From democrat to autocrat: the metamorphosis of Raje

A file photo of CM Vasundhara Raje

Born and brought up in a highly feudal environment of palaces and protocol, Rani Vasundhara cannot be expected to be too democratic, at least temperamentally.

Vasundhara Raje has overnight turned from a democratic chief minister to an autocratic queen of sorts. Old habits seem to die hard. After all, she is the princess of one-time state of Gwalior. Born and brought up in a highly feudal environment of palaces and protocol, Rani Vasundhara cannot be expected to be too democratic, at least temperamentally.

One did not quite realise this till she gave immunity to Rajasthan officers and judges from any scrutiny without Her Highness’ permission. Even the media is debarred from reporting on the charges against a public servant until the concerned authority gives the sanction to prosecute him or her. This permission may take six months to come as per the new rules proposed in the latest ordinance promulgated by the Vasundhara government last month.

Is Rajasthan a democratic state or a fiefdom? It resembles more like Queen Vasundhara’s fiefdom rather than a democracy. A democracy rests on accountability as compared to autocracy where no one is accountable. If a government shields its executive and judiciary out of any scanner, it makes them not only unaccountable but virtual autocrats too. Because they will have no fear of the law but fear of only the political establishment.

Vasundhara is, therefore, turning Rajasthan into her fiefdom where both the executive and the judiciary will act according to her whims and fancies. Both the executive and judicial wings of Rajasthan are now dependent on her government because anyone going against it runs the risk of being at the receiving end of sanction or a nod for an inquiry against him/her.

The problem is not just the queen. The BJP is increasingly devising means to subvert democratic functioning. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s PMO, for instance, is said to be the most powerful PMOs we have had in recent times. The Prime Minister or the PMO can now directly interact with a secretary without taking the concerned minister into confidence. Is it not a distortion of the cabinet form of government in which the Prime Minister is said to be ‘first among equals’?

Similarly, the office of the National Security Advisor now virtually overshadows the foreign office where even the foreign minister’s writ hardly runs. Even the key issues of security cannot be decided by the Home Ministry without the NIA’s consent. Besides, the BJP and Sangh believe in keeping not just their loyalists but their hardcore followers in even autonomous bodies. So, you have their key men placed all over who look up to the Sangh rather than the rule book.

But Vasundhara has surpassed all norms of democratic functioning. She is out to tame bureaucracy and the judiciary and is also trying to gag the media with her latest fiat. It is a mockery of democracy.

Rani of Gwalior needs to be checked now. Both political parties and civil society must stand up to defend democracy. Else, others will follow the Vasundhara model and ruin Indian democracy.

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