OPINION
Arrogance of power has its limits
JHARKHAND JHATKA
- VIPIN PUBBY

MOST YOUNG readers may not recall an infamous slogan coined by former Congress president Dev Kant Barua during the emergency when the then prime minister Indira Gandhi was at the peak of power. He had declared that "India is Indira and Indira is India”.

Indira Gandhi surrounded by Congressmen, Parliament House, in New Delhi in 1967.

 
A power drunk and over-confident Indira Gandhi, who has imposed the emergency in 1975, decided to lift it with the conviction that the people of the country would re-elect the Congress with a resounding victory under her leadership. The party was knocked out of power after the emergency was lifted in 1977. 

Although Jan Sangh, erstwhile avatar of Bharatiya Janata Party, was part of the Janata Party government which wrested power, the party appears to have forgotten the lessons from history. While it exercised some restraint during its first five years of rule, it has gone berserk since its reelection with even a larger majority earlier this year.
 
BJP is in a hurry to thrust its agenda despite widespread protests and even the fact that nearly  two thirds of those who voted in the Lok Sabha elections had voted against the party.

Even as protests were raging throughout the country over the Citizens Amendment Act and the declared intention of it to be followed by the National Register of Citizens, prime minister Narendra Modi remained incommunicado for several days.
 
In fact he also mysteriously absented himself when his home minister Amit Shah was piloting the controversial legislation in Parliament. 

His speech at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi on Sunday too left many questions unanswered. While he claimed that the National Register of Citizens had not even been discussed, several top leaders of the party had been claiming otherwise. He did not categorically ruled it out and didn’t even offer to review or to hold further discussions on the issue.

In his now familiar attack on so-called urban naxals, a term he and his party uses liberally to paint anyone criticising the government, he took pot shots at the opposition for its intentions. He has no word of sympathy for the young men killed during the protests. Rather he again diverted the issue to say that the intention was to "unseat Modi” from power.

While Amit Shah and several other leaders have repeatedly said on record that the CAA and NRC were linked, Modi said these were not. His statement led to reversal of their earlier stand.
 
Now to further complicate the issues, the government has announced a go ahead for updating National Population Register (NPR).
 
While Amit Shah has asserted that NPR was not linked with NRC, a section of media has quoted at least nine instances where he and his cabinet colleagues have said on record in the past to say that information provided in NPR would be used for NRC.

Modi, who has maintained an unenviable record of not taking any questions from the media (perhaps the only leader in the world from any democratic country to do so), likes to conduct a one sided dialogue while addressing public rallies or conveying his "mann ki baat”.
 
Large segment of media, as is well known, has surrendered and is aptly called the "godi media”. It is a common sight to see senior television journalists, who are favoured by Modi and Amit Shah with ‘exclusive’ interviews, taking all humiliation and insults by them in their stride and even with a smile.
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Just as the top two leaders don’t like any criticism, their die hard supporters pounce upon any criticism from any quarter. They remain vigilant about any criticism of their masters and use the choicest abuses and crude language in an attempt to slam the critics.
The general attitude of the leaders has percolated down to the middle rung and junior leaders. During the campaign for assembly elections earlier this year, one of such leaders was on video claiming that his party would know who had voted in its favour and who has not.

A couple of days back a Haryana BJP MLA, Lila Ram Gujjar, was on record saying it was "Modi’s Hindustan... and clean up could be done within an hour”. He did not leave much to guess what kind of ‘cleaning’ he was referring to when he said "Miyanji, ab yeh Hindustan Modi ji ka hai. Agar ishara ho gaya na, ek ghante ke andar safai kar denge”.

The freedom given to such leaders to say anything, who might have been even encouraged to do so, is a reminder of the slogan coined by Dev Kant Barua for Indira Gandhi. They think that any criticism of the government is an attempt to weaken the country and is unpatriotic. For them there is no distinction between the government and the nation. Thus those who criticise Modi government are no less than traitors.

The outcome of the recent elections in five states must ring a warning bell that voters can’t be taken for granted. A course correction and ability to take criticism would do good for the BJP as well as for the country.

 

*(The author, a freelance journalist, is a former Resident Editor of Indian Express, Chandigarh, and reported on the political developments in Jammu and Kashmir, North-Eastern India, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana and Punjab in his long, illustrious career.) 

 

 

 

 


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