It was always on the cards but few, if any, anticipated the Narendra government in its second avatar would be even more brazen and trample down on basic tenets of democracy so soon after his return.
Narendra Modi was of course never known as much of a democrat. He ran the state of Gujarat as an autocrat for much of the twelve years when he was the chief minister between 2002 and 2014. The last five years of Modi Raj did witness interference with the judicial process and blatant misuse of government agencies like the CBI and the ED working overtime to harass political rivals like Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati besides INC and DMK leaders.
But when Narendra Modi assured the opposition inside Parliament that “not numbers but your words would count”, everyone expected a more mature, wiser, mellowed and seasoned Prime Minister to take the opposition along.
Barely a month and half have passed since Narendra Modi’s election as the Prime Minister for the second time when the BJP unleashed operation ‘Kamal’ once again in opposition ruled states, especially in Karnataka and Goa. It requires no rocket science to guess the role of money power in engineering defections to bring down the Congress-JD(S) governments in Karnataka and push the Congress in Goa, where it had emerged as the single largest party in the election, to the margins.
The old war cry of ‘ Congress-mukt Bharat’, a long held dream of the BJP, is being pursued earnestly, it would seem. Don’t be surprised if the BJP plays the same game in the other two Congress ruled states of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress government is already on BJP’s hit list. It would come as no surprise if the Mamata government is toppled closer to the assembly election and President’s rule imposed before assembly elections due in 2021.
Do you know why the BJP is going for the kill against the opposition ruled states ? First, there must be no worthwhile opposition that can resist the creation of a Hindu Rashtra. Secondly, the BJP’s gameplan is to starve opponents of their entire financial support system, a strategy that the Congress never managed to learn when in power. Demonetisation was meant not for any public good but to cripple the opposition parties which may have built a war chest to contest elections. Now dislodging them from power would leave them high and dry without any money power to fight the next round of elections. Once the opposition is muzzled, India can then enter into a totalitarian state.
It would then be like One country, One Party, One leader, One voice, One agenda and No Opposition.
But to have such a totalitarian state, you need to have no dissent of any kind. That’s why one sees a spate of CBI, ED and Income Tax notices and raids and intimidation of liberal NGOs like Lawyers Collective.
Who doesn’t know that renowned advocates Indira Jaising and her husband Anand Grover are well-known critics of the present regime ? Attacking such well-known social critics sends the signal to others to fall in line. Several critics like Teesta Setalvad have been so bogged down in fighting legal battles that they have little time, resources and energy to fight against oppression, injustice and arbitrary action of the executive.
It is the same game that is now played against Rahul Gandhi who is facing almost twelve legal cases filed by various RSS supporters against him in various parts of the country. The message is loud and clear: no dissent of any kind, political or social. If you dare, be ready to pay the price and face harassment by the State.
No totalitarian project is complete without muzzling the media. A majority of the mainstream media have already turned from watchdogs to lapdogs. But some media dissenters like the NDTV, The Hindu and the Telegraph, besides an unlikely Times Group, are being forced to cow down either through the Enforcement Directorate or through cutting down their government advertisements. Notices have been served on Raghav Bahl and Prannoy Roy of NDTV and his wife Radhika Roy have been debarred from the capital market. Customs duty on imported newsprint has been increased in the budget by 10 per cent and the Finance Ministry has stopped the entry of even PIB accredited journalists from entering the North Block without appointment. Journalists, cartoonists and even those who post something critical or funny against the regime are being arrested and being sent to jail. In some cases they are getting some relief from the courts.
The Government has made its intentions clear. There should be no opposition governments in any part of the country to oppose the ruling party. There should be no civil society to speak against the government. And no media with any spine should be allowed to function. It’s an Orwellian state imagined by George Orwell way back in 1949 and whose prescient work of fiction, 1984, completed 70 years of publication last month.
Don’t rub your eyes. Rush and read George Orwell’s masterpiece novel 1984 if you haven’t read it yet. You would then realise that India has begun to resemble the Saudi Kingdom, which has complete disdain for dissent and punishes dissenters like journalist Jamal Khashoggi with death.