While the Narendra Modi led BJP government at the Centre is marking the 75th Anniversary of India’s Independence with usual sarkari programmes, the sad reality is that the country’s Constitution is under an unprecedented attack from the Sangh Parivar, of which BJP is a core part. This is not really surprising because the RSS and the Hindu fundamentalist stream had never accepted the Constitution fully, because its strategic objective is to establish a Hindu Rashtra in India, which would naturally conflict with a Constitution that has Secularism, Democracy and Federalism as three of its essential pillars.
The RSS/BJP has used the Constitution to come to power at the Centre and, at various lower levels, like in State governments. Now, it is using its clout to erode and hollow out the Constitutional system by systematically destroying these three pillars. Earlier governments led by other bourgeois-landlord parties have often tinkered around with the Constitution, with the most egregious attack coming during the Emergency of 1975-77. But all that history pales in comparison with the fanatic zeal with which the BJP/RSS has shown in dismantling it piece by piece. It is ironic that this is taking place even when people are being encouraged to celebrate the ‘amrit mahotsava’ or 75th anniversary of Independence.
Destroying Secular Values
Ever since Modi came to power in 2014, communal hatred and polarisation has been fanned by the Sangh Parivar, flourishing under BJP patronage and the impunity which it grants to such activities. A whole arsenal of Muslim (and Christian) baiting or provocation has come up. This started with the cow vigilantes (gau rakshaks) in the early days of Modi’s rule. There were 40 cases of mob lynching between 2014 and 2018 according to the home ministry, but other surveys have reported at least 80 recorded cases of mob attacks. In a majority of these cases the victims were either Muslims or Dalits/Adivasis.
RSS has provided a bunch of more thoughts with which mobs can target Muslims – beef eating, hijab, halal, Uniform Civil Code, population control, namaz in public places, loudspeakers in mosques, etc.
BJP led State governments have been in the forefront in terrorising minority communities, bulldozing homes and filing false cases, besides using all the above issues to foster hatred and violence against them.
The BJP has also imposed an ultra-nationalistic narrative which includes communal ideas in order to attract people in the name of supposed ‘patriotism’. This is melded with glorification of war and so called defence of the country.
All this has led to an incendiary communal situation in the country. There have been at least two communal incidents every day on an average, for the first seven years of Modi’s regime, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data available till December 2020. In all, there were 5,417 incidents of communal violence, leaving behind about 9,078 casualties, including at least 494 deaths.
Time and again, riots or attacks have been initiated through provocation by RSS affiliates as happened recently in March-April this year during Ram Navmi, or on earlier occasions, like in Bihar in 2018.
Provocative statements by leaders of BJP and RSS affiliated organisations often provoke communal tensions, as was seen in the ongoing controversy and protests that erupted after a BJP national spokesperson made insulting comments on live TV on Prophet Mohammed. Meanwhile, Sangh Parivar associates are raising the Gyanvapi Mosque and the Krishna Janma Bhoomi issues, besides claiming that historical monuments like Taj Mahal, Qutub Minar, etc. were Hindu places of worship and hence need to be handed over to Hindu organisations.
To implement its poisonous agenda, the Modi government has brazenly sought to capture all institutions by appointing persons close to the RSS ideology to various positions, including vice chancellors and directors of universities/research bodies, heads of various commissions and councils, statutory bodies like police forces and wings of government like the CBI, ED, etc.
The Modi government does not have a single Muslim Member of Parliament (MP) and in most states too the party has no Muslim representative in the Legislative Assemblies. Its MPs and even ministers habitually transgress the Constitutional commitment to secularism by voicing anti-minority sentiments, protecting criminals belonging to their fraternity and participating in provocative or inflammatory ‘religious’ events.
The Modi government has also used its executive powers to bring in laws like the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which discriminates against Muslims for granting citizenship. Combined with the impending National Register of Citizens (NRC) the path has been cleared for snatching away basic citizenship rights of Muslims in the future – something that former RSS supremo and ideological guru M.S. Golwalkar had recommended long ago.
India is a parliamentary democracy. But democracy is not just elections to Parliament or other bodies. As the Constitution spells out repeatedly, the system needs to uphold and foster the fundamental rights of citizens, which include equality before law, rule of law, equality in all aspects, freedoms of speech, life and liberty, irrespective of caste creed or faith, freedom of association, judicial appeal, etc. All these taken together ensure a form of democracy, which has its limitations, but which is cherished by all. The Modi government, and the BJP/RSS has used various rights to subvert this fragile democratic structure by usurping central powers, deploying vast money resources as well as misuse of various arms of the executive for coercive ends. Here are some flagrant examples:
Power Grab in States
BJP used bribery, threats, friendly Governors, horse-trading and splitting parties to seize power in several states despite the people’s mandate going against it.
• Since 2014, this power grab was attempted 12 times, two of which were unsuccessful, the rest 10 succeeded in installing BJP in power.
• Arunachal Pradesh (2014), Jharkhand (2014), Bihar (2015), Goa (2017), Manipur (2017), Meghalaya (2018), Karnataka (Part 1: 2018: Part 2: 2019), Haryana (2019), Maharashtra (failed attempt 2019), Madhya Pradesh (2020), Rajasthan (failed attempt 2020), Maharashtra (2022)
Other parties have got huge majorities in Parliament in the past, and there has been misuse of power then too – but the scale and arrogance of BJP in hijacking the Parliament is unparalleled. Not allowing discussion on peoples’ issues, getting laws passed without meaningful debate, passing non-finance Bills by hiding them in Finance Bills (like Aadhar bill and environmental laws), opportunistic neglect of Parliamentary Committees and their opinions, and using the Parliament’s floor for making wild promises has become a standard practice with the BJP. Their majority in the Lok Sabha is seen by them as a license to do anything that suits their interests.
