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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 13 New Delhi March 16, 2019

Life and Death Struggle for Secular Democrats

Sunday 17 March 2019, by SC

EDITORIAL

With the Election Commission having announced the schedule of the 2019 parliamentary polls for electing the 17th Lok Sabha, the country is now in the grip of a poll fever. The elections are due to be held across the country between April 11 and May 19 in seven phases and the results will come on May 23, the date on which the counting of votes is to take place. As expected, the ruling BJP is off to a head-start and it hopes to reap maximum electoral dividend by raising the pitch of the anti-terror—at thus anti-Pakistan—campaign following the February 14 terror strike at Pulwama (for which the Jaish-e-Mohammad terror outfit operating from Pakistan took full responsi-bility) that killed around 40 jawans of the CRPF and the reportedly successful subsequent venture of the Indian Air Force to drop bombs on the JeM terror camp at Balakot in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province deep inside Pakistani territory (besides on such camps in PoK). Thereafter the shooting down of an F-16 Pakistani aircraft by India and the downing of an Indian Mig-21 Bison aircraft by Pakistan did escalate tensions between the two neighbouring states but these were defused after Islamabad took the decisive step, presumably under US pressure, to release the pilot of the Mig-21, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, within 48 hours of his detention in Pakistan.

In the midst of the poll fever the process of changing sides by important functionaries of the political parties has been set in motion. Today an official spokesman of the Congress and a TMC leader switched sides to join the BJP. This has boosted the ruling party at the Centre though such an exercise before elections is nothing new or surprising and hence not much importance needs to be given to it.

The Opposition parties, meanwhile, are making the right noises and the Congress President’s protests against the manner in which the Rafale deal was struck to benefit an industrial house at the cost of the public sector company, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited, are doubtless legitimate. However, what must be highlighted is the concerted attempt by those in power in the Capital today to change the character of the Indian polity by giving it a majoritarian colour and destroying its pluralist ethos. In fact, under Narendra Modi, the Constitution, democracy, secularism and pluralism are being sought to be wrecked in order to turn the country into a Hindu version of Pakistan for which purpose the BJP’s Talibani outfits have swung into action under the supervision and instruction of the RSS.

Unless this danger is rooted out from our body politic India will suffer irreparable damage in the coming days. Thus the imperative need to defeat the Modi/Amit Shah-led BJP at the hustings. This is a life and death struggle for not just the Opposition parties but secular democrats of all hues. This should be understood in full measure.

March 14 S.C.

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