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Mainstream, VOL LIV No 15 New Delhi April 2, 2016

Overriding Task at Present Juncture

Monday 4 April 2016, by SC


As the campaign for the elections to the State Assemblies of Assam, West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry hots up with the BJP making a desperate bid for power in Assam banking on the anti-incumbency factor since the incumbent Tarun Gogoi Government there has completed three terms at a stretch, the Narendra Modi dispensation at the Centre—under the supervision of the RSS—has launched a concerted drive against all secular democrats concentrating on a symbolic hyper-nationalistic slogan of “Bharat Mata ki Jai” if only to conceal its sordid history of having opposed the Gandhi-led national movement as well as the freedom struggle alongside a not-so-covert understanding with British imperialism. Unfortunately the principal Opposition party of the country, the Indian National Congress, has, instead of exposing the ruling party’s nefarious game on this score, meekly fallen in line, as witnessed in its role alongwith the NCP in colluding with the BJP and Shiv Sena in enforcing the suspension of a Muslim MLA in the Maharashtra Assembly for having refused to chant the aforementioned slogan.

While democracy is under assault from those in power at the Centre the judiciary has, despite some flip-flops (as was noticed in the peculiar judgment delivered at the time of granting interim bail to the JNU Students’ Union President detained on the charge of sedition), taken a bold and unambiguous stand on the issue of the Modi administration’s dismissal of the Harish Rawat Government in Uttrakhand and imposition of President’s Rule there. The State High Court, in its order of March 29, unequivocally pointed out: “The present proclamation is nothing but a colourable exercise of power by the Central Government... Democratically elected Houses should not be demolished in such fashion. Floor test is the only test to prove the majority.” The State was brought under Central Rule on March 27; and the High Court ordered that the floor test be held today, that is, on March 31. However, on March 30, a Division Bench of the High Court stayed the floor test until April 7 and posted the matter for April 6 for a final hearing on the writ petition filed by the ousted CM challenging the imposition of President’s Rule in the State.

Meanwhile a new development on the whole episode has come to the fore. That is the stand of the BJP ally, the Shiv Sena, In an editorial in the Sena mouthpiece, Saamna, it was noted on March 30: “The BJP used nine rebel Congress MLAs to bring instability in the Uttarakhand Government... If the government had lost majority, the decision should have been taken in the State Assembly. The Governor had even given time to the government to prove its majority by March 28, but a day before that President’s Rule was imposed. What did the BJP gain out of it?”

It further observed: “In a democracy, the voice of the Opposition is of paramount importance. A one-party rule is worse then Emergency or dictatorship. The country will be ruined if the Opposition is eliminated and poison is thrown at allies.”

There is no shadow of doubt that the anti-democratic proclivities of the BJP have soared with the party enjoying a comfortable majority in the Lok Sabha on its own following the 2014 parliamentary polls. The party has given sufficient indications of such proclivities on several occasions in the recent past. But as the Shiv Sena’s reaction shows, it will not be smooth sailing for the Modi leadership in this regard.

The global scenario has turned complex, what with the terror strikes in Brussels, the tragic killing of several women and children in a Lahore park the other day, US President Obama’s landmark visit to Cuba, the historic return to democracy in Myanmar after 54 years with the Aung San Suu Kyi leadership assuming power there and the frightening prospect of someone like Donald Trump winning the US presidential election.

However, it is the domestic scene in India with the BJP on the rampage which acquires greater prominence for us in the present setting. That is precisely why democracy needs to be reinforced in the country in the days ahead. That indeed is the overriding task at this juncture.

March 31 S.C.