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Showing posts with label Amit Shah. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Amit Shah. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

BJP’s incessant assault on the Constitution

Liberal opinion believes the BJP, because of its RSS parentage, has never really accepted the constitution as the final arbiter of public affairs. In the first place, M S Golwalkar, supreme leader of the RSS, was dismissive as is evident from the following excerpt from his 1966 book, Bunch of Thoughts:

“Our Constitution…is just a cumbersome and heterogeneous piecing together of various articles from various Constitutions of Western countries. It has absolutely nothing, which can be called our own. Is there a single word of reference in its guiding principles as to what our national mission is and what our keynote in life is? No! Some lame principles from the United Nations Charter…and some features from the American and British Constitutions have been just brought together in a mere hotchpotch.”

No surprise then that members of the BJP, notably Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, have paid scant attention to constitutional norms. They have pointedly challenged the secular nature of the Republic. Their relationship with the constitution is casual at best; indeed, there are several other instances of overt defiance of its provisions, having to do with the right to life, freedom of speech, due process, among others.

Most egregious is the cloud hanging over the winter session of Parliament. Challenged by a likely anti-incumbency backlash, Mr Modi and his lackeys in Gujarat winked at the Election Commission’s delay in announcing the Gujarat elections. This prompted the Congress Party’s P Chidambaram to quip: “EC has authorized PM to announce date of Gujarat elections at his last rally (and please keep EC informed).”

Suspense over the winter Parliament session stems from the apprehension the outcome of the election may not be in the BJP’s favor. For similar reasons, its campaign managers felt the need to delay the model code of conduct so they could announce sops plus try to polarize the electorate along religious lines.

Instituted with the agreement of all political parties, the code pertains to the conduct of parties and candidates once the dates of an election have been announced. The primary objective of the code is to place curbs on communal appeals and corrupt practices.

Right on cue, the party campaign rained sops on the state, unfazed by considerations of constitutional propriety. More worrying, the Election Commission, under pressure from an activist’s widely publicized complaint, ordered a probe into a blatantly communal campaign video doing the rounds of social media. Whatever the findings of this inquiry, the very fact a communal message like this is circulated reaffirms the scant respect the BJP and its ecosystem of hatemongers have for the constitution.

Earlier, the BJP got egg all over its face when the Election Commission disallowed a campaign commercial it proposed to release in the mainstream media. The script featured a central character whose name was a derogatory term the BJP’s vast trolling machine used to describe Rahul Gandhi.

Another widely-discussed issue is the single-minded proclivity of this regime is to manage the headlines. In the event, the media generally ignore news or shout down opinions that are detrimental to the regime and play up those stories and viewpoints that advocate their perspective. This tendency was highlighted by Rahul Gandhi in a town-hall style interaction with the Congress Party’s social media team in Gujarat.  “Journalists report the truth,” he said, gesturing appreciatively at the media representatives present. “But Narendra Modi and Amit Shah fine-tune it in cahoots with the media owners,” he added, amid applause.

It is apparent that the BJP’s “one-man band” and “two-man army” don’t understand or disregard the implications of their actions on freedom of speech that is guaranteed by the constitution. This is now no longer being discussed sotto voce. People are coming right out and saying it in mainstream as well as in social media that the Modi regime has sought to place curbs on press freedom through intimidation and persuasion.

Now, things are beginning to boil over and in the whoosh of a backwash, the saffron regime risks being knocked over by the strong current of disaffection. Its cavalier disregard for the constitution could cost it dearly in Gujarat and later on, all over India.

Incredibly, Modi and his minions continue their unrelenting propaganda bringing to bear “endorsements” for the government’s proven disastrous economic policy from the World Bank, Moody’s Investors Service and for Modi’s rapidly declining popularity from Pew Research Center. Among other endorsements sought seems to have been a statement by an obscure American author, who hailed Modi as the only world leader to stand up to China.

How it will all pan out in Gujarat is a matter of fevered speculation with mainstream media plumping for Modi and the BJP.  However, disillusionment is growing, with experts and commentators openly deriding Modi’s penchant to lure the electorate with lofty promises backed by a steady undercurrent of dog whistles to the communal base.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Who is Amit Shah to hold public meeting at Goa airport?

In 70 years, there has never been an incident quite like BJP president Amit Shah’s party conference in the terminal at Goa’s Dabolim Airport. Presumably, Mr Shah did it with Mr Modi’s consent. The alternative is equally worrisome; if the party leader commandeered a high-security platform for his meeting on his own steam, the number of questions multiplies.

