The real challenge will begin after the election: Pratap Bhanu Mehta



This edition of Express Adda held in Mumbai hosted Pratap Bhanu Mehta, Vice-Chancellor of Ashoka University and Contributing Editor, The Indian Express. A high-stakes, low-expectation election You get this very palpable sense that Indian political culture is at a very decisive moment, which could fundamentally alter the nature of our politics. If you do get five years of a consolidated (Narendra) Modi government, India will become an irrevocably majoritarian state. All basic assumptions we made about Indian democracy The kind of centralisation of power you In all these dimensions, it Even in public discourse, we are finding excuses not to confront the high stakes in this election. We are not looking at a visionary alternative or an articulate opposition, or a return to basic constitutional principles, but just a little bit of balance of power. There On the weakening of institutions The ideological convictions with which the BJP is proceeding and the ruthlessness in using any means possible to consolidate power are contributing in making institutions more fragile. If we step back from Modi a bit and look at it in a larger perspective, as a civil society, we need to confront some basic questions. The financial crisis of 2009 is actually a much more pivotal moment for Indian political culture than we realised. Firstly, because India experienced an economic slowdown and we don The second thing that 2009 did was to bring to the fore a trend that it delegitimised elites across the world and by elites, I mean all the classes that had disproportionate intellectual or symbolic capital. The elites of society have become corrupt or self-serving or out of tune. This kind of identification evokes attack on media, universities or intermediate institutions and it When elites become delegitimised and we don On the points of hope Sources of disenchantment and resistance or the need for it, is still a very powerful undercurrent in Indian society. There are marginalised groups that will assert themselves in one form or the other. The challenge they are having at the moment is that there is no credible articulation. My own sense is that the undercurrent of resistance is there but the structures of mediation still have not woken up to the possibilities of tapping into those. The second undercurrent in this election is that a lot of people who claim to be supporting Modi seem to be relatively clear in their recognition that he actually has not delivered much of what he has promised. In fact, it is not the kind of euphoric endorsement. It is The political, intellectual and social spaces are there, it is just that our institutions, political parties and universities have been so moribund in responding to them, we have become much more defeatist. Maybe, this election will jolt us out of this.