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From one family rule to one party rule

Mo-Sha duo sent signals to convey that it could be Telangana’s turn after Maharashtra

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit shah
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit shah

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On the one hand Prime Minister Narendra Modi talks of inclusive development while on the other he contradicts himself with his exclusive policies. The either-my-way-or-no-way policy does not respect the federalism as enunciated by the Constitution of India. In the 21st century, we cannot allow petty, narrow and divisive issues to dictate human and societal relationships.

We have to rise above all divisive issues to remain focused on human development. A non-inclusive approach is an invitation to disaster- Chief Justice of India NV Ramana. At the end of the day, what matters to people is good governance. And good governance does not mean one-way traffic.

What the rulers think is good from the government's perspective, may not always be the same for the receivers too. Or it could have inherent failures such as lack of water in public urinals. The people have to have the freedom and option to say whether it is good or not. To express his or her opinion, the receiver has to have a channel and that is called the opposition. Democracies ought to respect it. Otherwise, democracy gets reduced to a farce of an elected dictatorship. Our forefathers who fought for the Independence and won it 75 years ago vehemently opposed British rule because it did not give us the freedom to rule ourselves. More recently, in 1975 India had the bitter taste of dictatorship under the guise of Emergency.

Indira Gandhi, who imposed that anarchy, had to pay a heavy price by losing the elections. And history will not forgive her for that blunder to stick to power by hook or by crook. Some critics say she tried to beat water with a tick and the water splashed back on her face. Even forty-seven years down the line, Modi tears into the Emergency and reminds the youth of what had happened in June 1975. Fair enough.

Now, let us analyse this in the current scenario. As we discussed last week, double engine rule chugged into Maharashtra with the BJP using the politics of hijack. They caught hold of a group of MLAs opposed to Uddhav Thackeray, created a crisis and toppled the government from Guwahati.

Though the Sena rebel Eknath Shinde is the CM, he is effectively kept under check by a sulking Devendra Fadnavis. And BJP is celebrating the end of the family of dynastic rule in Maharashtra. The fear of Uddhav Thackeray pushing his son Aaditya has been cited as an attempt to impose family rule on Maharashtra. Did BJP not know that the Shiv Sena did not believe in democracy when the former entered into an alliance with late Bal Thackeray?

The Shiv Sena was run with iron hand by Bal Thackeray creating chaos against South Indians first and Muslims and North Indians later. It is under Uddhav that the party has begun to witness some changes and mend ways to be accommodative. BJP could have waited for the immediate civic poll and later the Lok Sabha poll to trounce the Sena.

But, it demonstrated intolerance by toppling the Sena-NCP-Congress alliance. Indira Gandhi was also credited – discredited later – for unseating the Communist government in Kerala in 1959 instead of waiting for elections. The impatience that develops into intolerance has never been a healthy sign for democracy.

Having won Maharashtra, and Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Goa earlier through the backdoor politics and using the Governors to suit its political ambitions, BJP is not exactly following democratic principles. It has met with little resistance so far, mainly due to a weak Congress. Now, the Hyderabad declaration by the BJP sends disturbing signals for the survival of democracy.

The behaviour of the opposition is not exemplary and their conflicting interests more than ideologies are what ruins even the glimmer of hope of combined resistance to BJP's politics of bulldozing. The selection of a united opposition candidate for the Presidential election demonstrates the lack of their preparedness to come together.

How can the nation expect these parties to work on a common minimum programme when they cannot come together for a minimum point of having a candidate to oppose the BJP's candidate for the election of the President? The non-BJP parties may have put up Yashwant Sinha, but Mamata Banerjee stated that this contest could have been avoided had the ruling party proposed Droupadi Murmu as a consensus candidate. These kinds of statements only reflect the inherent clashes among the opposition. It is no secret that each of the opposition leaders has his or her own national ambitions.

Trinamool, YSR and TRS may like to go without the Congress, but NCP insists on the grand old party's involvement. So, the unity is dead before it is formed. So, why is the BJP so impatient to bulldoze its double engine doctrine? Will the regional parties, even if they win a majority of Lok Sabha seats from their respective States, be ever able to threaten the BJP's seat of power in Delhi? Absolutely no! They can't even dream of putting forward a no-confidence motion.

BJP has brute majority in the Lok Sabha, it has established its dominance in the Rajya Sabha and moreover it rules most of the States. It is in this context that one has to view with utmost concern the powerful push the Mo-Sha combine have been giving for replacing the family run politics with one party rule. The duo sent enough signals to convey that it could be Telangana's turn after Maharashtra. And they also conveyed a veiled threat that the State would not get Central help if the people do not vote for double engine rule.

On the one hand Modi talks of inclusive development while on the other he contradicts himself with his exclusive policies. The either-my-way-or-no-way policy does not respect the federalism as enunciated by the Constitution of India. Non-BJP leaders have already been complaining against the step-motherly treatment from the BJP-run Centre. Bad enough. Now the harping on the double-engine benefit is nothing but asking the people to vote only for the BJP does not contribute to healthy federalism and democracy. BJP must learn to respect the opposition otherwise there will be no difference between their elected dictatorship and Indira Gandhi's limited dictatorship. I am qualifying it as a limited one because democracy reigned in after the Emergency period (June 1975-March 1977). It is good to have checks and balances in BJP's own interest.

Nobody is infallible, not even the Courts. That is why we have an appeal system in the judiciary that challenges the lower courts' rulings.

Even the Supreme Court rulings are open to review. This happens because we have a well-oiled judicial system. One may not agree with certain rulings, but yet the appeal system has to be appreciated and respected. Where do people go if there is no mechanism to challenge or correct the government's policies? Will the people be just forced to swallow whatever is dished out and suffer the consequences which may include global alienation? Is it not good to learn from others' mistakes than keep repeating them?

Thankfully, there is a semblance of attempts by a section of the media to offer checks and balance thoughts. This itself may not be enough to check the bulldozing politics of one-party rule. But someone has to continue to show the mirror. To quote the late M Chalapathi Rau, who wrote in his autograph to me, "Despite the Emergency in 1976: Facts are sacred and comment is still free".

(The columnist is a Mumbai-based media veteran now running websites and a Youtube channel known for his thought-provoking messaging)

B N Kumar
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