By Promod Puri
It is the institutional damage that is a primary cause of concern for the survival and functioning of democracy in India.
And that is the major contrast between the years of governance by the Congress Party with its united front allies and the present ruling power politics of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) with its debilitated minor partners.
The once-mighty Congress Party certainly gave the country its secular and democratic outlook.
But along the track, it drifted and distinctly mismanaged nation’s affairs where corruption has been the most dominant part of its legacy in power.
As of consequence that was the major cause of its fall.
The plummet of the Congress paved the way for the BJP to capture the power four years ago primarily by nurturing and exploiting its inherent strength in Hindu nationalism. It is under this ideological guideline that the BJP has got an opportunity to reshape the very character of India’s democratic institutions.
Judiciary, election commission, media, and statistics are some of the most operative integrals of democracy which keep it authoritative, functional, dynamic, and accountable. If any or all these systems are damaged, corrupted, compromised or abused, democracy becomes meaningless or even collapses.
Allegedly, all the democratic fundamentals have been brazenly as well as subtly fiddled with shrewd politics of religious fanaticism, fear, threats, murders, fake police raids, intrusions and influences in the media, obstructions, and interference in the bureaucracy, and deceptive claims of accomplishments.
The autonomous, independent and credible status of the democratic establishments has been defaced and undermined.
The seventy-three years of the solid foundation of Indian democracy after the Independence in 1947 suddenly became fragile in just four years of the BJP rule.
It has been almost a Machiavellian leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi assisted and ideologically maneuvered by his trusted and crafty lieutenant Amit Shah.
To cash out the desired outcomes, crony appointments have been made. Suitability and competence criteria along with academic and professional credentials have been secondary or trivial in this politically-infused drafting.
Examples being in the choice of supreme court judges, the governorship of states, Reserve Bank governorship, university vice chancellorships, Election Commission chief, Chief of the Indian Army and film censure board. Recently, a bureaucrat with only a masters’ degree in history got the Reserve Bank governorship position.
As far as the constitution of the country is concerned, it carries only ceremonial value. Seeking direction from the prime minister rather than the constitution is the loyalty that is supreme under the BJP regime.
Most media, with due respect for some fearless and vigorous journalism, are the cheerleaders who are spun to report, misreport or ignore the news. Rather false news and biased views are manufactured in the party’s publicity machinery and delivered thru paid press and social media. Also, they are tasked with an army of loyal soldiers (known as Bhagats) for country-wide and world-wide spread of the fake commodity.
Cracking down on free speech, threats, murders of writers, dissident lawyers, and judges constitute the new and dreadful feeling of the current political climate in the country.
Along with that lynching of minorities followed by blessed and garlanded welcome support with job offers for those accused of these heinous crimes have happened quite frequently. Rallies, organized in support of rapists affiliated to the party, rather than consoling the victims, have taken place in the recent past. Example being the Kathua rape case of an 11-year-old nomad girl.
In this state of affairs, the credibility of established opposition politicians can be reasonably doubted as well. In their closets are enough skeletons which in reality are the exploitative treasures for the ruling party to keep the opposition quite or on selective criticism mode.
The silence of the Congress on many issues of national interest, for example, the Raffle scandalous deal, reveals the bedfellow relationship between the leadership of the BJP and the main opposition party.
If the BJP is responsible for the structural damage of democracy in India under the fervency of its Hindutva agenda, then the record of the Congress is not clean either.
Under the leadership of Indira Gandhi, India’s democracy was subverted overnight with the declaration of Emergency in 1975. However, in the subsequent national election, Congress was mercilessly beaten. Thanks to the intactness of the Election Commission which was not tinkered with weaponry of the Indira Gandhi emergency.
In that respect, we can say there is resilience in India’s democracy.
But this time it is the institutional chiseling which has been purposely done to carve out a non-secular nation based on narrow confines of Hindutva agenda.
This is an agenda that is fundamentally anti-Hindu. The identity of Hinduism lies in its wide-open structure where liberal, secular and diverse customs and traditions co-exist and flourish.
Pursuing the Hindutva agenda also goes against the very spirit of democratic India in which its national institutions play non-religious, non-political, professional and bureaucratic roles crucial for unbiased, audited and scrutinized direction to the governing party in the conduct of nation’s business.
But when these institutions are politically fixed, controlled and manipulated by the governing party to uphold its power base just for electoral gains then the damage is done to them. And this is where the BJP’s legacy is being established by its leadership.
(Promod Puri is a journalist, writer, and author of Hinduism Beyond Rituals, Customs, And Traditions). Websites: promodpuri.com, progressivehindudialogue.com, and progressivehindudialogue.com)