India is the largest democracy in the world.
With 814.5 million voters, the 2014 elections were the largest electoral exercise in the world.
But have we always used our power to vote in the right way? There have been instances when Indian voters defied all sorts of logic and reason. Here’s a look:
1. CONGRESS WINNING GENERAL ELECTIONS IN 1980.
Indira Gandhi led the Congress to a sweeping victory after the party won 353 out of the 542 Lok Sabha seats. This was merely three years after the infamous Emergency was called off, suggesting that some of our family members were possibly into drugs.
The Emergency was imposed in 1975 and is the darkest periods in India’s history. In fact, it was so dark that Hindustan Lever launched Fair and Lovely the same year to capitalize on the huge market.
The Allahabad High Court had convicted Indira Gandhi of electoral malpractices and declared the 1971 general elections illegal, making it clear that the Judge had two more balls than that of Indira’s cabinet combined. This judgement fired up the workers’ and students’ movements in various parts of India under leaders like JP and George Fernandes. The Emergency was in response to the growing opposition to Indira.
Basic fundamental rights were dismissed; opposition leaders were arrested, freedom of press was scuttled, elections were suspended, and non-congress state governments were kicked out. Indira assumed dictatorial powers, while her son Sanjay did whatever he wanted. For instance, he carried out mass sterilisation since he believed all of India’s problems were due to population growth.
The Emergency was called off as surprisingly as it was announced, and elections were held in 1977. It wasn’t a surprise when Congress was routed while the Janata Alliance came to power with Moraji Desai as the Prime Minister. But the alliance was short lived, and it broke apart like the protagonist’s family in a Balaji production. Charan Singh, the deputy prime minister, was wooed by Indira away from the Janata alliance. Others like Vajpayee also withdrew support, following which Moraji resigned.
Charan Singh was sworn in as PM, but even before he could prove majority in the Lok Sabha, Congress withdrew support, thereby making Charan Singh look like the greatest idiot ever (till Rahul Gandhi arrived). Even after all this, in the general elections held in 1980, Indira came back to power, that too with absolute majority. The Emergency was in effect like the calculus lessons of the eleventh standard. In three years, everything was forgotten.
2. CONGRESS WINNING THE GENERAL ELECTION IN 2004
The NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee lasted its full term. India was making steady progress under his leadership, and NDA had come to be associated with progress. Most importantly, India did exceedingly well in the 2003 World Cup.
The national mood under Vajpayee was strong enough, since BJP had only recently emerged victorious in the assembly elections in the states of Chattisgarh, Rajasthan, and MP.
It became clear that the nation was possibly favourably disposed toward BJP and hence, Vajpayee decided to prepone the elections in order to capture the popular mood. But over-confidence is like having a son who didn’t make it to any of the IITs. It is embarrassing, often gets you into trouble, and you’re made to fend off uncomfortable questions, like’ are you going to abandon him now?’
The General Elections were held in mid-2004, and BJP came up with the infamous ‘India Shining’ campaign, and everything looked rosy. But little did they know that this campaign would turn out to be the greatest BJP mess-up till the time they appointed Sambit Patra as their national spokesperson.
BJP went overboard with the campaign. The India shining campaign was taken as an offence by the marginalized section, i.e., the urban and rural poor who made up a significant portion of the population, who felt the only things that were shining were their empty utensils. The tagline “You’ve never had a better time to shine brighter??? sounded more like a cobbler at Kurla trying to seduce a customer. This was further aggravated by the Congress party who exploited this campaign to their benefit, and to their credit, Indians called bullshit on the campaign.
So everyone, including the media houses and their ever so reliable predictions suggested NDA would romp home to victory, Congress, like the Sri Ram Sene during Valentine’s, caught everyone unawares.
3. AAP WINNING THE 2015 DELHI ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
This instance was not as illogical as some of the others. But unlike Somnath Bharti’s misdemeanors that involved his wife, the margin of victory was a matter of surprise.
The lesser of two evils principle suggests that when you’re faced with two messed up options; you should probably choose the one that’s least harmful. For instance, when your mom offers you the choice to have either Lauki or Tindey for dinner, you should find yourself a new mom.
Faced with two ridiculous options (we’re not counting Congress since zero added to two is two anyway) they went with the one that looked less embarrassing. Between Kejriwal and Kiran Bedi, they went with Kejriwal. And one can’t blame them for it. Kiran Bedi was infamous for taking better U-turns than Kejriwal and her antics during the run up to the elections (and even after she was swept aside by the AAP broom, when she proclaimed that it wasn’t her loss, but BJP’s) made it clear that making her the CM would be like downing five large whiskey pegs at one go: it looks like a dangerous option, and is going to leave you with a headache and a bad feeling the next morning.
AAP managed to win 67 out of the total 70 assembly seats, while the BJP shockingly got only 3. Even the BJP chief ministerial candidate Kiran Bedi was swept away by AAP. Congress, as expected managed to win nothing. However, it was not a reflection on Rahul Gandhi’s leadership as Kamal Nath said. He couldn’t be more correct. You can’t blame a man for not spending enough when he doesn’t have any money.
The Modi wave was expected to get BJP over the line, as it had done in the assembly elections in four states just months before the Delhi assembly elections. It was not clear whether the middle class and the upper class moved away from the BJP and sided with the AAP because the BJP government at the centre fostered an ambience that inspired violence, because the Firstpost article that I referred to seemed anti-Modi, and was clearly as impartial as Steve Bucknor officiating in a match featuring India. Nevertheless, just like Nitish Kumar’s credibility after he joined the Grand Alliance, BJP was destroyed.
4. RJD WINNING THE 2000 BIHAR ASSEMBLY ELECTIONS
Lalu Prasad Yadav was arrested in 1997 for doing away with money for cattle feed by conjuring fake rosters. But in an act of shamelessness that’s second only to N. Sreenivasan holding onto his job as BCCI chief, he installed Rabri Devi as Chief Minister even when she was completely illiterate and had lesser interest (and experience) in her job than the guy who sorts undergarments according to their size on Snapdeal.
The NDA was confident of coming to power with an overwhelming majority. However, it had misread its victory in the Lok Sabha elections wherein it had won 41 out of the 54 Lok Sabha seats and had been leading in 199 out of the 324 assembly segments. NDA managed 125 seats, way behind the 180 mark that the leaders were trumpeting about. RJD on the other hand lost 43 seats over its 1995 tally, but the loss was underwhelming considering the kind of portrayal the media had done regarding RJD’s future and what Lalu had done when he decided to have dinner with his buffaloes. RJD managed 126 and emerged as the single largest party, which also proved, to some extent, why Bihar was consistently among the most backward states in India.
So, people in effect elected Lalu, who was stealing money meant for cattle feed of all things, was arrested, and installed his wife as CM, to disappoint them for the next five years rather than give someone from the NDA a chance to plunder them.
So you see, getting the power to vote didn’t do us Indians a whole lot of good. We continued to vote according to moods and emotions, rather than logic.