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Is Yogendra Yadav now an anti-election activist?

On TV shows and many other forums, Yogendra Yadav is often introduced as the national president of some entity called “Swaraj India.” Somebody told me once that it is a bit like a political party, but it rarely seems to contest elections. But then, elections matter little.

We should have an outcome very soon, we do not have a mandate.” These were the words of Yogendra Yadav speaking to NDTV on the day of election results in Bihar.

There are two ways to interpret this statement. First, you could be generous to him. When these words were said, there was still some chance of the RJD catching up with NDA. Or there could have been a hung assembly. Maybe that’s what he meant.

You could also look at it another way. By forcing some kind of distinction between mandate and outcome, is Yogendra Yadav subtly trying to undermine elections themselves? If you think that might be a stretch, listen to what he said the following day. He comes up with not one but three reasons why one should not read much into the results of the Bihar elections.

… and third and most importantly, because elections are no longer the most happening things in our democracy. Some of the most important things are happening outside the Parliamentary electoral arena.

That is an astounding statement. He just dismissed the significance of electoral results from Bihar, a state of 100 million people. Then he said elections are not even the most happening things in our democracy. And finally, he left little to the imagination by specifying that the important things in our democracy are happening outside the Parliamentary electoral arena.

Do these sound like the words of an individual who believes in our constitution? I’m just asking.

Is this merely a case of Yogendra Yadav choosing his words poorly, two days in a row? Maybe. But you decide if you can find a pattern somewhere. Here he is, telling us all to “worry” about the upcoming elections in Bengal.

The Print article by Yogendra Yadav

In some ways, that article sort of reads like a masterpiece of plausible deniability. It goes into great detail about accusations of manipulation, booth capturing and strong-arm tactics in the 1972 state elections in Bengal. It then explains why the BJP needs Bengal in 2021 at least as much or even more desperately than Congress needed the state in 1972. In the last few paragraphs, the article makes a sharp turn. Yadav suddenly says he is “ultra-cautious” and refuses to make direct allegations of rigging or fraud. All he does is present some general, routine fears about misuse of government machinery and tells us all to “worry.”

Let me show you this as well. This was written just before Bihar elections.

The Print article by Yogendra Yadav

Here are just some of the quotes from the article that I found interesting.

Elections, at the state or national level, are no longer pivotal to our political life.

Elections became more of a routine exercise, which mattered immensely to the candidates and parties, but did not reflect deeper trends. Gradually, elections were more about money, media, and management than about masses.

As the BJP became more and more focused on winning elections at all costs, elections were emptied out of their larger significance. It’s now all about the election machine and media management.

More importantly, elections are no longer the registers of resistance to the powers-that-be.

Everyone gets frustrated about politics from time to time and goes off on a rant. But you can’t miss the extreme vitriol that Yogendra Yadav seems to have towards elections in India. Most tellingly, this line:

It is increasingly unlikely that a serious counter to the hegemony of the BJP will come through elections.

Whose rhetoric is this? What does it remind you of when someone tells you that elections are no longer useful as “registers of resistance” against power? Who talks like this?

To be sure, Yadav fills up the space between these one-liners with loads of “context.” He refers to all sorts of peaceful protests and mass movements in the history of India. That’s reassuring. But he does keep coming back to his jibes against our elections. And someone may wonder: is the rest of the article just context? Or could it be camouflage? I’m just asking.

Perhaps what makes this question somewhat interesting is that Yadav has played an important role in a movement that has now occupied the outskirts of Delhi for several months. On Republic Day, certain people, who may or may not have been part of this movement, stormed our Red Fort and raised another flag. Some people have said that it looked like an attempt at insurrection, but what do they know?

Here is another thing that may or may not be worth mentioning. The so-called leaders of the so-called farmers’ movement don’t seem to be very concerned with the question of money power, or even foreign money power behind the protests. They don’t seem to be very concerned that foreigners are being provided with ‘toolkits’ to interfere in our domestic affairs. Even if the support and financing for the overseas campaign could be coming from known Khalistani groups.

I am trying to contrast this with Yogendra Yadav’s cynical views on our electoral system:

Gradually, elections were more about money, media, and management than about masses.

Some people might say that the so called farmer protests are also more about money, media and management than about masses. Full page ads in the New York Times cost a fortune. Some people say that a top celebrity influencer like Rihanna charges millions of dollars for a single tweet.

It is rather strange if Rihanna’s Twitter timeline is a barometer of what the masses want, but elections are not. Ten thousand people protesting on the streets is about the masses, but millions of people standing in line to vote means almost nothing.

By the way, on TV shows and many other forums, Yogendra Yadav is often introduced as national president of some entity called “Swaraj India.” Somebody told me once that it is a bit like a political party, but it rarely seems to contest elections. But then, elections matter little. Maybe Swaraj India is engaged in the other, more happening things in democracy. How can I say?

To borrow an expression from Yadav himself, I am going to be “ultra-cautious, almost a conservative” in my conclusions. I don’t know anything about Yogendra Yadav’s beliefs or intentions. I would never accuse him of any wrongdoing. But I know he is kind of a big deal on TV these days. So I just want to know if he considers himself an anti-election activist. A simple yes/no answer would help.

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Abhishek Banerjeehttps://dynastycrooks.wordpress.com/
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or may not be an Associate Professor at IISc Bangalore. He is the author of Operation Johar - A Love Story, a novel on the pain of left wing terror in Jharkhand, available on Amazon here.  

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