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An ‘Opposition-free India’: How BJP’s undemocratic dream could become reality

Ashutosh | Updated on: 20 April 2017, 16:22 IST
(Arya Sharma/Catch News)

During the parliamentary elections, the BJP gave a call to make India "Congress free". Tragically, the demise of the Congress with their final tally of 44 seats simply reinforced their point.

Now, the BJP is moving in the direction of making India "Opposition free". The vigorous campaign is on, going ahead full steam.

In a parliamentary system, this is a normative issue and has a democratic dimension too as the fundamentals of democracy hinge on two wheels - the "ruling regime and strong opposition". The institution of an Opposition keeps democracy alive and vibrant and stops the ruling party from turning into dictatorial and despotic. 

The mere utterance of making India "Opposition free" is anti-democratic and smacks of a larger evil design.

Ruthless subversion of democracy

The BJP has been working in this direction since 2014 and the method of attack has evolved into a three-pronged strategy.

Strategy one is to break up Opposition parties and admit turncoats and opportunist leaders in their fold and create a perception that leaders in the Opposition camps are losing faith in their mother organisation and have renewed faith in BJP and Modi.

That is the narrative that the BJP is trying to build by using every trick in the trade, all of which are completely anti-democratic in nature. Some are lured by money, post or power and a few are simply coerced to submit. State machinery is used rampantly to meet their objective.

The fundamentals of democracy hinge on two wheels - the 'ruling regime and strong opposition'

Second, the BJP is hell bent on destabilising Opposition governments. The way the Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh government were sacked is a burning example of how unabashedly Constitutional authorities are used. Such tactics have also bee used by the Congress in the past. Finally, the Supreme Court had to step in to restore Assemblies and the BJP did not succeed in executing its plan.

Even Delhi's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government has been subjected to such torture with the use of offices of L-G and Commissioner of the Delhi Police, who were acting like puppets of the central government. Even welfare measures taken out by the government were stalled. 

This is a subversion of democracy and constitutional ethos.

A bagful of dirty tricks

Surprisingly, the same BJP, when it was in the opposition, used to raise these issues very vehemently and talk about federalism. Even Mr Modi, after becoming the Prime Minister, used to talk quite eloquently about "cooperative federalism". But of late he has forgotten this mantra.

Now there seems to be contempt for the opposition parties and leaders. This is not a healthy sign for constitutional growth.

Thirdly, very recently, it has shown erse to using yet another strategy to subvert the Opposition. In Goa and Manipur, the BJP did not emerge as the single largest party. But even though the people rejected it, it did not bother about the people's mandate.

In Goa and Manipur, even though the BJP was rejected, it did not bother about the people's mandate

In Goa, it organised majority support using wrong means overnight and did not wait for the Governor's call to be invited; instead, it went to the Governor’s office and claimed majority support.

Similar dirty tricks were also employed in Manipur. The BJP formed a government despite not being the single largest party. In Arunachal Pradesh it engineered defection and the whole party joined the BJP and Congress was left bewildered.

Using state machinery

But the biggest threat to democracy is their attempt to victimise the opposition parties by unleashing state institution likes the CBI, police, income tax department and Enforcement Directorate.

Almost every political party which is not keeping the BJP in good humour or has not surrendered has been facing the selective wrath of these institutions.

Two days back, the CBI had filed charegsheet against more than a dozen senior All India Trinamool Congress (AITC) leaders in the Narada sting case. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is crying hoarse without any effect. The BJP is eyeing West Bengal in a big way and trying to make a breakthrough on the lines of Assam. This is a clear attempt to discredit Mamata and her party.

Political parties who aren't keeping the BJP in good humour have been facing its selective wrath

After the death of J Jayalalithaa, AIADMK has been struggling to sail through the crisis of leadership and has seen a vertical divide. There is speculation that that the timing of Sashikala’s going to jail is perfect. Now, her nephew TTV Dinakaran is facing the heat. With lightening speed, Delhi police registered an FIR and served look out notices. Now that Dinakakran is for all practical purposes the chief of AIADMK, with Sasikala in jail, his being hunted by police could lead to AIADMK's disintegration.

Political pundits are predicting that in the absence of Jayalalithaa, the BJP has smelt an opportunity to spread its wings in this South Indian state.

The same Delhi Police did not move an inch when it came to Shiv Sena's Ravindra Gaiwad. Despite so much media and public outrage, despite video evidence of his violent behaviour, he was not arrested. He even admitted on camera that he had beaten up Air-India's senior employee.

Gaikwad was let off without even an admonition. Is it because Shiv Sena is BJP's alliance partner at the Centre and had been in Maharashtra? Can you imagine the outrage if this incident had involved an AAP leader?

Selective victimisation

Cases have also been opened against Biju Janata Dal in Odisha too. Naveen Patnaik is not keeping well and speculation about his successor has begun. In local body elctions, the BJP has performed well and there seems to be some hope for the party. BJP and BJD had once been coalition partners but then Patnaik broke the alliance unilaterally and successfully formed the government. Now the BJP is trying to destabilise Patnaik 's regime.

The CBI, in a sting operation also hauled up Harish Rawat, the Congress chief minister in Uttarakhand, during the election campaign. There are rumours that the sting was carried out at the behest of some BJP leaders. Harish Rawat's reputation was ruined and he lost from both the constituencies he contested. Before the election, many senior colleagues defected to the BJP and all were obliged by the BJP with MLA tickets and cabinet ranks after forming the government. 

Mayawati's Bahujan Samaj Party was also not spared. First Babu Lal Kushwaha and later powerful OBC leader and leader of opposition in UP assembly Swami Prasad Maurya were poached.

BJP's attempt to make India "Opposition free" is anti-democratic and smacks of a larger evil design

On the eve of assembly elections in Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, the most powerful Congress leader and second-in-command after Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, was also forced to cross over to the BJP after allegedly settling his corruption charges. It is been argued that corruption charges were very effectively exploited by the BJP to frighten him into submission.

More so, 15 AAP MLAs have been sent to Tihar jail on half-baked frivolous charges and in the most of these cases the court had made strong adverse observations on the conduct of the Delhi Police while granting them bail.

A complicit Delhi Police: 15 AAP MLAs have been sent to Tihar jail on half-baked frivolous charges

In BJP-ruled states, government machineries are looking the other way. The Vyapam scam is a classic example of selective victimisation. Despite more than two dozen suspicious deaths and major involvement of BJP leaders, the investigation is moving at snail's pace.

It is true that the BJP has arrived at the national scene and replaced the Congress as a pan-India Party. But an Opposition plays an important role.

BJP's Machiavellian methods will weaken our democratic foundation. This has to be understood and to be opposed tooth and nail else Indian democracy will slip into an abyss. The Opposition has to evolve a new strategy at the all-India level and counter this design like it did during Congress times.

The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the organisation.

Edited by Aleesha Matharu

First published: 20 April 2017, 16:08 IST