Crackdown on dissent, undermining of democratic conventions among reasons why BJP has lost traction

  • Whenever the BJP and its cousins in the Sangh Parivar face opposition and criticism, the government cracks down

  • The standard ploy is to label all critics and dissidents 'anti-national'

  • This is a ploy that is based on the conflation of the BJP, Modi and the Sangh Parivar with the nation and the people

In 1953, after a workers' uprising in East Germany, Bertolt Brecht had written a poem, that was, however, published much later. In the troubled times through which India is going, it has an uncanny resonance. He had written:

After the uprising of the 17th June
The Secretary of the Writers Union
Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
Stating that the people
Had forfeited the confidence of the government
And could win it back only
By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
In that case for the government
To dissolve the people
And elect another?

The relevance of Brecht's poem will be made clear soon. Less than a week ago, the Central government revived after three years a case of sedition against a group of people who had, according to a chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police, that answers only to the Centre, entered into a criminal conspiracy against the State. What they had done was participate in a meeting at which 'anti-national' slogans had been raised.

On Saturday, a metropolitan magistrate refused to take cognisance of the chargesheet because it had been filed without the approval of the Delhi government. In other words, the Central government was trying to use its powers to persecute, rather than prosecute, a group of people, among whom was Kanhaiya Kumar — former president of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students' Union and a probable candidate from Bihar for the impending Lok Sabha elections — bypassing other legitimate agencies and established procedure.

Two things stand out in this case.

 Crackdown on dissent, undermining of democratic conventions among reasons why BJP has lost traction

Representational image. AFP

First, the Central government, in other words the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government headed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, decided suddenly to revive a three-year-old case just before an Opposition rally in Kolkata and at a time when the party's electoral prospects look distinctly dodgy. The chargesheet was one of the many attempts at misdirection in which this government has been indulging ever since it became apparent that its popularity and the 'charisma' of the prime minister was plumbing the depths. Or scraping the bottom of the barrel, after a losing spree in three Assembly elections in its north Indian 'fortress'.

Second and the more fundamental point, however, is about the way this regime works. There is a name for it: Fascistic. Whenever the BJP and its cousins in the Sangh Parivar, not to mention the family patriarch, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), face opposition and criticism, the government cracks down. The standard ploy is to label all critics and dissidents 'anti-national'. This is a ploy that is based on the conflation of the BJP, Modi and the Sangh Parivar with the nation and the people.

This is where Brecht becomes relevant to India's current situation. Why bother about elections? If the people have forfeited the confidence of the government, why not just dissolve the people and elect a new one, instead of electing a new government?

This is not being written in jest. The BJP, under the close direction of the RSS, has been expending its energies in the past five years or so doing exactly that. It hopes it will succeed because it commands the Centre and a number of state governments. The new people that the BJP wants to elect, by dissolving the old one, is strictly unidimensional. The BJP wants to banish all plurality from India by launching a fierce attack on 'communities' and civil liberties. Minorities are not welcome, nor are Dalits. Liberals are, to this regime, a corrosive substance that threatens to deface the Brahminical, authoritarian order over which Modi will preside as a proxy for the RSS.

Thus, for instance, the enactment of stringent legal provisions against the possession, not to mention consumption, of beef. Culinary diversity must be expunged to satisfy a putative Hindu constituency. Never mind that the whimsical ukases of several governments have destroyed the bovine economy, and by extension the agrarian order, which is not Brahminical. Never mind that the leather industry has taken a beating. Never mind that the livelihood options of some of the most marginalised as well as their nutritional security, have been sacrificed.

This is what is truly called fundamentalism, because it is prepared to brush aside all concerns and interests seen as inimical in the pursuit of one unitary goal.

That goal as we have seen is sectarian and majoritarian. In that sense, it is akin to the goal of genocide pursued by the Nazis and the Fascists. Historically, there may be enough grounds to refrain from likening the BJP regime in an exact sense to those of the Fascists and Nazis, but that difference lies mainly in the fact that India has a liberal democratic order that cannot be eradicated very easily.

The current regime has done its best to expunge democracy, however. Its relentless attacks on all manner of institutions, its suggestion that India change to a presidential system, its undermining of all democratic conventions, its crackdown on dissent, betoken the desire to create a political environment in totalitarianism can thrive. That is the reason why the BJP has lost traction.

Fortunately, it has not yet been able to elect a new people.

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Updated Date: Jan 21, 2019 14:46:36 IST