Use of Money Power
Through massive corporate donations, BJP has become the wealthiest political party in India. The Electoral Bonds Scheme initiated by the Modi govt., became a vehicle for BJP to gather enormous funds anonymously. It has received Rs.4238 crore since 2018, making up 65% of all donations through such Bonds. This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg – secretive funding through cash and kind would be amounting to much more than this.
This money power is used by BJP to conduct its five-star election campaigns, through helicopters, holographic imagery, and flooding the print, electronic and digital media with expensive advertisement, day in and day out. Govt. funds are also used to publicise Modi and his govt. Between 2017-18 and July 2022, central govt. spent Rs.1756.48 crore on self-advertisement in print, electronic and digital media.
Use of Draconian Laws and Central Agencies Against Political Opposition
Modi govt. has been indiscriminately using Draconian laws like Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the National Security Act (NSA), Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), sedition provisions in the Indian Penal Code (IPC), etc to curb any opposition to its policies. These laws deny many rights like bail, timely trial etc. and serve to punish people without fair hearing.
Between 2016-2020, UAPA was used to register 5027 cases, under which 24,132 persons were in jail as under trials. Till end 2020, only 212 convictions had taken place, that is, just in just 4% of cases. The NSA is used for preventive detention mostly against protests, like recent anganwadi workers’ protests. No data is collected on its use and on number of arrests made under this law.
Several central agencies like the CBI, Enforcement Directorate (ED), etc are being systematically used to threaten and cow down political and social activists, journalists and those who protests against the Modi government. ED has recorded 3066 cases under PMLA and 17,706 cases under FEMA, 3155 searches have been carried out under these laws from FY 2017-18 to 2021-22. Till March 2022, only 23 accused persons/entities could be convicted.
Damaging Federal Structure
An integral part of the BJP/RSS vision is the highly centralised political authority, very similar to the way the RSS itself is organised, with one non-elected sarsanghchalak or supremo. While the central Government has been encroaching on the rights of State governments that were defined by the Constitution, it has also centralised and monopolised finances to such an extent that State governments’ finances are in shambles.
GST- Disempowering States
Under the Goods and Services Tax (GST) imposed on the country in 2017, states have no power in deciding what tax rates to impose on what commodities (barring alcohol and petroleum products), a right that was given to them under the Constitution of India. This snatches away the freedom of the states to pursue alternative strategies and increases their dependence on the Central govt.
Encroaching upon subjects under States’ jurisdiction
The Modi led central government has repeatedly encroached on States’ rights as enshrined in the Constitution. Some of the most flagrant examples of this are:
• Four Labour Codes that subsume 29 existing labour laws. Labour is on the concurrent list, but the Modi government passed the Codes to please the corporate sector by introducing hire and fire policies, fixed term employment, increased working hours and reduced minimum wage norms.
• The three farm laws too dealt with agriculture which is under the States’ List. They were repealed under immense pressure of the farmers’ movement.
• Changes to environmental laws like Mines & Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Act that eases restrictions and monitoring of environmentally dangerous activities, and in Forest Conservation Act, Forest Act 1927, Forest Rights Act which also directly hit Adivasi rights.
Freezing or Cutting Welfare Funds
During Modi’s rule, state govts. have had to beg and demand that Central funds for various scheme be released. The most flagrant of these has been the rural job guarantee scheme (MGNREGS) for which Central funds are always short with states running up huge debts. In 2017-18, about 2.07% of total government expenditure was spent on MGNREGS, that is, about 0.28% of the GDP. In 2022-23, spending for the scheme has declined to 1.85% of total government expenditure and remains almost stagnant as a share of GDP at 0.29%, despite an 11% increase in work demand in just the last year. Modi govt. also cut funds in several central schemes ranging from subsidy for cooking gas cylinders, education programs, scholarships for SC/ST, child and mother nutrition programmes, to minority development schemes etc.
This not only deprived people of much needed benefits but also put state govts. under tremendous strain because they had to continue spending from their depleted resources.
Abrogation of Art. 370
This was the biggest betrayal of the Constitution – and the biggest sign of the Modi government’s subservience to RSS. It abrogated Art.370 of the Constitution in August 2019, ending the special status granted to J&K when it acceded to India after Independence. It also broke up the state into two Union Territories. It is now trying to win the impending Assembly elections by biased delimitation of seats. The Kashmir Valley meanwhile was turned into an army camp, internet was off for over one and a half years, thousands were jailed.
Resistance to BJP/RSS Growing
The divisive policies followed by the Modi government and the RSS-affiliates serve the purpose not only of paving the way for establishing a theocratic, fascistic political system but also divert attention of people from various economic ills plaguing the country.
However, large sections of the people, led by workers and farmers have been resolutely countering this by uniting and fighting against both, the disastrous economic policies as well as the violent communal ideology. Several all India strikes by united trade unions, the farmers’ year long struggle against the three farm laws, the struggles for preserving the laws that punish atrocities and discrimination against Dalits and Adivasis, the struggles of women scheme workers for better working conditions, the valiant struggles of workers of different public sector enterprises against privatisation are all testimony to the growing resistance against a regime that is hell-bent on destroying the Constitution and establishing a brutal rule of corporate-Hindutva nexus.