Lankans can take heart from Indian election result

Thursday, 6 June 2024 00:00 –      – 16

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The dust is settling on the Indian parliamentary election with all indications that the current Prime Minister Narendra Modi will continue for a third term in office. Pre-election predictions were that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) would sail smoothly across the 272 mark to secure a majority in the 543-member Lok Sabha but the BJP’s fallen short winning only 240 seats and left to depend on its coalition partners to secure enough seats to remain in office.

The BJP has 293 seats with the support of its coalition partner while the Indian National Congress (INC) secured 99 seats and has 234 seats with its constituent partners.

Sri Lanka leaders led by President Ranil Wickremesinghe and followed by former president Mahinda Rajapaksa and several others were quick to congratulate Modi on his victory, even before a final result was declared.

The President in his message said the victory demonstrated the confidence of the Indian people in progress and prosperity under the leadership of PM Modi while former President Rajapaksa said the Indian people have spoken, acknowledging Modi’s vision and dedication to serving India.

Typically, most Lankan politicians who wished Modi, failed to congratulate the voters of India who have pushed back hard against growing authoritarianism in India by the BJP-led Government. While the BJP has become the single largest party in the Lok Sabha, it has been put in its place by the country’s citizens who, instead of embracing communal and divisive politics of the Modi-led Government, have spoken out in their millions for a secular and pluralistic India.

Politics in South Asia to a large extent is driven by divisive rhetoric and Sri Lanka has seen more than its fair share of it. The Mahinda/Gotabaya Rajapaksa brand of politics which brought Sinhala Buddhist supremacy to the fore and demonised ethnic and religious minorities is a replica of what the Modi Government has been practising in India since taking power in 2014.

In Sri Lanka that year, Mahinda Rajapaksa was months away from facing an election having amended the country’s constitution so that he could serve a third term as president. However, in January 2015 Rajapaksa was voted out of office by Sri Lankans giving a glimmer of hope that communal politics would be shelved for good with the change in administration but that was not to be. Gotabaya Rajapaksa who made it blatantly clear that his loyalties were to the Sinhalese and Buddhists won an overwhelming majority in the 2019 Presidential elections but soon learnt that just spewing hate and divisions among the people isn’t enough to keep one in office.

Indian voters have sent a strong message to the BJP and Prime Minister Modi and rejected the politics of hate and division. No amount of economic success stories or India’s growing international clout has convinced enough voters to give the ruling party a majority in the Lok Sabha. The 240 seats the BJP won is a major come down from the 303 and 282 seats it had won in 2019 and 2014, respectively, to have a majority on its own.

Sri Lankans are headed to the polls in October this year to vote for a new president and this will be followed by parliamentary elections within a few months. Politicians who have survived by arousing communal tensions and spreading lies are back in the game under the guise of different alliances. Many are rebranding themselves hoping the new shiny cover they don will cover the rot they hide inside.

Sri Lankan voters can take heart from the election results in India where voters have pushed back against powerful forces using the power of the ballot paper. The old adage, “pride comes before a fall” has been amply demonstrated by Indian citizens. In a democracy no one is more powerful than the people and this is the message that Lankan voters too must remember as elections draw close.