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Arunachal crisis could be crucial moment for the birth of anti-BJPism

Ashutosh | Updated on: 14 February 2017, 5:37 IST

The crisis

  • The Centre has imposed President\'s rule in Arunachal Pradesh
  • This was done despite the matter pending in the Supreme Court
  • The Governor didn\'t allow the elected state govt to prove its majority in the Assembly

The sign

  • Modi\'s govt is following in Indira Gandhi\'s footsteps with respect to Opposition state govts
  • Modi and RSS want to create a Congress-type system where any Opposition remains on the fringes

More in the story

  • How Lohia\'s anti-Congressism of the 1960s is once again the way forward
  • Why even secularism needs to be redefined

(Ashutosh is an official spokesperson for the Aam Aadmi Party. He explains how the Arunachal crisis is part of the Modi govt's strategy to send all Opposition to the fringes)

The imposition of President's rule in Arunachal Pradesh is shocking for two simple reasons.

One, the sheer audacity of the Centre to sack a duly elected government when the matter was pending in the Supreme Court.

Read- President's rule imposed in Arunachal Pradesh: 10 facts you must know

And two, the brazenness of the Governor in not allowing the government to prove its majority on the floor of the house, as per the Supreme Court guidelines laid down in the Bommai case, and then ordering the seizure of all the papers in the CM's office and from the cabinet.

Modi following Indira model

This is far more surprising because the BJP had, for long, fought against the authoritarian Centre and its attitude towards state governments. Its leaders had always advocated a strong federal structure and a better Centre-State relationship.

Narendra Modi too had talked about cooperative federalism when he became the Prime Minister, but he has not lost a single opportunity to 'destabilise' Opposition governments. Delhi's AAP government has been complaining from day one about how the Modi government has been harassing it through the Lieutenant Governor and the Commissioner of Police.

Several CMs have complained that Governors have been behaving as agents of the RSS and the Central government, rather than the constitutional authorities that they are.

Several CMs have complained that Governors have been behaving as agents of the RSS and the Centre

In this context, I would not be surprised if more governments are shown the door. The signs are quite clear that Modi, as Prime Minister, has been trying to model himself on the lines of Indira Gandhi. Her constitutional behaviour vis-a-vis Opposition governments was legendary.

In the early 1980s, the sacking of the NT Rama Rao government in Andhra Pradesh is a classic example. To dismiss the government, Mrs Gandhi specially sent Ram Lal as Governor from Himachal Pradesh to Andhra Pradesh, when Shankar Dayal Sharma refused to oblige her.

This was when NTR had emerged as a very formidable political force, and as the fulcrum of Opposition unity. Her act was an attempt to nip a potential challenger in the bud. This was the time when the cracks in the 'Congress System' (as described by Rajni Kothari) started appearing, but the 'Centre' was still very powerful.

Also read: Buta Singh Redux? Why it's looking ominous for Rajkhowa in SC

Today, Modi is leading a government which can be dubbed the most powerful in the last three decades, though it's still not as dominant as the Congress was in its heyday. Modi and the RSS know that to attain that stature, they have to weaken the Opposition and destabilise their governments, just as Gandhi used to do.

The answer lies in Lohia

Modi has his own political ambitions, and the RSS has its own politico-social agenda. In the long run, both their 'ambitions' are the same - to create a Congress-type system in which the BJP is the predominant force and the Opposition is on the fringe.

It is, therefore, no wonder that the BJP talks about a 'Congress-free India'. The attempt to belittle Nehru by telling the whole world how unjustly he treated Patel, Ambedkar and Bose, is part of that long-term goal.

It is in this context that it is incumbent upon the Opposition to evolve an alternate strategy, in much the same way that socialist leader Ram Manohar Lohia propagated an alternate strategy, called 'anti-Congressism' to fight the Congress effectively in the mid 1960s.

Ram Manohar Lohia propagated a strategy called 'anti-Congressism' to fight the Congress in the 1960s

Lohia knew that the Opposition was too weak to challenge the Congress, and nothing could be done unless it was united under one umbrella. This strategy worked during the 1967 assembly elections when, in several states, for the very first time, Opposition governments were formed.

He also explored a new social category as a vote bank against Congress's social combination of Dalit-Muslim-upper caste. He is the one who originally came up with the idea of backward caste politics. Mulayam, Lalu, Nitish, Karpuri Thakur and Devi Lal were products of that experiment.

Much the same way, this is the time to concretise 'anti-BJPism' as a cohesive political strategy and also as an ideological answer to the RSS, which believes in the words of MS Golwalkar: "The non-Hindu people in Hindustan must either adopt the Hindu culture... or may stay in the country wholly subordinated to the Hindu nation, claiming nothing, deserving no privileges, far less any preferential treatment - not even citizen's rights."

Federalism at the core

However, this 'anti-BJPism' will not succeed if it does not have an ideological edifice standing on the four pillars of secularism, nationalism, federalism and tolerance.

Secularism can't be the sole guarantor of this ideological cohesion. Even secularism needs to be redefined in the context of increasing religiosity in the society.

Read more: All you need to know about the Arunachal crisis that's haunting the Parliament

At a time when anybody who doesn't agree with the BJP is branded anti-national, nationalism has to be re-contextualised; it has to be explained to the larger audience that the RSS had played no role in the freedom struggle.

It has to be underlined that freedom of expression is sacrosanct and can't be compromised. It has to be reinforced that federalism is the core value of our Constitution.

Even secularism needs to be redefined in the context of increasing religiosity in the society

At present, the polity is more fragmented, regional leaders are more egoistical and there is no single personality who can act like the glue that Lohia was, or for that matter Jayaprakash Narayan or VP Singh. The Left is far too weak.

But then, every crisis throws open the doors to a new opportunity and gives birth to new leaders. Who knows, the Arunachal crisis may prove to be that critical moment.

Edited by Shreyas Sharma

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First published: 8 February 2016, 8:09 IST