OPINION
Is there a method in this madness?
POLITICS 2020
- VIPIN PUBBY


India’s image as a fast growing world power and one of the flag bearers of democracy has taken a serious hit with a series of incidents in the recent past which have shown the country in poor light. The country is hurtling from one crisis to another, thanks to the single minded obsession of the ruling party to thrust it agenda, even as the economy is in a doldrums.

The government has opened a number of fronts at the same time and there appears a pattern of one crisis giving way to another. Whether it is deliberate to divert attention or whether the government is incapable of dealing with the developing situation is a question that is debatable and perhaps we would know the final answer only through historians. Yet there is no doubt that the current phase would go down as a dark chapter in the country’s history.

The second term for the Modi led government began with an increase in the vote share of the Bharatiya Janata Party from 31 per cent in 2014 to 37 per cent in 2019 but with a huge surge in the number of seats in Lok Sabha. The return of the ruling coalition to power appears to have given it an impression that it has been mandated to bring about drastic changes in the country’s constitutional, societal and cultural moorings.

It has failed to realise that the victory was the result of a combination of factors including the stirring up of nationalistic emotions in wake of Uri and Balakote incidents, economy doing better, our international standing on the rise and a poor, weak, fragmented and disappointing opposition led by Rahul Gandhi who proved no match to Modi as prime ministerial candidate.

The BJP should have, however, learnt its lessons with subsequently losing five major state assembly elections and growing disenchantment throughout the country. Rather it is hell bent on pushing through its agenda as if there is no tomorrow. As thinker and writer Partap Bhanu Mehta put it, the government appears determined to "invent enemies” to keep the attention diverted from real issues.

Barely had the government succeeded in keeping a check on law and order situation in the wake of Supreme Court verdict in the contentious Ayodhya case, it went ahead with the drastic step on withdrawal of Article 370 and abrogation of Article 35 providing special status to Jammu and Kashmir.
 
It’s been over five months but situation has not normalised in the Valley with continued severe restrictions on internet and social messaging. If the situation was under control, as claimed by the government, it should have restored all facilities by now. We surely haven’t heard the last from the Valley yet.

The failure of the exercise in Assam to identify huge number of illegal migrants (presumed to be Muslims) led the government to bring in another contentious law, the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to be followed by National Register of Citizens (NRC) across the country.
 
The NRC in Assam could identify just 19 lakh illegal migrants among whom the majority - 12 lakhs - were Hindus.

The assertion of the government in and outside the Lok Sabha that the CAA and NRC were linked, kicked up a storm with youths almost across the country protesting the move.
 
The country had rarely seen such kind of widespread protests in the recent past. The government did try to backtrack a bit with prime minister Narendra Modi contradicting his home minister and saying that the proposal had never been discussed. 

Even as protests continued across several states, Amit Shah fuelled more fires with his casual use of phrases like "tukde tukde gangs” and "urban naxals” which propelled andh bhakts to unleash their fury wherever possible.

Then came the blatantly partial and divisive action of the Delhi Police, directly under the control of the union home ministry, while dealing with students from Jamia Milia Islamia and Jawaharlal Nehru University. The images and videos of police chasing and beating up students, and even firing at students, in Jamia campus and then turning a blind eye on goons hitting students and damaging property in JNU, have led to great resentment among the youth across the country and has damaged the country’s democratic credentials across the world.
An unabashedly biased police has even gone further to register cases against the president of the JNU students union despite she being a victim of the attack by goonda elements inside the University campus. The photograph of her blood stained face would continue to haunt public memory for long time to come. World media appears aghast with the developments in the largest democracy and several world leaders have expressed concern.

The government must act with maturity and avoid unnecessary conflicts and should start paying more attention to the other pressing issues like jobs, development, economy and progress of 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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