Inside the Whale (of Indian Election)

The hidden (?) agenda of tilting the Constitution to ensure eternal support of the majority community is too fatuous.

‘Ab ki baar 400 par’. It may or may not happen-we shall know at the beginning of June (and the monsoon). Yet it needs to be stressed that the talk of dubbing all opposition as gangs of traitors and foreign agents is rank uncivilised and therefore undemocratic!

Two months back it was a future possibility. Now it is an immediate reality and the frenzy is building up. BJP and NDA are shouting hoarse with ’ab ki bar 400 par’: the constantly making and breaking INDIA jugaad is busy in convincing the voters that while they may fight each other on some seats yet they stand united against the NaMo juggernaut. Arvind Kejriwal - the Nth ‘Mr Clean’ of Indian politics - is behind bars and bravely defiant of the ED and its allegedly revengeful machinations. Regional parties are having a field day to bring down national parties to the table and to their knees in some places. Old horse Sharad Pawar is seen with Soniya hand in hand; I remember (though he doesn’t) that some 20 years back he had launched a separate party so as not to embarrass the country with a foreign born PM? Mamata is convalescing after a domestic accident (how symbolic!). Stalin down south has always followed his own(dirty) nose. CSR, shown the door by Telangana voters, talks no more of the Bharatiya Rashtra. AAP will have to fight unto the ultimate to keep Delhi in hand.

The BJP,on the other hand, has gone schizophrenic ; sadly. The vocal (only?) NaMo is sparing no effort in desperate bids to states south of the Narmada and Maharashtra which has four parties drawing nearly equal share of the vote. South India has always shown political separation from the North and except those from the anglicised Nehru-Gandhi family, no leader from the Hindi belt has even impacted them-leave aside swaying. So BJP is joining hands with whichever not-in-power regional groups/s. In Maharashtra it has already crippled NCP of Pawar and the Sena of Bal Thackrey by engineering exodus to itself from both. In case of Congress BJP approach is, to put it bluntly, absolutely shameless as seen in the welcome to an ex CM of the state (I refuse to taint my article with his name} who had to go because of the Adarsh (!) building scam. Take many, take any (the corrupt ones will be more loyal!) as I said in this column earlier, is the Amit mantra of BJP.

Come on, Narendrabhai and Amitbhai, do you really have to sink to this depth? Your prospects, as pollsters compete to reassure, are enviable. Your hogging of over half of the electoral bonds has not created even a slight flutter among the plebes. Your rehabilitation of Ram Lalla is still a strong part of collective memory. So are your scrapping of triple talaq and article 370 and subsequent changes in the Kashmir map. Thanks to you firstly a dalit and later an adivasi lady were placed in the Presidency. Even the astute showboys, you placed Karpoori Thakur (OBC) ahead of your present none-generian architect LK Advani. Such is your empathy for the deprived of the country that you now call them GYAN - knowledge put in one convenient package! The borders are silent at the moment,a normal monsoon has been forecast. A place like Poona where I modestly thrive is going to be blessed with an 11 billion dollar chip project despite non-existing infrastructure. And still the desperate scramble to shun all dcency to cross the magic number of 400! Answer me, both Bhais!

You can pass the onus of Kejriwal arrest, tax-hounding of the Congress (the IT department has allowed Congress to defer payment after election) and freezing its bank accounts (though only about 10 per cent, according to you) to the  state machine working at its own speed and convenience (aptly). Similarly, the ominous happenings at the Election Commission (out of three Ecs 2 are just novices!) too can be swept under the carpet (though rather awkwardly) but why did you not sanctify those with proven corruption records? Answer Me!

Why 400, NaMo and Amitbhai? The only time our LS was so heavily tilted was in the LS after the assassination of Indira which was natural because her death was felt by one and all. Otherwise the Congress with Nehru-Gandhi family bosses has remained below 375. I am not suggesting that to cross 400 something similarly traumatic needs to happen: my plain advice is check your greed. Even to dabble with the Constitution you don’t need 400.

There is nothing wrong, on the face of it, with wanting to review the Constitution. It is also true that our Constitution spells out an India of the future and at times overlooks the stark realities on ground: social injustice, economic disparity and faith in the ‘avatar’ phenomenon. The patriots who drafted the Constitution were not naïve and knew the size and scope of the future India they visualised. Foremost among them, Dr Ambedkar had cautioned the constituent assembly in his concluding remarks that the tract they were adopting existed only inside that hall and the reality outside was diametrically opposite (my paraphrase). So it is still too early to talk of ‘thorough’ reviews: when it has not been faithfully implemented. Indira dabbled with it during the Emergency, Rajiv meddled with it over the Shah Bano verdict and paid dearly! Handle with care, this glass, both Bhais. The Constitution should not be manipulated and tailored with the majority/minority community in mind. It talks of citizens and not communities. The hidden (?) agenda of tilting the Constitution to ensure eternal support of the majority community is too fatuous. The moment our majority community is freed of its silly suspicion of all members of the minority the internal divides come to the fore: look at the shameful scramble for job reservations that has gripped all sections of our majority community.

Admittedly, the concept of citizens of a republic as preempted by the Constitution is still distant from how Indians define their identity. The task to establish it firmly is long and arduous. The more we postpone it the more difficult it will be.

Let me come back to the campaign slogan ‘ab ki baar 400 par’. It may or may not happen-we shall know at the beginning of June (and the monsoon). Yet it needs to be stressed that the talk of dubbing all opposition as gangs of traitors and foreign agents is rank uncivilised and therefore undemocratic! It just does not become the PM of the largest democracy mankind has known to indulge in abuse day in and day out with such relish. Show some dignity, Narendrabhai. U may not recall Nehru except only to malign him but you can recall the communication expertise of Atalji who commanded respect of all-supporters, critics and opponents and thus had no enemies. Is that too difficult?

Another statutory warning, my Bhai duo! True Rajiv got 400 plus in an ‘ asadharan’ (Atalji’s word) election. This poll is not the last, nor is it extra-ordinary. In fact it has too many similarities with elections of 1952, 57, 62,71, 79 and 84  when the country put unnatural faith in one individual-only to have second thoughts eventually. The opposition comes from within the incumbent party when the parliament is so unnaturally tilted. Within a year of Indira’s spectacular victory in 1971 the ‘Young Turks’ surfaced in her party. Same thing was repeated in the Rajiv-VP Singh rift a decade and a half later.

There is also some anxiety over the chances of modifying the Constitution to create an American style democracy in India where the president is elected independently. Some suspect that this is why the idea of ‘one nation, one election’ is being circulated. The NDA have got NaMo at present so it is only natural for them and unthinkable for the INDIA jugad.

A presidential system may appear to make the election for the top job simpler but it will harm the federal structure which our Constitution defends and guarantees. For one thing it might throw up too many aspirants like the present around 1000 registered political parties. Apparently states will enjoy more autonomy and feel free from the ‘big brother’ at the centre. But looking at our socio-economic-political diversity, states may pass mutually contradictory laws: one caste might get a quota in a state while the neighbouring state may not allow it. This is just one  possible scenario.

So let us hope the NDA falls well short of 400; BJP stays below 366 – the magic figure for constitutional amendment and the present democratic structure survives despite its jerks and hiccoughs!

PS: Thes title is that of a famous essay by George Orwell which is a must read.

- Vinay Hardikar   
(The writer has been working in the public sphere of Maharashtra for the last five decades. His versatile personality has several dimensions, but the primary ones remain to be that of an established writer, journalist, editor, critic, activist, and teacher.)

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