Rahul Gandhi’s “Astanama” of Democracy
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi says that India is no longer a democracy. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee says that India is no longer a federation. And the Khan Market gang continues to find everything wrong not only with the Modi government but also with all those who take pride in India’s glorious culture and “Sanatan Dharma”. The foreign media, particularly those from the United States having their correspondents in Delhi, highlight, by quoting these political and intellectual leaders, that India under the “fascist” Modi government has no future. And these “reports” are recycled back in India, with the politicians like Gandhi and Banerjee quoting them and then saying that the governments in the country (whether at the Centre or in states) and the politicians should be judged not by the Indian people through votes but by endorsements from the New York Times, Washington Post, Wallstreet Journal and the Economist.
Nothing can be more perverse than this scenario. But that is exactly the sad reality in India as the year 2020 draws to a close. So let us see what these “great minds” mean by democracy that is absent because of the “fascist” Modi government. I can enumerate only a few features of democracy as suggested by these “great minds”, leaving it to the readers to add to the list:
1 – The country must not be governed by those who win in elections, but by those who lose. India must be run the way Rahul Gandhi or for that matter Mamata Banerjee wants, not by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is the democratically elected leader of the party or alliance that has nearly 350 seats in the Lok Sabha. So all the laws passed by the Parliament under Modi but opposed by the likes of Gandhi must be withdrawn.
2 – These “great minds” are kind enough to believe in the importance of negotiations and compromise on difficult issues by the contending parties. But for them, if one of the contending parties happens to be the Modi government, then there is no question of any compromise and the government must surrender. Therefore, on the issue of the ongoing agitation by a select group of farmers on the new Farm laws passed by the parliament, negotiations can only be over how and when these will be repealed, not on the merits or otherwise of these laws.
3 – Debates, so essential for any true democracy, are welcome as long as these are not based on ground realities, facts and figures. Debates for these “great minds” can only be on assumptions and presumptions, which will be repeated day in and day out to be projected as “their” facts. Take, for instance, the farm laws that are opposed on the grounds that “there will be ne no MSP” and that “Ambani and Adani will take over all the farm lands in the country”. See their emphasis on “what will be”, not on “what is”, notwithstanding every trend or assurance to the contrary.
4 – Since we are not in power, we “will” oppose even those things that we ourselves had demanded or envisaged when we “were” in power in the past. We had advocated for the GST and we had envisaged the reforms in agriculture. But Modi government cannot do these very things that we had failed in doing. So , not to speak of Rahul Gandhi, even “great” economists like Kaushik Basu and Raghuram Rajan, who were at the forefront in demanding agricultural reforms under the UPA government, are to be valued for opposing the Modi government in 2020 even though it has done exactly what they had argued for in 2009 and 2010 though their essays and articles.
5 – In democracy of these “eminent persons”, one should challenge the character or motives of a person who has said some something or floated an idea, rather than the idea itself or what he or she has said. They malign the character of a person they do not like, even if he or she speaks the truth. We often hear something like this – “We all know he or she is a liar and Hindutva type; so why should we believe anything he says?” Worse, they will also discount you, saying you are advocating for something because you are going to gain out of this. For example, they will go hyper if you point out the perverse consequences of the faulty reservation policy because for them you belong to so-called upper caste.
But what is worst, it is their “democratic” right to put words into mouth of the person they do not like by saying the person has said something, which. in fact, was not said. In most of such cases, they justify their version of what their targeted person has said on the basis of their own interpretations. But then interpretation is not a fact; although by repeating it many times they see to it their interpretation is eventually made into a “fact”. One may give one example in this regard.
That is Prime Minister Modi’s much-talked about interview to a foreign news agency in 2013 (then Chief Minister of Gujarat). While asked on whether he was sorry for the communal riots of 2002, Modi had said , “Another thing, any person if we are driving a car, we are a driver, and someone else is driving a car and we’re sitting behind, even then if a puppy comes under the wheel, will be painful or not? Of course, it is. If I’m a chief minister or not, I’m a human being. If something bad happens anywhere, it is natural to be sad.”
But this was interpreted by Modi’s political opponents and a section of intelligentsia that he compared Muslims to dogs. “For Modi, the life of a Muslim is not more than a life of a puppy”, so ran the news headlines. And this “interpretation”, repeated consistently, became a “fact” for the likes of New York Times.
6 – Indian democracy is live for the likes of Rahul Gandhi, Mamata Banerjee or for that matter any communist or UPA Chief minister when the central government’s role is limited only to the extent of providing them unlimited money but not demanding any accountability. For them, federalism, an important dimension of Indian democracy, is in danger if the Modi government transfers money directly to the bank accounts of the beneficiaries.
Federalism is also endangered when their officials and machineries in the states under their control can take actions against their opponents but BJP governments in other states cannot do likewise against their supporters. So one Arnab Goswami can be harassed in Maharashtra and sharing a critical cartoon of Mamata Banerjee will lead you in jail in West Bengal (let alone the murders of Mamata’s political opponents) but the Modi government in Delhi cannot point out the double standards of one Ravish Kumar or one Srinivasan Jain or Rajdeep Sardesai, let alone touching a Congress or TMC person.
7 – A corollary of the above point, every media house or any non-BJP politician, who is essentially a businessman, must be immune to every corruption charges or violations of the country’s laws. So if you belong to the Congress or TMC or NCP or Shiva Sena or if you are the NDTV channel or Wire news portal, there cannot be any actions or investigations against you even if you commit murders, incite communal riots, grab others’ or government’s properties or launder money illegally. No investigating agencies can touch you and no Court can allow your prosecution.
8 – The judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular must deliver judgments on the basis of what one Rahul Gandhi or one Prashant Bhushan or one Dushyant Dave says on a given issue. If the Court does its job and pronounces its verdict to the contrary, then that is because of a judicial-takeover by the Modi government.
Similarly there are free and fair elections in India as long as the Congress and its friends/ allies win. The moment BJP wins, then the Election Commission is “sold out” for manipulating the electronic voting machines.
Now, I am leaving, with the hope that the readers will further add to the list.
By Prakash Nanda