India is becoming ‘illiberal democracy’ under Modi rule, says Chidambaram

Accusing PM Modi of sowing the seeds of “illiberal democracy” in the country, former Union Minister said that institutions were being destroyed to such an extent that these would have to be rebuilt


Ashutosh Sharma

Former Union Minister P. Chidambaram said on Friday that Narendra Modi government is an embodiment of “illiberal democracy” which is bound to pave the way for dictatorship in the country.

He was speaking at the launch of fellow Congress leader Shashi Tharoor’s book “The Paradoxical Prime Minister”, a critical work on Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which was formally released by Modi’s predecessor Manmohan Singh.

During the panel discussion, Chidambaram, while referring to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s lecture here on Thursday, alleged that the talk of a “strong state ”, was nothing but the seed of an “illiberal democracy”.

Stressing that some people believe in having a “hard state, strong decisions and laws such as Armed Forces Special Powers Acts, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, he stated that “these are the seeds of illiberal democracy”.

“Hitler got elected in a democratic election and then he converted it (Germany) into illiberal democracy. Poland and Hungry are moving towards illiberal democracies. Turkey was a liberal democracy...but turned into illiberal democracy,” he went on to add, asserting that India too was on way to becoming an illiberal democracy.

“Once illiberal democracy is in place, everything will go wrong and we will move towards dictatorship. The reason as to why we are opposing Mr Modi is that he is the embodiment of illiberal democracy,” he said and quoting Yashwant Sinha cited some symptoms: “The Defence Minister didn’t know (about) the Rafale deal, the Home Minister didn’t know (about) President’s rule being imposed in Kashmir, the cabinet didn’t know that the demonetisation was round the corner.”

He also slammed Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik for his recent controversial remarks that “mainstream and separatist political parties in the state have no right to talk about India-Pakistan peace talks. “He (Malik) is probably a votary of ‘partyless democracy’. What the political parties are for,” Chidambaram retorted, adding that “the Governors, LGs are acting like Viceroys now.”

Answering to a query from the audience, Chidambaram quipped, “We have the most Credible Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the most Enlightened Directorate (ED). I won’t comment on them…I am one of their favourites.”

Earlier in February, Chidambaram, who is also a senior advocate, had approached the Supreme Court seeking protection of his fundamental rights, including the right to privacy, amid summons to his son Karti Chidambaram and raids by the CBI and the ED in connection with cases related to Aircel-Maxis and INX Media.

But referring to the ongoing crisis in the CBI, Chidambaram said it was an example of how an institution was being destroyed. “It (CBI) always had its weaknesses, I am not denying that… But today we have virtually destroyed it,” he said adding it was the same story with the Central Information Commission (CIC) and the Central Election Commission (CEC).

He asserted that the institutions were being destroyed to such an extent that these would have to be reinvented and rebuilt, as it would not be possible to put them together again.

“Every institution is being destroyed from within by putting your people there, destabilising it, capturing it and then bending it (on its) knees. We need to wake up to that,” he said, adding people had started to sense something is going wrong in the country.

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