11 Mar 2019 04:54am IST
Cleofato Almeida Coutinho
In a few weeks from now we shall be voting to have a new government at the Centre. With a promise to make this land flowing with milk and honey, Narendra Modi reduced the Congress party to rubble and brought in a new ray of hope in 2014. After five years, we are grappling with a question does he deserve another term? And what would be the shape of our democratic republic if he succeeds? Amit Shah told the party’s national executive on September 9, 2018 ‘if we win in 2019, we are going to be in power for the next 50 years. Nobody can remove us”. He was only ushering in a Modi monarchy for the country.
The Modi rule started with the dismantling of the Planning Commission and thereafter brick by brick, the institutional pillars that made our democratic republic what it is has been dismantled. The two pillars that made us proud – the Supreme Court and the Election Commission appear to come under strain. The four judges addressing a press conference pointed a needle of suspicion of the judiciary being compromised. The way the government handled the elevation of Justice K.M. Joseph and played with the elevation of Gopal Subramaniyam confirmed the suspicion raised over government’s intention in having a National Judicial Appointments Commission. The Election Commission has its own share of disgrace. The circumstances under which Raghuram Rajan and Urjit Patel quit the country’s top bank only points out the extent to which the government has tinkered with the independence of reputed institutions.
The biggest casualty of the regime has been healthy dialogue, debate and dissent. After the Pulwama attack and the India Air Force strike at Balakot the scope of dissent has further narrowed. News channels and battalions of anchors have brought about a volatile situation with their shrill pitch demanding that Pakistan be taught a lesson of a lifetime. Only a war will satisfy them. The Modi brand of nationalism has created that pathological obsession.
What activists like Teesta Setalvad, Javed Akthar, Dalit scholar Anand Teltumbde, Assamese Sahitya Academy Awardee Hiran Gohain and Kanayakumar faced in the past four and half years can make no democracy proud. The persecution of liberal intellectuals has been the hallmark of this regime. A situation like the fifties of the last century (the McCarthy era) were public intellectuals of all background were targeted and branded as communists and taken into custody in the US by creating the second ‘red scare’ is brought about.
The slogan of ‘sab ka sat sab ka vikas’ made us believe that we are now in all good times (achhe din) but lynch mob mentality and actual lynching has become the order of the day (lynching were unknown to this country). The lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq, Rakbar Khan, Pelhu Khan brought a new low with some central ministers clapping and the Prime Minister looking the other way. The entire effort is to consolidate the majority against the minorities with an eye for a majoritarian vote bank. Hate has become a tool in this endeavour of a majoritarian vote bank. It is this atmosphere that felled country’s prominent nationalist Narendra Dabholkar, Govind Pansare, M.M. Kalburgi and Gauri Lankash. The narrative of nation, nationalism and patriotism built around hate and love for cow is a clear attempt to bring about a divide in cosmopolitan India.
The multiplicity of culture, faith and language go to make the idea of India. India is what it is due to its pluralism, tolerance and diversity. Even in the times of Ashoka in ancient India and Akbar in medieval India, tolerance and inclusiveness has been their high points. It is that idea of India as a tolerant vibrant democracy under attack. Now a plural society and country of religions can only remain vibrant on the principles of multiplicity of cultures and faith. The maker of modern India, Pandit Nehru was prepared to lose every election but would not compromise on that idea of India.
That idea of India was derailed by the mass mobilisation to destroy the Babri Masjid and by the Gujarat riots. No doubt such mass mobilisation has brought electoral victories but the country lost its very USP. With the mob lynchings, doing away with all dissent and creating an atmosphere of fear and hate has made this democratic republic lost its soul.
The government is also not entitled for a benefit of doubt over record on the economy. It is so dismal that it has nothing to showcase and the incompetence is seen from the arbitrary decision on demonetisation which only added to the misery of the countrymen.
This election is actually an election to reclaim the soul of the democratic republic. The ruling party’s strength cannot be underestimated. The PM continues to be popular. He is second to none in marketing himself. He has the capacity to catch the imagination. Imagine the electorate actually believed they would get Rs 15,00,000 in their bank account!
The Congress occupies largest opposition space with a pan India image has a great responsibility in dislodging the present government. The setbacks suffered by the ruling party in the three Hindi heartland states of MP, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh has given a new ray of hope proving their electoral invincibility. In the new post Pulwama atmosphere it is imperative that fresh strategies are drawn to reclaim the soul of the Republic. There is immediate need to reignite the spirit of the constitution as against religious nationalism brought in to do away with our diversity and replace with majoritarian democracy. Hope the citizens rise up to the occasion.
(The writer is practising advocate, senior faculty in law and political analyst)