Lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan sits down with National Herald’s Ashlin Mathew for a freewheeling discussion on election 2019. An anti-corruption crusader himself, Bhushan blames the Modi government for dismantling and misusing the anti-corruption architecture
The elections are around the corner. What do you think are the issues which will influence voters?
I think they will be the issues related to unemployment, crisis in the farming sector, communalism, lynch mobs and the kind of hate being spread by this government and its cohorts, which has created huge insecurity among minorities. And of course, there is the issue of corruption. It’s an endemic problem, but this government, quite apart from indulging in corruption, has destroyed our anti-corruption systems.
It’s not just the mega deals involving the Rafale jet, but also the manner in which Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi have been allowed to loot and flee the country. It’s also the way in which our anti-corruption institutions and laws have been dismantled. The Prevention of Corruption Act has been destroyed by adding provision about requiring the government’s permission before investigation. The Citizen’s Whistleblower law has not been implemented by not notifying it, the Lokpal was not appointed for five years and now the Lokpal has been appointed in an extremely dubious manner by excluding the leader of the Opposition. It was done without any transparency by appointing their own man, the so-called eminent jurist in the selection panel.
We have been asking for five years for the appointment of a Lokpal and for the inclusion of the leader of the largest Opposition Party in the selection panel. All they had to do was pass an ordinance, but they wasted five years over it and eventually they didn’t do it. The Lokpal was appointed without the member of the Opposition in the selection committee. We have been asking for a list of the short-listed candidates, but that also wasn’t released. Eventually they have appointed not-so desirable people through this process. It is a serious problem. The CBI and CVC- our anti-corruption institutions - have been destroyed. That is also a big issue.
How do you rate the BJP government’s performance? If the BJP comes to power, what is the threat we fear?
Their performance has been abysmal. They have done nothing on the economic front, nothing to alleviate the farmers’ crisis, nothing to reduce corruption. They have promoted a culture of thuggery, violence and hatred against minorities. Today, it’s not merely the institutions which are being destroyed, it’s not merely democracy which is in danger, it is really our civilisation which is in danger.
They have unleashed lynch mobs on the streets, on social media and those lynch mobs are controlled by no less a person than the Prime Minister himself. If they come back to power, we can say goodbye to democracy in this country, we can say goodbye to even our civilisation.
If they come back to power, they can fiddle with the basic structure of the Constitution. They have destroyed most of our institutions, including an assault on the judiciary. They are not appointing judges who are recommended from the minority community. They are now using institutions such as the CBI, ED and CVC to find something with which to blackmail them. The CAG is no longer considered to be independent and neither is the Election Commission.
What is the track record of this government in case of human rights?
They have had a terrible track record. In fact, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh has been openly suggesting to police officers to kill anybody under the garb of fake encounters. Most of the people who have been killed or shot are members of the minority community and extremely poor people. Even in the case of the NRC (National Register of Citizens) in Assam, almost 40 lakh people have been excluded from it. The manner in which they are being detained and kept under detention for almost five, six years in a row – all this shows the lack of sensitivity of this government to human rights?
What do you think of BJP’s campaign planks, especially nationalism?
The BJP is attempting to win this election using nationalism in the name of Pulwama and Balakot. It should be made clear that Pulwama happened because of the negligence of this very government. They had information five days before the incident that such an attack was likely; they allowed a convoy of 2700 men to move together when rules allow only 500. They didn’t give permission to BSF and CRPF to move the jawans by air. Therefore, they should be held accountable.
The BJP is attacking everyone who preaches diversity, has described anyone who preaches harmony as anti-national. They just want to destroy the unity in the country by creating hatred among different communities professing different religions. They profess to be nationalists when they are the most anti-nationalist of them all.
The BJP is hoping to win using the face of Modi. Will it work?
They want to get a man re-elected who won only because he marshalled tremendous publicity. But publicity alone does not help win elections.