In what is clearly a moral victory for the Congress-led Opposition, the 2024 mandate is a vote for democracy, dignity and justice. The results reflect the nation’s distrust of concentrated power and an irrevocable commitment to the constitutional fundamentals emphasized in the manifesto of the Congress party. The verdict is a tribute to the latent wisdom of the people sworn to freedom and liberty. It seems that the suppressed soul of the nation has found utterance and the pledge that we took on the midnight of freedom for the defense of liberty and dignity of our people, is a continuing one. The electoral verdict affirms an abiding lesson of democratic politics that the anguish of those affronted and alienated cannot be suppressed for long by a muscular state.

As the fulcrum of the Opposition alliance, the Congress led a vigorous pushback making significant gains in the process. The results also confirm the assertion of regional aspirations considering the performance of most regional parties. The election signals a reconfiguration of national politics and validates the Gandhis’ leadership of the grand old party. Most importantly, the results affirm the integrity of the electoral processes of the world’s largest democracy. The vindication of democracy is the seminal message of this election.

However, congratulations are due to the Prime Minister for the NDA’s eventual victory at the hustings. The Prime Minister virtually carried the election on his shoulder demonstrating a remarkable tenacity of purpose throughout the grueling campaign. His expected crowning as a democratically elected leader of the world’s largest democracy for the third consecutive term is indeed an exceptional event in the history of India’s contemporary politics. Despite the setback, the Prime Minister can claim consolation in the fact that the BJP has established itself as a pan-Indian party with a poll position in national politics, significantly increasing its vote share in the southern states.

However, the election presents a formidable challenge for the Prime Minister. The nation, tired and divided by a fractious election and a scarred soul, needs to be healed. The alienation of minorities, a demeaning electoral discourse, the perversion of legal and judicial processes in pursuit of political ends, the abuse of constitutional power by the ruling parties across the country and rampant corruption at all levels are unmistakable signs of a flailing democracy and a debilitated polity. The foremost task for the Prime Minister, therefore, is to refurbish the nation’s credentials as a constitutional democracy anchored in a demonstrated commitment to the rule of law and justice. As a holder of the highest executive office, the Prime Minister to-be must speak for the nation as a whole. He must use his personal chemistry with the vast section of Indian people to burnish his vision with a proclaimed commitment to fraternity and the dignity of all citizens. He is expected to be magnanimous and accommodating of the dissenting views of his political opponents in the best traditions of democracy. And he must effectuate the principle of equal citizenship in a pluralist society.

The Prime Minister, at the head of a coalition government, will need to seek and secure the widest possible consensus on matters impacting overarching national interests. The nature of the mandate signals a cooperative enterprise for national renewal premised on a politics of reconciliation. The primary responsibility for this rests with the Prime Minister as leader of the nation. In this endeavour, he will necessarily need the constructive cooperation of the Opposition, which represents a large section of the nation. The Opposition on its part, cannot be cynical and compulsively critical of every action of the government. It must respect the mandate to preserve its credibility in public estimation. And it cannot also be seen as graceless at this hour. Indeed, the protagonists of BR Ambedkar must not forget his message that in a constitutional democracy, there is no scope for anarchist politics.

Festive offer

The mandate of 2024, which has deepened Indian democracy and constitutionalism, should yield policies that enjoy widespread acceptance, and governance that brings the nation together in addressing the daunting challenges of our age, including a pervasive assault on fundamental freedoms through an arbitrary exercise of power. . In his promised plan of action by the new government in the coming days, the incoming Prime Minister may wish to consider repealing or amending the oppressive penal laws that are routinely abused in derogation of citizens’ constitutional rights and enacting humanitarian laws including the much-awaited Comprehensive anti-custodial legislation.

Above all, the Prime Minister, at the head of the new government, will doubtless reflect on the lesson of history, that power is a trust held on the condition that its exercise is just, and such as would enhance the moral autonomy of free citizens. to grasp their freedom.

The writer is former union minister of Law and Justice. Views expressed are personal

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