22 Mar 2023  |   05:46am IST

Where Are We Heading?

Radharao F Gracias

One reads the same story, day after day; Lok Sabha proceedings stalled. And no, not by the Opposition. The country is facing a unique situation where the ruling party MPs disrupt the budget session with no attempt from the party to discipline its MPs. The country appears to be in deep slumber; it may be too late, unless it wakes up now.

The ostensible cause is a speech at Cambridge University by Rahul Gandhi where he said, “Indian democracy is under pressure, is under attack. I am an Opposition leader in India and we are navigating that space. What is happening is that the institutional framework which is required for a democracy — Parliament, a free Press, the judiciary — just the idea of mobilisation, just the idea of moving around … these are all getting constrained. So, we are facing an attack on the basic structure of Indian democracy...”

The ‘attack’ is deemed to be grievous because it is made abroad! Is that an attack at all? Is it not a mere statement, before a dignified audience?

Is it not what every non-BJP leader is openly saying in and outside Parliament, for quite some time?  Is it not what a large group of citizens feel? If saying so within the country is not an anti-national act, how does saying the same abroad make it anti-national? Does truth have nationality?

Actually the government, by disrupting Parliament, is giving credence to what Rahul spoke at Cambridge. Since when does the ruling party disrupt Parliament? Is it not the duty of the ruling party to maintain decorum of the House? If indeed Rahul has committed an offence why does the govt not register an offence, arrest and prosecute him?  Is that not what a government is put in place for?  Is disruption of Parliament not a tool generally used or misused by the opposition, the world over? How come the BJP behaves as an opposition party?  Is it hinting the voters to send it to the opposition, a year hence? Will the voters bite?  Does the BJP’s behaviour in Parliament not establish that democracy is really in peril and that Rahul’s assertion may be right after all?

Let us now examine what Modi has been saying on frequent trips abroad. Fortunately the net provides the information at the click of a mouse. Here is what I find:

“A quote from the past comes haunting or is at least fuelling debate on the Prime Minister’s denouncement of BBC for its documentary on him. Doing the rounds on social media is a 2013 speech in which, the then Gujarat  Chief Minister  Narendra Modi is heard praising  BBC, saying it is more credible than Doordarshan and Akashvani news here."

The Hindu‘s diplomatic editor Suhasini Haidar tweeted that Modi had said, “One year ago, Indians abroad celebrated our win. And sang, the bad days are gone. Earlier you were ashamed, today you are proud of India.”

In South Korea, Modi addressing the Indian community reception in Seoul May 18, 2015, said in Hindi, “There was a time when Indians would say, ‘I wonder what we did in our previous life to be punished with a life in India now. Is this a country? Is this a government? Are these a people? Let’s leave’.”

He continued: “And people would leave. We would see people being told, ‘Brother you shouldn’t do business here, you shouldn’t live here.’ And most people already had a foot outside the country. I don’t want to go into the reasons. Nor do I want to comment on the politics of this. But this is the truth of the land. People were disheartened, angry. I can say with belief today that notable people from separate walks of life – noted scientists, and so on – even if they are going to get less money than they would have abroad are eager to return to India.”

The mood has changed, he says, afterwards.

“The government is not the country, it’s the passion of 125 crore people,” he says, somewhat prophetically.

So Modi does know the government is NOT the country. But then how does the govt become a country when Rahul is critical of the govt, at Cambridge?

At Berlin in Germany, as part of his Europe tour on which several outlets reported, Modi took on the Congress. He said that during Congress rule, Indians would receive only 15 paise out of Re 1 worth of benefits.

“Woh kaunsa panja tha..,” Modi said, pausing for effect as the audience roared.

“Woh kaunsa panja tha jo 85 paise ghis leta tha?” he asked. Translated, the words mean, “Which hand was it that used to take away the 85 paise?”

In his speech in London 2018 that has been widely circulated on social media, Modi referred to doctors’ “foreign trips” to attend pharmaceutical company-sponsored conferences. “You probably know that doctors’ conferences are held sometimes in Singapore, sometimes in Dubai. They don’t go there because people are ill there; they go because the pharmaceutical companies need them to,” Modi said in the speech. (The Wire)

Has Modi not condemned the entire medical fraternity across the country, in one stroke? Speaking at Madison Square Garden in New York, in September, 2014, Modi claimed “They would pride themselves on making this law and that law. You must have heard about it in the entire election campaign. I am doing something different. I am working to eliminate all the dated and redundant laws. Such outdated laws, a whole web of unnecessary laws, if a common man would dare to enter, he could not find his way out. I have especially created a team of experts. I have instructed them that I will be the happiest if I am able to eliminate even a single law each day.”

How can Modi make such statements against the government on trips abroad and still be a nationalist? Or, is it that in today’s India, what is sauce for the goose is not sauce for the gander?

 (Radharao F Gracias is a senior Trial Court Advocate, a former Independent MLA, a political activist, with a reputation for oratory and interests in history and ornithology)


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