The left-leaning junta in India is astonished that Sadhvi Pragya Thakur has won from the constituency of Bhopal. Thakur, after all, is accused of being behind the 2008 Malegaon bombings where 10 people were killed and 80 were injured. How could the electorate put a terror accused in the Parliament? How could we elect someone who called the assassin of Mahatma Gandhi a patriot? It doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t feel right. Especially in the context of a candidate like Atishi Marlena losing from the East Delhi seat, despite all her stellar work as the Advisor to the Education Minister of Delhi. Is there such a dearth of good candidates in our country that a leading political party had to field a bomb blast accused with no political experience? What has India done? Or is it possible that we have completely misread the mood and rationality of the voters on ground from our digital high ground?
- Sadhvi Pragya’s win from Bhopal has come as a shock to many.
- She defeated Congress candidate Digvijaya Singh by a margin of 3,64,822 votes.
- The social media psephology brigade failed to understand the ground level opinion massively.
- Why are we as a nation not on the same page on Sadhvi Pragya?
Is it possible that we have completely misread the mood and rationality of the voters on ground from our digital high ground?
The Sadhvi’s win doesn’t come as a shock to me because I have spent last few days in the state of Madhya Pradesh, through the seventh phase of voting and the built up to the results. I have interacted with a lot of people in these past days and naturally election was a topic which needed no prior familiarity to draw out an opinion. These people, mind you, aren’t the digital radicals who instigate murder and rape on social media. Nor are these the agitated right wingers creating ruckus and baying for vengeance from certain minorities that we have been hearing about on Internet. These are regular people just like you and me, who work hard to earn a living, pay taxes and most importantly cast their vote when they are called to do it, quietly. Shopkeepers, milkman, domestic help, autowallahs, family members and even padosis who live in the same colony as my parents do. Not one of them mentioned Hindutva or nationalism as their reason to vote for BJP.
The picture that emerged from these conversations was that social media psephologists have massively misread the sensibilities of the general population. Their forecasts and arguments have been so radically different from these people, the disconnect from the ground is palpable. I am not justifying Pragya’s win, but merely trying to look at it from a neutral analytical perspective, because frankly, that is all we can do now. What I have realised is that the difference between those who are celebrating and those who are angry over her victory is of the side of the Sadhvi Pragya legend they choose to believe in.
Their forecasts and arguments have been so radically different from these people, the disconnect from the ground is palpable.
For those who detest her, she is a terror accused right winger, who has little on her agenda than propagating extremist ideology. On the other hand, for people on ground she remains a falsely accused victim of police brutality, who was representing the party they were willing to vote for. The last part of this sentence makes all the difference, because pro and anti Modi stance has heavily influenced the side of the story one wants to believe in, including you and I. What does that say about us?
Another key factor in Pragya’s easy win was the very candidate posed against her. It is laughable that of all the possible candidates in MP, Congress chose to field Digvijaya Singh against her. Having lived in the state for the better part of my life, I know that most people here can forgive anyone but Singh. His tenure as Chief Minster of MP, which left it in a ruinous state and the ensuing glory of Shiv “Raj” has made him a largely resented politician in MP. Fielding him was either a brilliant move by the regional Congress, to end his interference once and for all in the state’s politics, or the party simply was too oblivious of the regional voters’ sentiments.
Having lived in the state for the better part of my life, I know that most people here can forgive anyone but Singh.
So when you look at all the factors, it doesn’t come as a surprise that the people of Bhopal chose to vote for Pragya, who was given a safe seat to contest from (BJP hasn’t lost from Bhopal since 1989). That she has won from a constituency which has an average literacy rate of 83.47 % is a fact we must learn to deal with. That she got away with a distasteful comment against Mahatma Gandhi and being a blast accused should jolt us the Twitter political pundits awake. We know little outside of the digital bubble where we reign. The social media activism motivated us to go to polling booths and cast the vote for what we thought was right. But then why is the outcome so different from the narrative we were witnessing on the Internet? It is a call for introspection on everyone’s part. Who is right or wrong is a matter of conviction these days. But why this polarisation in views? Why are we as a nation not on the same page on Sadhvi Pragya? More importantly, why do we choose to believe in the narratives that we do? And what should we do if others don’t?
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.