The Resistance Has Just Begun

The 2024 election turned out to be a battle between vested interests and unorganised masses

Illustration: Vikas Thakur
Photo: Illustration: Vikas Thakur

Seven decades ago, the eminent American political scientist, Professor Seymour Martin Lipset, published a seminal research paper, ‘Some Social Requisites of Democracy: Economic Development and Political Legitimacy’ in the authoritative American Political Science Review in 1959. His thesis was that advanced levels of literacy, industrialisation and urbanisation were required for democracy to succeed. It became an influential argument in those contentious days of the Cold War, and provided the Western policy elite a rationalisation for Washington’s support and patronage for military regimes in various continents.

Indian voters had neither heard of nor cared for Lipset. They definitely proved the Harvard professor repeatedly wrong, but most emphatically in 1977. Nonetheless, the voters reserved their most resounding refutation for the Lipset thesis till 2024 as for the first time, democracy as an ideology triumphed over fancy notions of strong-leader-led-autocracy.

The last 10 years have seen a very determined ideological assault on the idea of democracy, anchored in constitutional legitimacy. A tiny elite—a dozen favoured business houses, a band of technocratic bureaucrats, and a corrupt and corrupting media mafia—had enlisted the upper castes and upper classes in a Project Limited Democracy to install an anti-people policy regime. The 2024 vote came down to whether the masses wanted to lend their imprimatur to an all-powerful, unaccountable, and omnipresent State, which provides a shield to the power-hungry elite to carry on its greedy business.

This elite was prescient enough to realise that it would need a mukhota, someone like Narendra Modi, an effective and energetic demagogue, a man of relative humble origin who would remain in awe of people of wealth, a man of immense self-belief, who could be easily manipulated to stand up for crony capitalism dressed up as vikas. These last 10 years have been characterised by many as the “billionaire’s raj”.

In 2024, the ruling elite was super confident that its political mukhota, Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), would effortlessly secure a thumping endorsement from the masses for its loot-and-greed axis. Corporate India was the most boisterous cheerleader of this Modi-led sleight of hand.

The masses saw through the ideological trick. The Congress Party’s sharp focus on the Ambani-Adani shadow over the Modi regime was helpful in building a democratic case against the bogus “vikas.” Earlier, the masses got an idea of collusion at the core of the Modi regime when the Supreme Court ordered the dismantling and disclosure of the Electoral Bonds scheme.

The ideological tug of war will continue in the times to come as the corrupt and the power-hungry will have to be taught another lesson in humility.

Journalists who travelled in the scorching heat in the crucial state of Uttar Pradesh (UP) were, at first astounded, and then, amazed as to how clearly the voters saw the 2024 election. The voters had altogether different issues and ideas on their mind than the ones favoured by the New Delhi-based darbari reporters. And, as a continuing refutation to Lipset, the voters knew that the battle was all about democracy qua democracy.

For more than 10 years, Corporate India has cleverly but unobtrusively encouraged Hindutva as a natural national choice. The idea was simple: use the Hindutva energy and its intractable mobs to control the streets. “Hindutva” was the great cause, the Holy Grail, which was to be prioritised over everything else. Human rights, civil liberties, notions of accountability, civil society space, a robust judiciary, and an independent media were all tamed into working within the framework of a Hindu chetna. Anyone who questioned the massive diversion of national resources in favour of corporate barons was shunted out of town as an “urban Naxal”.

The idea of democracy acquired an ideological sharpness as the campaign questioned the Modi-led narrative and ambitions of “ab ki baar, 400 paar”. And much before the opposition parties and leaders were able to get their talking points together, hundreds and hundreds of activists and citizens were spelling out the stark ideological choices in 2024.

The travelling journalists felt humbled as the ordinary voter talked of the Constitution, and the potential threat posed by the retrograde forces to the Constitutional values and guarantees—like reservations. For the first time in a long time, the voter found himself having to evaluate the need for fairness in our collective arrangements.

As Modi talked incessantly of the Muslims and the dangers posed by them to Hindu well-being and security, the voters in Uttar Pradesh began questioning the exaggerated unfairness being sought to be dished out on the minorities. A regime or a leader or a political party that seeks to trade in unfairness towards one group can easily turn unfair and mean towards others in society. By turning its back on the Modi-led venom, the voters in Uttar Pradesh were affirming that the ideology of democracy was essentially anchored in fairness towards all.

Not just Modi, all other big guns from the BJP corner—Amit Shah, Rajnath Singh, Yogi Adityanath—were trying to frame the 2024 vote as a contest between Ram bhakts and Ram virodhis (enemies). The voter saw through this excessive invocation of a revered Holy figure for a partisan cause; ironically enough, this partisan exploitation of religious faith retrospectively diminished Modi’s self-proclaimed achievement of a “bhavya mandir in Ayodhya”. Nothing could be more delicious or symbolic than the defeat suffered by the BJP in Ayodhya.

That UP would not adequately reward the BJP with electoral dividends should suggest that the Hindi-heartland is no longer in ideological awe of or suffering from an emotional infatuation with the Hindutva ideology. The shabby politics of expediency and opportunism that the new Chanakyas have inflicted on the body politic in the last 10 years has depleted Hindutva of its spiritual capital.


The 2024 verdict also carries a message for the opposition: summon the maturity and wisdom to highlight people’s issues, without allowing the mobs and provocateurs to run away with the ball. The voters have saved many opposition parties from slipping into political irrelevance; it is now the opposition’s turn to return the favour by imaginatively making the Modi establishment understand that it no longer enjoys the nation’s confidence. Democracy and its rigours demand an ideological commitment from the opposition as well.

Because the 2024 vote is an ideological affirmation of the Constitution and its scheme of things, it also follows that those who are entrusted with the task of interpreting and upholding the Constitution—namely, the higher judiciary—have now the duty to protect the voter’s faith. For too long the judiciary has under-performed in discharging its sacred task. The judge has the electorate’s mandate to protect and preserve the Constitution.


However, it is no surprise that many sections of the ruling elite are seeing the return of a truncated Modi to the seat of power as a licence for continuity of the old, soiled order. During these 10 years, a cottage industry of sycophancy and surrender has mushroomed. Most of its beneficiaries have a vested interest in pretending as if the voters have not inflicted an ideological defeat on the Modi regime.

This ideological tug of war will continue in the times to come as the corrupt and the power-hungry will have to be taught another lesson in humility. The political and ideological resistance has just begun.


(Views expressed are personal)

(This appeared in the print as 'The Resistance Has Just Begun')

Harish Khare is a Delhi-based senior journalist and public commentator