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A Poll For Peace

A Poll For Peace

The victory of the Congress party in three states – Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh – is indeed applying brakes on the slow drift of the nation towards a rogue state. The people of the three states have told the BJP unambiguously that they reject its divisive and negative politics. More than a support to the Congress it is definitely a rebuff to the BJP. The farmers of the three states expressed their anger against the BJP governments through the ballots.  The BJP, instead of focusing on the promises it had made to the people of India like generating two crore new jobs a year, mainly concentrated on transforming India into a Hindu Rashtra by following a dangerous path of hatred and violence. By giving a free hand to the Hindutva hate brigade, the BJP has betrayed the people of India. The people of the three states have given a strong message to the BJP that they cannot be fooled by the opium of religion.

The arrogance of the BJP was another reason for its rejection by people in the three Hindi Heartland states. During the campaign in 2014 election to the Lok Sabha and after its massive victory the BJP and Narendra Modi declared to usher in a “Congress Mukt Bharat”. The Congress’s success now has, quite literally, punched a hole in the slogan. Rahul Gandhi in his press conference on 11th night referred to the arrogance of the BJP in his statement. “Frankly Modi taught me the lesson-what not to do. He was handed a huge opportunity. It is a sad thing that he refused to listen to the heartbeat of the country. The arrogance came in”.

At the same time people also snubbed the Congress by not giving it a comfortable majority in Rajasthan and not so clear majority in Madhya Pradesh. The people have not taken kindly the embrace of Hindutva tactics by the Congress. The manifesto of the Congress with the promise of setting up of gaushalas in every gram panchayat, processing of cow urine and cow dung etc. appears to be a photocopy of the manifesto of the BJP.  The Congress did not make any serious effort to rebuild the party during the last fifteen years mainly because of the in-fight among its top leaders in Madhya Pradesh. It could not present to the people an effective alternative paradigm of development. Therefore it could not convert the anger of the people into votes fully in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. The message given to the Congress as well as the BJP is loud and clear. Focus on the core issues affecting the people: agrarian distress, mounting unemployment, sluggish economic growth etc. instead of indulging in the tactics to hoodwink the people. Will our politicians listen to people’s message?

The events preceding the declaration of results in the five states had given an impression that India was slowly drifting towards lawlessness and derailing of secular democracy.  Ever since the BJP came to power at the centre in 2014 the Sangh Parivar outfits like VHP, Bajrang Dal, Hindu Jagaran Manch etc. unleashed a culture of hatred and violence, targeting the minorities. They indulged in hate speech, reconversion of Muslims and Christians, killing intellectuals and rationalists who questioned blind faith, targeting the journalists and artists who were critical of the Sangh Parivar, harassing the social activists and NGOs that espoused human rights, violent attacks on the Dalits and killing innocent Muslims, being accused of cow slaughter. Often the police remained a mute spectator on the face of violence by the Sangh Parivar outifts. Many of the Sangh Parivar leaders, including the BJP MPs, MLAs and even the ministers, not only justified the violence but also supported the perpetrators of violence. The BJP state governments banned the screening of the movie, Padmaavat, in order to appease the Karni Sena, an outfit supported by the Sangh Parivar, despite the clearance by the Censor Board and the Supreme Court. The violence unleashed by the Karni Sena was condoned by the BJP governments.

The unprecedented increase in mob lynching, particularly by the cow vigilantes, and the culprits not being punished was a clear sign of slide towards lawlessness. As per the website of IndiaSpend over the six years since 2012, 33 people have been killed in cow-related hate violence and most of these deaths took place after Modi became the PM. These deaths occurred due to the failure of the state and it is nothing but a violation of human rights. The Sangh Parivar outfits that take law into their hands and indulge in violence and killing are not different from any other extremist groups that resort to violence. The BJP government which brands the social activists as ‘Urban Naxalites’ often tolerates the violence by the Sangh Parivar extremists.    

The killing of a police officer, Subodh Kumar Singh, by a crowd in Uttar Pradesh's Bulandshahr is the latest case of lynching by the cow vigilantes. Till the murder of Subodh Kurmar Muslims were the victims of cow vigilantism promoted and encouraged by the Sangh Parivar. As per the media reports, a mob comprising of members of various Hindu groups found a cow carcass near Chingrawati village and brought it to the police post in the village and demanded action against the culprits. They also raised slogans against the police. However, the crowd soon became unruly and became violent. In the violence that followed, Inspector Subodh Kumar Singh was shot at  and sustained a gun injury near his left eyebrow and died.

It is a mystery how the carcass of cow appeared. The media also reported that the mob was instigated by Yogesh Raj, a Bajrang Dal activist. The Chief Minister, Yogi Adityanath, termed the death of the police officer an accident. For him the death of cow is more serious than the killing of an honest and responsible police officer. The culture of impunity that has grown around cow vigilantes, from the days of the first lynching of Mohammad Akhlaq in Dadri is definitely a sign of lawlessness.

The strength of a democratic state cannot be measured only by periodic elections. It mainly depends on the independent functioning of institutions like judiciary, investigation agencies like CBI, Election Commission, Reserve Bank of India etc. That is why Judge Gurfein during the Watergate scam said, “The security of the nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions”. There have been instances of the BJP government tampering with these institutions. The opposition parties have accused the BJP of weakening these institutions. The latest instance is the sudden resignation of Urjit Patel, the governor of Reserve Bank of India (RBI). Although Urjit Patel has shown “personal reason” in his resignation letter for his quitting, the people of India knows that it was the result of the growing tension between the government and the RBI. Naturally the media and many experts reacted to his resignation.   

“The government is slowly losing its economic talent-ranging from Raghuram Rajan, to Arvind Panagaria, Aravind Subramanian and Urjit Patel” wrote the editorial of The Times of India on 11th December. “There is something that all Indians should be concerned about because the strength of our institutions is really important for our growth, sustainable growth and equity in economy”, said Raghuram Rajan, the former governor of RBI. Former Finance Minister, P Chidambaram said that he was saddened, but not surprised by the resignation of Urjit Patel as RBI Governor and claimed that no self respecting scholar or academic can work in the NDA Government.

Mobilizing people to violate the verdict of the Supreme Court (SC) regarding the entry of women between the age of 10 and 50 in Sabarimala temple is another instance of the BJP challenging the most important institution in a democracy, the Judiciary. In fact, Judiciary is the very foundation in a democracy. It is a shame for the Congress party in Kerala to join with the BJP in targeting the left front government that is determined to implement the SC verdict. Hope that after the Congress victory in the three Hindi heartland states the party will revise its ill conceived stand.

The victory of the Congress party in the three states, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, is indeed a great boost to the Congress that has been losing a series of state elections since May 2014. It provides the needed credibility and leverage to the Congress in forming a viable alliance of opposition parties to take on the BJP in the Lok Sabha election in 2019. The victory has blown up the theory “Modi is invincible”. Above all, it will compel the BJP for introspection and put a brake on its policies that damage the institutions that keep India a modern democratic state. 

(jacobpt48@gmail.com)

(Published on 17th December 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 51)