From 1947 to 1977, only the Congress party had a say in deciding the Prime Minister and the people seemed to have no choice but to vote for no-one else.
In 1977, for the first time ever, the national Opposition asserted itself and came to power. In 1989, the print media had a huge role in bringing down the Rajiv Gandhi government.
2004 was probably the turn of the TV news channels. Sting Operation West End and the Godhra coverage may have had the biggest role in booting the NDA out of power.
But 2014 probably has to be the most participatory elections ever with all manner of people coming into the political picture and making their impact…
People’s movements: In 2009, the Congress looked set to win in 2014 too. But after the CWG scam broke, people started protesting on the streets and that ultimately led to the August Kranti agitation of 2011 led by Anna Hazare.
It was clear to most people by that time that the Congress had lost 2014 at that time due to it. The only thing uncertain was who would fill in the vacuum. By the time of the agitation against the 2012 gang-rape, the Congress name was in mud.
It is doubtful that the Congress will be able to treat the people of India in such an arrogant manner ever again. You could say these people’s movements dictated the direction that the campaign for the 2014 elections would take many years back.
Social media: It is clear that the SM has broken the stranglehold of the mainstream media. A huge chunk of India may be offline and not have access to SM. But it doesn’t matter. All the people who matter for decision making in India follow SM closely.
The politicians. The MSM. The intelligentsia. The industry…
They are all affected by it and are changing their strategies accordingly. The SM is setting the pace for the nation and many in the power league haven’t even noticed. Yet they keep attacking the SM non-stop much to their detriment.
There was a time that MSM would bury certain stories. Not any more. The SM makes sure of that. And the SM has run one long campaign in the run-up to the 2014 elections and set the terms of the debate.
Their biggest success is launching the Prime Ministerial campaign of BJP’s Narendra Modi. There is a chance that Modi may not have reached where he is without the SM, so much was the MSM against him.
AAP: Parties used to take decades to come to national prominence. Not this time. The Aam Aadmi Party is already hot property and is sitting on a launch pad. At times Arvind Kejriwal gets more coverage than both Modi and Congress heir apparent Rahul Gandhi.
The only downer is that Kejriwal has messed up big time and ended up making one bad decision after another. But still you have to give him the credit for launching the party that the common man can join and it has taken a lot of professionals on board.
NRIs: The Non-Resident Indian also has taken a keen interest in this election. They have been active participants thanks to social media and also took part in things like Google Hangout. They funded parties like the BJP and AAP and also many of them came back to India to campaign or vote.
Corporate India: Corporate India usually stays behind the scenes and tries to push things. This time they have come straight to the forefront. Through forums and interviews they have made their choice clear: The BJP and Modi.
While people like Kejriwal may cry foul, the truth is that Modi’s governance and development talk has bowled them over like no other leader could. It is not surprising that people like Nandan Nilekani and V Balakrishnan have jumped into the fray.
In a way this is true democracy at work with more and more sections of the society having their say in deciding who their government should be.
Those raising fears over the chance of Modi’s becoming a dictator (“if” he should win on May 16) don’t understand that far from the concentration of power in one place, it is getting decentralised in ways that couldn’t be imagined a decade back.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here.