Either way, the meeting at Dabolim airport is an unprecedented event. Clearly, rules and regulations were wilfully ignored or bent to facilitate it; worse, security was compromised. The civil aviation ministry, the airports authority, the home ministry, the Central Industrial Security Force, the Goa state government, the Goa police… all need to be held accountable for the violation.

The disingenuous response by BJP’s Mauvin Godinho, whose Dabolim constituency includes the airport, was that they had taken “all the permissions required to host the function.” The question is about these permissions being given at all. Today, given global terrorist threats, airports rate the highest possible security levels; the Goa airport doubly so because it is a military asset.

No matter how saffron sophistry plugs it, the fact is Mr Shah’s act is reckless, much like Mr Modi’s demonetization. He was on a two-day visit to Goa, the welcome event could have been staged anywhere but he chose to hold it at the airport. There could be a number of reasons for it:

One, Mr Shah now thinks he is beyond accountability, especially after he claimed responsibility for the BJP’s much-hyped victory in Uttar Pradesh. That is a dangerous dimension of power. To select the airport as a venue for a party meeting is to show he can do whatever he wants. He simply has to wish it and the forces at his command will browbeat the central bureaucracy, state governments, and the security establishment to make it happen.

Two, Mr Shah seems to treat Goa as a pocket borough like Gujarat. It would seem that way: since the Vajpayee days, the BJP and its various Hindutva offshoots have chosen Goa as a venue for significant saffron meetings. Also, according to the local grapevine, following its failure to emerge as the single largest party in the last election, the BJP lavished resources on the state to ensure the formation of a government.

As such, it may have been easy for his people to persuade the powers that his plan to hold the meeting in the high-security airport terminal was normal.

Three, if Mr Shah decided to do this on his own, without consulting anyone in the government, especially the prime minister, then the act is a flagrant abuse of power. He has no locus standi to direct government agencies; leave alone command them to transgress rules and regulations. There is no provision in the Representation of People Act of 1951 or its many amendments that extends such powers to the head of a political party.

Four, if Mr Shah did get an okay from the prime minister, then the questions extend to both. The thinking on display is that electoral victory determines the freedom to act without let or hindrance. It would appear they simply do not feel bound by the dos and don’ts of the constitution. Seen in conjunction with the fact that both are products of the RSS, a cultish organization that explicitly refuses to acknowledge the Indian constitution, Mr Shah’s airport meeting becomes even more questionable.

One of the most disconcerting aspects of the ascent of Mr Modi on a 31 per cent mandate is his clear signal that India is now a Hindu rashtra in place of the secular nation envisioned in the constitution. Worse, all those who abide by the notion of an inclusive republic are dismissed out of hand, either as weak-kneed liberals or wild-eyed radicals.

Meanwhile, the prime minister and the BJP president have simply ignored instances of violent bigotry that are evident with increasing frequency. Beyond that, Mr Shah revived dog-whistle politics in a recent campaign speech in Gujarat, referring to Muslims as “alia-malia-jamalia.” The phrase was first used by Mr Modi during his communally-surcharged election campaign following the Godhra train burning incident.

Especially since the UP victory, the general assessment seems to be that under the Modi-Shah duo, the BJP will win the next general election in 2019. The RSS and the browbeaten and servile media have pushed that line as an inevitable outcome. But this assumes that the 69 percent of voters who did not vote for the BJP plus millions of citizens not on the electoral rolls will simply watch as cunning bigotry helps the BJP steamroller its way to a victory.

Actually, the recent hue and cry about Mr Shah’s Goa airport meeting shows that the duo may have misread the extent of their support, surrounded as they are by yes men and pliant media.

The Goa airport meeting may well have been the last straw. It comes in the wake of the #notinmynameprotests that have spread across the country. For the first time, we have seen a galvanized opposition in Goa besiege the airport director, who negated the BJP claim they had requisite permissions to stage the meetings.

An activist high court lawyer has upped the ante by taking his complaint to the high court. A television news channel known for its aggressive advocacy of the government featured the meeting on its broadcast.

Meanwhile, the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court has issued notices to senior officials in the central government, state government as well as the central industrial security force and asked them to provide a written explanation in three weeks to the petition by Goa lawyer Aires Rodrigues seeking a probe into the event. The BJP and its leadership is about to be cut down to size.

(An edited version of this post will appear in DailyO.in, July 13, 2017.)