The Compulsive Contrarian and his Manufactured Logic
In the run-up to the 2014 General Elections there were many who never expected Prime Minister Narendra Modi to come to power with an absolute majority.
There are some in the political system who thought that they were born to rule. There are those who had managed to penetrate into positions of influence irrespective of the Government in power. Some who were part of the ideological left and the ultra-left obviously found the new Government wholly unacceptable. Hence emerged a new class of Compulsive Contrarians. The Contrarians believed that this Government could do no good. Every act of it must be opposed. They picked holes in the proposal to give 10% reservation in education and public jobs to the poor, compelling me to comment in the Lok Sabha that this was the first illustration in history where the Communists were obstructing a step taken to support the poor. Steps taken against black money were described as “Tax Terrorism”. The virtues of cash which was a source of black money and fuelled corruption were discovered after demonetisation. AADHAAR which became an instrument for saving money to ensure that it is fruitfully spent for the poor was questioned on the ground of violating personal liberty. Slogans which championed the breaking-up of this country into pieces was defended as free speech. The successful surgical strikes conducted by the Army were questioned either as a routine or as a dubious process.
The Compulsive Contrarians had no qualms about manufacturing falsehood. They could concoct arguments even if they went against the general interest of the country. They could masquerade corruption as crusade. They could adopt double standards whenever it suited them. Let me now illustrate these with specific examples:
The Justice Loya case
Every fact alleged in the public space by the Compulsive Contrarians was manufactured. The Judge died a natural death due to a cardiac stroke. The only persons with him at the time of the stroke and in hospital were his fellow Judges. No outsiders had any contact, and yet on friendly websites, social media campaigns, fake PILs, wild insinuations were made. The cause of the death was sought to be altered into a conspiracy for murder. The campaign went for months altogether. The Compulsive Contrarians included a retired Judge of the Supreme Court and a former Chief Justice of Delhi High Court. They had no hesitation in allowing themselves to support falsehood without factual verification. Eventually, a three Judge Bench of the Supreme Court dismissed every claim made in the case. The judgment was delivered on behalf of the Bench by Justice Dhananjaya Chandrachud. He was criticized on the social media. What if the same had been delivered by Chief Justice Dipak Misra? Another vicious campaign of calumny would have been launched against him by the Compulsive Contrarians.
The Rafale case
The purchase of Rafale Combat Aircraft is yet another case of concocted falsehood by the Compulsive Contrarians. This is a deal where Prime Minister Modi should be credited with saving thousands of crores of the country. The Congress had compromised national security by delaying the deal for over a decade. Fake and concocted figures were put into the public domain as the purchase price of the Combat Aircrafts. The differences between a plain aircraft as a flying instrument and a Weaponised Aircraft was sought to be obliterated. Every fact was brought before the Supreme Court. The Court conclusively rejected the challenge. The need for purchase, the quality of the Aircraft, the pricing, the process, and the offset issues were all gone into and upheld by the Court. The Contrarians were proved to be liars and yet instead of stopping the campaign of falsehood, they started relying on an alleged dictational / typographical error to prove the judgment was wrong. Lobbyists and career nationalists joined the Compulsive Contrarians. Though the Court verdict should have been final, the Contrarians did not stop. They again raised it in Parliament. They conclusively lost the debate in the Parliament and yet the falsehood has not stopped.
The CBI issue
Anyone with even a nodding acquaintance of the state-of-affairs in Lutyen’s Delhi would know that a few individuals in our investigative agencies had over the last few years become a law unto themselves. Whispers of what was going on were not uncommon. It is the duty of the sovereign government to ensure the cleaning-up of each of the investigative agencies. The Government was only concerned with their accountability and integrity. The Contrarians chose to side with the questionable. Autonomy is always a great sounding idea. In the absence of accountability, an investigating agency can become a monstrosity. Let any informed person honestly ask himself a question – “post the two year fixed tenure functioning following the judgment in Vineet Narain’s case and the statutory amendments that followed, has the quality of the Heads of the Central investigative agencies improved or deteriorated?” Two views may be difficult as an answer.
Today the Contrarians have launched an attack on the Committee headed by the Prime Minister which transferred the CBI Chief. The only question before the Committee was whether there was any material available as a ground to transfer the CBI head? Prima facie, the CVC Report did constitute adequate and relevant material. The Committee is not an appellate forum against the CVC findings. If the same had to be challenged, it can only be challenged in Court. The Committee could not have ignored the CVC report.
The nominated Judge – Member of the Committee was attacked for a non-existent conflict of interest and the person who had a real conflict of interest and should have refrained from attending the meeting became the accuser. The leader of the largest single party in the opposition Mallikarjun Kharge was a petitioner before the Supreme Court claiming that the CBI Chief was an honest man and had been wrongly removed for mala-fide reasons and through a faulty process. Having been a campaigner for the ousted chief, he obviously could not have sat in judgment over his innocence or guilt in the Committee. His was a text book case of bias. Any honorable man should have recused himself. His dissent as a biased man is non-est. Yet the conflicted man accuses one of the most honorable Judges of a conflict of interest.
A Press Conference addressed by four Hon’ble Judges of the Supreme Court over a year ago has done more damage to India’s judicial institutions than many would have envisaged. It brought Judges into public gaze as factionalized and battling for their own turf space. There are a set of extra-adventurist lawyers practising in the highest Court, as in every other Courts. Their strategy is to over-awe the Court. They threaten to walk out of cases, they move impeachment motions in their Political capacity to flex their muscles and clout, they make public comments on Judges. They use media to intimidate the Court. Having involved themselves in an ugly public conduct, Judges find themselves unable to exercise jurisdiction to stop such conduct by others. The last Chief Justice was attacked by the Compulsive Contrarians. A precedent has now been legitimised. His successors will find it difficult to escape similar treatment. The threat to the independence of judiciary can also come from the public pressures that these Contrarians exert on Judges.
Collegium proceedings and conversations in the past two years have been faithfully reported in one particular newspaper (a Compulsive Contrarian), thereby underscoring the nexus. If the Law Minister invokes the seniority principle as he did last year in the case of one appointment to the Supreme Court, the Contrarians call it an attack on the independence of judiciary. When the Contrarians raised the issue of inter-se seniority, as had happened recently, it becomes their crusade for independence of the institution. Amazing double standards.
The Reserve Bank of India debate
The RBI has served this country extremely well. It has extremely important functions to perform. There are many instances of the past where Government and RBI have had different opinions.
The Government in recent months have strongly felt that certain sectors of the economy needed credit and liquidity support. Squeezing out both would eventually hurt this sector as also hurt growth. Recent data relating to some of those sectors has supported the position taken by the Government. Every stakeholder in the market was in agreement with the Government position but the Contrarians deflected the credit and liquidity issue to the issue of autonomy. After all the Government was only addressing the autonomous RBI and asking it to resolve the issues which lay in its domain.
I can go on and on with these examples. Free speech and the right to dissent are critical components of a democracy but falsehood, subversion and institutional destruction are not. The right to campaign for stifling funds to the economy in the name of the autonomy, justifying corruption in the name of institutional independence, attacking Judges when the verdict is not favourable, manufacturing facts as in the case of Judge Loya’s death and the Rafale deal are indicative of the mindset of the Compulsive Contrarians.
Nations are built by those with positive mindsets and a national vigor, not by the Compulsive Contrarians. Didn’t left-liberals find fault with the various actions that Gandhiji took during the freedom movement? Weakening a Sovereign Elected Government and strengthening the unelectable is only a subversion of democracy.
By Arun Jaitley
(Union Minister of Finance and Corporate Affairs of the Government of India)