) and some Hindus also oppose the BJP’s policies.

Now we are being subjected to a problematic notion of development. Same development model that was introduced by (the Congress party) politicians in 1990s harmed them in this election. We need to decide whether we want development or a welfare state.

Now that the BJP is back in power, one can expect from them an all-inclusive approach. Their past deeds are not good. To me, not only about governance, this election was also about criminality and rule of law. The BJP again showed its politics fed on anti-Mulsim rhetoric. A number of its leaders made anti-Muslim speeches to secure votes. That’s why we supported the Aam Aadmi Party in the last assembly elections and now national elections. The AAP has come as a best alternative. It gave platform to people’s movement. People related to tribal and farmers’ movements were inducted in the party. I think the AAP has the potential to challenge the BJP.

Source : Al Jazeera

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