Thursday, June 20, 2024

Parliamentary democracy under threat from BJP


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By Sondip Bhattacharya

The BJP’s strategy to not let Parliament function is easy to dismiss as a cynical political ploy to discredit the UPA government. Neither the sangh parivar nor the BJP has ever betrayed any great fondness for liberal parliamentary democracy.

If they have given lip- service to the supremacy and sanctity of Parliament, it is only because they perceive representation in Parliament in terms of numbers and as a way of capturing power. Their heart beats for an authoritarian, regressive and centralised model of governance. The BJP is only completing the process of ruining democratic institutions in India that had been inaugurated by Indira Gandhi. In that sense, the congressification of the BJP has also been accomplished.

They are as impervious to corruption as the Congress, decisions are made by the high command in the BJP and while they crow about enacting a Lokayukta in Uttarakhand, one wonders why they don’t follow suit in Karnataka and Gujarat. Apart from these obvious family resemblances with the Congress is the unique predicament of the BJP: they have more prime ministerial candidates than real voters. But in times when the credibility of the governing dispensation is at its lowest, the rhetoric of “real” democracy and national unity always works, especially when the chattering classes get increasingly alienated from the moral, political and cultural world of the day.

If the BJP cared at all for the nation that it invokes with predictable regularity, it would have worked towards helping pieces of legislation that it had once initiated and now are being pushed by the current government. The FDI in retail is one such instance. But at the core of the BJP’s ideological apparatus lies a contradiction.

It celebrates Narendra Modi for bringing in FDI to Gujarat and for being investor friendly, but denies the same set of benefits for the rest of the country.

While at one level Modi can be seen to be corporate friendly, at another level, the BJP is happy to look like the camp office of the Swadeshi Jagran Manch.

In matters of politics, economics and culture, the BJP has always sported a forked tongue.

But more significantly, it has sought to consciously move away from the Vajpayee legacy in a decisive way. The Vajpayee legacy was always a source of discontentment for the RSS and its ideologues, who continue to guide the BJP’s fortunes despite attaining their “Best by” date a long time ago.

There is, however, a piece of the RSS credo that the BJP has learned well. While the RSS harps on being a cultural organisation with a welldefined ideological structure, it has only one real principle by which it functions in the real world. This is the principle of pragmatism. Its brand of pragmatism is amoral and only entertains the ethics of the here and now. The instrument that gives momentum to this brand of pragmatism is guerrilla warfare tactics gleaned from the time of Ramdas and Shivaji. It manifests in a hit and run tactic, leaving the opponent foxed and vulnerable.

In this form of warfare, responsibility is the last thing that comes to their mind. The whole idea is to create an immediate impact and hope that the consequences of the strike will eventually work in their favour.

Following this strategy, the BJP has redefined what it means to be an Opposition party in Parliament. It amounts to paralysing the activity of governance and legislation and hiding behind the sanctimonious rhetoric of serving the people and saving the nation.

While the Congress- led UPA has lent itself more than willingly to helping the BJP with its cynical pragmatism, the beginning of the end of Parliamentary democracy is what the ultimate aim of the BJP is and also its fond hope.

To help the BJP achieve this objective, its A- Team has come in handy. Anna Hazare has lent crucial and tactical support to the BJP’s dream of unravelling Indian parliamentary democracy.

Hazare, the quintessential non- Gandhian, has made the methods of the Taliban seem not so unreasonable; turning the other cheek seems so uncool in the age of Hazare and Gandhi is made to seem like a puny coward in comparison to this self- righteous, but effective, bully from the army barracks.

Both the BJP and the Hazare fanatics sell the naïve idea that a people can never have any interest in ruling itself badly.

If only the people ruled themselves directly, there would be no abuse of power and restoring popular sovereignty is the only way to legitimise a government.

The fine print of this argument is the same as the one propounded by Codreanu, the Romanian Fascist leader: There must be a sovereign, unified people, living in a new atmosphere of perfect spirituality, entirely free from the power of evil. Who will redeem people from the power of evil? Codreanu believed this to be possible only when people are led by the finest souls that our minds can conceive, the proudest, tallest, straightest, strongest, cleverest, bravest and most hard- working that our race can produce’. If this isn’t Hazare’s self- description, what else could it be? But be sure that L. K. Advani also secretly shares the same self image as Hazare. And so do all those in the BJP who want to be Prime Minister.

Politics for the BJP and the likes of Hazare is nothing more than a religious crusade: get rid of the evil and evil- doers in society by having faith in us. In their universe, national unity can never be forged through reason, consensus, moderation, parliamentary democracy or even economic interest. It has to be based on either faith or in the construction of a myth.

Faith as well as myth has to be built around a strong and decisive leader who is free of the constraints that the rule of law and procedures impose on people.

Arbitrary power is desirable in the hands of a leader whose self- image is that of a man who has risen above the petty constraints of the world and is not like us, ordinary human beings.

Therefore, the BJP’s disdain for Parliament stems from two reasons. In its internal functioning, it has reduced itself to factions, just like any statelevel Congress unit. Moreover, it has lost the only viable myth it had created, namely, the liberal and reasonable Atal Bihari Vajpayee. But the other reason is more significant. In its public posturing, it has reduced itself to being Hazare’s B- Team. The glue that binds both the A and B teams is one that the RSS had long perfected: amoral pragmatism. INAV


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