Monday, June 3, 2019

No Meddling with the Polls

Rafale replica in front of Chief of Air Staff's Residence
My article  No Meddling with the Polls appeared in Mail Today

Did the Russian government interfere in the 2016 US presidential election, siding with Donald Trump to defeat Hillary Clinton, the candidate of the Democratic Party?
On September 22, 2016, some members of the United States Congress complained of ‘foreign’ interference during the presidential elections; voices said that it could have ordered directly by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
In May 2017, former FBI director Robert Mueller led a Special Counsel investigation; at the end, though he did not absolve President Trump of obstruction of justice, Mueller did not advise prosecution.
One could ask the same question in India: have the recently-conducted Legislative Elections suffered from ‘foreign’ influence?
Before answering this question, it is necessary to have an overall view of the seven-round process; the voter turnout has been very high (more than 67% after the fourth round). This is far more than the European elections held on May 26 and which prided itself for a record 50%. Practically, it means the people of India have chosen, something that Modi’s detractors do not accept.

Bad 'Time'ing'
Now to reply to the question: the answer is clearly ‘yes’, external forces have tried their best to influence the result of the elections.
Take the Time magazine, which published a cover story calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi the ‘Divider in Chief’.
The term ‘divider in chief’ was a reference to BJP’s ‘nationalist’ politics, which according to Aatish Taseer has led to the polarisation of the electorate; the author asked: “Can the World's Largest Democracy Endure Another Five Years of a Modi Government?”
Each one is free to have his own opinion, but in this particular case, it represented a foreign organization which blatantly used its reputation, to side with one party (their arguments was similar to the Congress’).
Incidentally, after the elections, probably realizing that it had gone overboard, the magazine carried an editorial with the headline “Modi Has United India Like No Prime Minister in Decades”. This time, it explained: “Narendra Modi personifies the aspirational working classes and can self-identify with his country's poorest citizens in a way that the Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty, who have led India for most of the 72 years since independence, simply cannot."

Guardians of the Souls?
But the harm was done.
If The Time reacted positively post-results, it is not the case of The Guardian which wrote that Narendra Modi's win is 'bad for India’s soul'. What language! And since when has the British newspaper become expert in ‘soul’ affairs?
You may say, it cannot be called ‘influencing’ as the editorial was written on the day of the results, but it certainly shows the deep bias, not to say contempt of the ‘foreign’ press against India. Let us be clear, it is India which is attacked (through her Prime Minister), when the editor writes: “Rather than transcend the faultlines of Indian society – religion, caste, region and language – Mr Modi’s style is to throw them into sharp relief. Mr Modi deployed with terrible effect false claims and partisan facts.”
An honest analysis of the results shows the opposite.
The editorial went on to compare Modi to Putin (incidentally, I don’t understand why leftist publications never call Xi Jinping, who keeps one million Muslims in concentration camps, an autocrat).
What is sad is that such views are common amongst foreign correspondents. Why this prejudice one could ask?
Simply because most of these ‘experts’ would like the Indian nation to fit their own western standards, forgetting that India, a civilization more than twice as old as Europe, is simply different; it is how they often lose their ‘western’ objectivity (to the great delight of the Indian ‘secularists’, India’s haters par excellence).
Can these journalists/experts change and open themselves to a deeper India which is basically tolerant and non-fanatic? It is doubtful.
They were delighted when one Party, day and night called Modi a ‘chor’; not understanding that this would not change the mind of the voters, who for the past five years, have seen that Modi has not got richer and did not offer plumb jobs or tickets to his family members; the voters are no fools.
But it is more serious.
By calling Modi a ‘chor’, it was implied that Modi or his party had made a lot of money, i.e. on the Rafale deal. Apart from the fact that the arguments in the electoral rallies, in the press or in the Supreme Court were constantly changing and often incoherent, the Congress never brought any proof that a government to government contract had been manipulated by the BJP to take advantage of it.
I was often told, “why do you bother, it is just an electoral gimmick; the attacks will stop the day the elections are over”. It was true, but as a democracy, it would be fair if India orders an enquiry to find out if one of the Rafale competitors took too much interest in the campaign.

Rafale Ruffled Feathers
The battle for the deal may be for the next one; a Request for Information (RFI) was issued on January 17, 2018 to procure 57 multi-role combat aircraft for India’s new aircraft carrier: “aircrafts are intended as day-and-night capable, all-weather, multi-role, deck-based combat aircraft which can be used for air defence, air-to-surface operations, buddy refuelling, reconnaissance.”
Some of the suppliers knew that Modi’s choice would be based on merit; this might have not been acceptable to them. By shooting down the Rafale deal, they might have hoped to promote their own planes for the next deal.
Could they have influenced one party, whose one-point campaign was “Down the Rafale”?
Only a proper enquiry would clarify if a foreign power has really tried to interfere in the elections.
In any case, even if the ‘foreign forces’ tried, it is obvious that they did not succeed in their bid, that is the greatness of Bharat.

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