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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 9 New Delhi February 17, 2018

Lurking Spectre of Fascism

Saturday 17 February 2018

by Vijay Kumar

All the newspapers in their February 4, Sunday edition carried a news item in respect of the release of a book under the caption ‘Examination Barrier—25 Mantras for tackling the stress of Examination’ penned down by the Prime Minister, Shri Narendra Modi. On the face of it, this event seems innocuous and perfectly routine. But on deeper scrutiny, the event gives rise to serious concern.

The educational attainment of Shri Modi is hardly known to anybody. Despite the dogged pursuit of RTI queries, nobody has succeeded in eliciting even an iota of information about the educational qualification of Shri Modi. The Prime Minister is neither a psychologist nor an educational expert, who can offer tips to students to cope up with the stress inherent in the very process of examinations. The writing of the book offering Mantras for stress management during examination represents a crude attempt to foster the personality cult, and thereby woo the young voters with impressionable minds. The authoring of the book with the purported object to outline the Mantras for stress
management is part of a well-thought-out pattern to create a cult figure and, therefore, signifies a larger-than-life picture which is consistent with the image of Shri Modi being a narcissist, megalomaniac and showman. On the deleterious effect of the cult image on democracy, one of the chief architects of our Constitution, Dr B.R. Ambedkar, made the following prophetic statement towards the end of Constituent Assembly debates:

“In India, Bhakti or what may be called the path of devotion or hero-worship, plays a part in its politics unequalled in magnitude by the part it plays in the politics of any other country in the world. Bhakti in religion may be a road to the salvation of the soul. But in politics, Bhakti or hero-worship is a sure road to degradation and to eventual dictatorship.” 

The cruel irony of the Prime Minister, whose party has destroyed the educational institutions in the country, should not be lost on anybody. The BJP Government started destroying the universities after coming to power. Thereafter, the party started destroying the independence of the media and the list goes on to encompass other institutions, including two highly credible institutions: the Election Commission and the Higher Judiciary.

Democracy was sustained through the creation of institutions and the ethical practice by our politicians after independence under the stewardship of a great and incomparable states-man, our first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawahar- lal Nehru. Subsequently, his epigone, including his daughter Smt. Indira Gandhi, wrecked the institutions. However, the universities, the courts and by and large even the media retained their autonomy and credibility. Even the Supreme Court, except for a brief period during the phony Emergency, retained its credibility and promoted constitutionalism. The Election Commission, particularly Shri T.N. Seshan onwards, started showing its independent muscle and ensured free and fair elections in the country.

Of late, all the institutions have suffered erosion in their credibility and autonomy in the wake of a relentless onslaught by this government. The much-vaunted autonomy of the Election Commission came under strain when the hand-picked Chief Election Commissioner Jyoti, who was Chief Secretary of Gujarat during the Chief Ministership of Shri Modi, deferred the date of the Gujarat poll, and thereby provided sufficient elbow room to the government to tweak the GST Bill and win back the confidence of traders. The unprecedented event of January 12, 2018, when the four senior Judges of the Supreme Court stood compelled to hold a press conference complaining therein about the arbitrary listing of the matters with a view to secure an outcome in favour of the ruling establishment. This event is an eye-opener for the state of affairs of other institutions. The government sits on unanimous recommendations of the collegium. The institution of the RTI, which ushered in the era of accountability by enabling access to information and thereby securing transparency has all but become dysfunctional, as the government has been deliberately refusing to fill up the vacancy therein.

Alongwith the systematic subversion of all important democratic institutions, the gover-nment is encouraging and promoting the creation of a private army based on community, such as, Hindu Yuva Vahini under the direct patronage of the Chief Minister of UP, Karni Sena and other such illegitimate informal entities in complete negation of one of the basic postulates of ‘social contract’ that the state alone has the monopoly over the coercive power. These aberrations are not natural, but deliberately created with a view to undermine democracy and pave the way for fascism. The media have been silenced and the electronic media have become the propaganda tool of the government.

The irrepressible Arun Shourie, recently spoke in the Calcutta Literary Festival that decen-tralised Emergency, in complete contrast to the centralised Emergency imposed by Smt Indira Gandhi, is upon us, and his trenchant comment based on powerful analysis was completely blacked out by all the media. But the point made by Shourie is extremely alarming and should be a matter of grave concern for all concerned citizenry. Shourie rightly emphasised that the Emergency imposed by Smt Indira Gandhi was centralised, and it was easy to fight, but decentralised Emergency, present in today’s frightening time, is not that easy to counter. The electronic media have been captured by the government and the private goons have been given licenses to let loose the horror on innocent citizens in the name of beef- eating, Love-Jihad, and a host of other perceived hurt feelings, etc.

Democracy is sustained through free and fair elections, enforcement of the rule of law and credible, efficient, just and fair functioning of institutions. There is the impersonal law and rule that inform the functioning of institutions and the culture of cult personality is destructive to both the ule of law and credibility of the institutions. No wonder, Francis Fukuyama, one of the most distinguished political thinkers of our time, concluded that the Scandinavian model, based on impersonal rules and regulations rather than personality, represents the most developed and healthy model of democracy and development.

The signs of fascism are discernible, as evident from subversion of all the institutions, whose independent functioning and credible image are vital for sustaining democracy.

The author is a Supreme Court advocate.

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