The Challenge of 2024 General Elections: Vote out the Dictatorial Modi Regime

Massive propaganda blitzkrieg around the Modi cult and unprecedented use of money power have been the defining hallmarks of the Modi mode of electioneering since the launch of the 'Modi for PM' campaign in 2013. Over the last ten years both these factors have grown by leaps and bounds. But as Modi bids for a third consecutive term with an aggressive clamour for a 400-plus majority, with the obvious ulterior motive of carrying out deeper subversion of the Constitution of India, Modi is ever more afraid of the people rallying around a united opposition to unseat his government. Weaponisation of central agencies and persecution of opposition leaders has thus become the spearhead of Modi's desperate 2024 drive for a third term.

On 16 March the Election Commission announced the schedule for the 18th General Elections to Parliament with the Chief Election Commissioner repeatedly invoking a level playing field in the elections. But within hours of the notification of the model code of conduct, we now have yet another chief minister of a non-BJP government arrested by the ED. After Jharkhand CM Hemant Soren, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has also been taken into custody. Ironically while the ED has till date failed to produce any evidence in the alleged Liquor Policy scam against any of the arrested AAP leaders from Manish Sisodia to Arvind Kejriwal, the Electoral Bond data now disclosed by the SBI show the BJP as a clear and major beneficiary of bonds purchased by Aurobindo Pharma Ltd, a Hyderabad-based company directed by P Sarath Chandra Reddy, an accused turned approver in the Delhi Liquor Policy case.

While Manish Sisodia has been languishing in jail without bail for more than a year, P Sarath Reddy, who was arrested in this case in November 2022 got bail in May 2023. His company had donated Rs. 5 crore to the BJP just five days after his arrest. That was just one of the serial contributions made by the company. After getting bail in May, Sarath Reddy turned an approver in June and donated another Rs. 25 crore to the BJP within two months. In all, Aurobindo Pharma Ltd, founded by Sarath Reddy's father PV Ramprasad Reddy, and two related firms gave the BJP around Rs 55 crore via electoral bonds. Meanwhile, the BRS got Rs. 15 crore and the TDP Rs. 2.5 crore from Aurobindo Pharma. Companies are being coerced not just into paying hefty bribes but also lending their services as tools to target the opposition.

The Modi regime has clearly been rattled by the way the Electoral Bond scam has unravelled so far and it is trying its best to divert the attention of the people away from this scam. The data finally submitted by the SBI expose the Electoral Bond scheme as a brazen system of money laundering and institutionalised corruption. Journalists tracking the donor companies have identified that alongside well known corporate entities in sectors like construction, pharmaceuticals, mining etc., there are obscure entities, some just newly formed, buying massive amounts of bonds. The value of the bonds is often many times over their record of earned profits, and some companies are actually mired in loss.

Clearly the scheme testifies to the worst apprehensions expressed by the RBI about the bonds becoming a money-laundering route, the EC's initial warning about the negation of transparency and level playing field, and the observations made by the Supreme Court about the bonds becoming a system of quid pro quo for donor companies to buy impunity, secure contracts and even favourable policy changes. By all indications the Electoral Bond scheme has been independent India's most brazen system of state-sponsored and legalised financial and political corruption. The fact that the SBI lied repeatedly before the Supreme Court and tried every lame excuse to avoid or defer the disclosure of the bond details only confirms the corrupt core of the electoral bond scam.

The dominant media has all but blacked out information and discussion about this monumental scam. It is only through the alternative media that the people can find real information about the scam exposed by a dedicated team of investigative journalists, truth-seeking researchers and transparency campaigners. The government therefore wants to strangulate the alternative media by arrogating to itself the authority of 'fact-checking' and stopping digital platforms from propagating any critical content by branding it fake. Thanks to the Supreme Court stay on this draconian move, the digital platforms and social media are still enjoying some temporary respite, but the threat to freedom of speech, expression and alternative media is growing alarmingly.

A third term for the Modi regime will be a fillip to more brazen corruption, unmitigated corporate plunder, deeper subversion of constitution and erosion of democracy and all its attributes - secular fabric, federal framework and civil liberties. Twenty years ago India had dethroned the NDA government of the Atal-Advani era in the wake of the 2002 communal carnage in Gujarat and growing agrarian crisis and spate of farmer suicides. Let India rise again in 2024 to put an emphatic end to the Modi-Shah reign of escalating economic and social disaster and dictatorial rule.

The Challenge of  2024 General Elections