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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.