To mark the eighth anniversary of its rule and Narendra Modi becoming Prime Minister, the BJP has launched a fortnight long programme around the slogans ‘Sewa, Sushasan, Garib Kalyan’ which means ‘service, good governance, welfare of the poor’. An earlier article had explored how these slogans hide the reality of Modi sarkar’s dedicated service of the corporate sector and welfare of the super rich.
What about the oft repeated claim of BJP that the Modi government is providing ‘sushasan’ or good governance? The hallmark of a “good government” would be leading the country and its people out of poverty and backwardness, strengthening the bonds of mutual solidarity among diverse people, and preserving the Constitutional mandate of secularism, democracy and federalism. Unfortunately, despite getting a big mandate in each of the two general elections in 2014 and 2019, the Modi government has simply used its power to impose the thinking and ideas of the RSS on the country. In the process, it is relentlessly dismantling the Constitutional principles, riding roughshod over people’s aspirations and stifling their voices. The BJP is nothing but a vehicle for building a dictatorial, majoritarian State that crushes the working people, religious and linguistic minorities, destroys the democratic system, and does not hesitate to violate the rule of law to achieve its ends.
The BJP’s concept of ‘sushasan’ or good governance is concentrating all power into the hands of the Centre, modelled on the lines of Manu Smriti, and putting all the medieval regressive ideas into practice, including a second class status for so called ‘lower’ castes, for women, and generally for all those who labour to produce wealth. To achieve this, it needs to dismantle the Constitution based rule and replace it with its own personality based monolithic regime. And this is what has been happening in the past eight years. Let us look at some of the features of BJP’s eight years of this kind of rule.
Power Grab in States: BJP has used bribery, threats, friendly Governors, horse-trading and a bag full of dirty tricks to seize power in several states despite the people’s mandate going against it. Since 2014, this sorry spectacle has happened 11 times, two of which were unsuccessful, the rest succeeded in installing BJP in power. See Appendix 1 (at the end of this article) for details.
Hijacking Parliament: 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. It has become routine to not allow discussion on peoples’ issues, to get laws passed without debate (or just a symbolic debate), systematic neglect of Parliamentary Committees and their opinions, and even cases where important Bills were passed either without debate or camouflaged as Finance Bills to get them passed!.
Use of Money Power: Due to the backing of all corporate houses and presumably using power based coercive means, the BJP has become enormously wealthy. An indication is the recently revealed fact that BJP received 62% of all funds received through electoral bonds scheme, initiated by the Modi government. These amount to a whopping Rs.4216 crore. This is just the tip of the iceberg – secretive funding through cash and kind would be amounting to much more than this. This treasure chest is what the BJP uses to conduct its five-star election campaigns, through helicopters, holographic imagery, and flooding the media with expensive advertisement, day in and day out.
Subverting Federal Structure
Apart from grabbing power and suppressing regional aspirations in States (as described above), the BJP has completely subverted the federal architecture envisaged by the Constitution. Here are some important features of this approach.
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. The taxation system determined by the central govt. becomes the strait-jacket in which all state govts. have to fit in. Although there is a GST Council made up of representatives of all states but the Central govt. has established a hegemonic sway over it. As it is, the states’ fiscal position is dire especially after the pandemic. With the imposition of GST their dependence on the Central govt. has become even more. This disastrous move is violative of the federal structure of the Constitution. GST has been brought in at the demand of the big corporate sector of the country. It has resulted in the squeezing out of the smaller industrialists and ruin of the small trader. Currently some compensation is being paid by the Centre to state govts. for the tax revenue losses they suffer but the future looks bleak, especially in the face of the tanking economy.
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 the fo ur Labour Codes and the now repealed three agriculture related laws, passed by the Parliament. The Labour Codes subsume 29 existing labour laws. Labour is on the concurrent list, meaning it can be legislated upon by both Centre and States. But the Modi government passed the Codes because it was in a hurry to please the corporate sector by introducing hire and fire policies, fixed term employment, increased working hours and reduced minimum wage norms. Then it has been pressurising State governments to frame rules under these Codes so that they can be implemented. The farm laws too dealt with agriculture which is under the States’ List. They were repealed earlier this year under immense pressure of the farmers’ movement.
Freezing or Cutting Welfare Funds: Time and again during Modi’s rule, state govts. have had to beg and demand that Central funds for this or that 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. Modi govt. also cut funds in several central schemes ranging from education programs, scholarships for SC/ST, child and mother nutrition programmes, minority development schemes etc. This not only jeopardised the welfare programmes and deprived people of much needed benefits but also put state govts. under tremendous strain because they had to continue spending from their depleted resources. The policy of cutting welfare funds – an integral part of the neoliberal dogma to which Modi and BJP subscribe – has damaged the states’ fiscal situation and rendered them weaker and more dependent on Central largesse.
Abrogation of Art. 370: This was the biggest betrayal of the Constitution – and the biggest sign of the Modi government’s subservience to RSS. Through a legal sleight of hand the government abrogated Art.370 of the Constitution thus ending the special status granted to J&K when it acceded to India after Independence. The Modi government also broke up the state into two Union Territories, ruled by the Centre. It is now trying to fix the Assembly seats through delimitation in order to ensure prospects of its own victory in the impending election. The Kashmir Valley meanwhile has been turned into a army camp, internet was off for over one and a half years, thousands were jailed. The ludicrous claim that this move “integrated J&K with India” has proved to be hollow as killings continue and the religious divide continues to be fanned.
Destroying Secular Values
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.
Incendiary statements by leaders of BJP and RSS affiliated organisations often initiate, foster and propagate 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.
After the Ayodhya dispute was settled favourably for the BJP, it is trying to milk the building of the Ram temple while its foot soldiers are already raising the Gyanvapi Mosque and the Krishna Janma Bhoomi issues. This is their evil design for the future, to be deployed as the need arises.
Taking advantage of the impunity granted by the ruling BJP, 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.
Subsequently, the 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. These issues, which were always part of routine propaganda carried out by the Sangh Parivar have now become mainstream and they are being voiced brazenly by violence prone mobs with support from BJP leaders in states, often leading to conflict or terrorising of minority community.
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. This is bizarre considering that it is the same BJP government that is weakening the country’s sovereignty and security by privatising defence production, inviting foreign capital in it, and completely aligning with the US in all defence matters. The abrogation of Art.370 in J&K and the division of the state were portrayed as ‘muscular’ measures against Muslim hegemony, cloaked in this ‘nationalist’ rhetoric.
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. This has turned these bodies into tools of political harassment.
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.
|Appendix 1 – BJP Power Grab in States|
|1||Arunachal Pradesh (2014)||BJP won 11 seats, Congress 42, People’s Party of Arunachal 5 and Independents 2. Over the course of two tumultuous years, the numbers changed to: BJP 48; Congress 1; PPA 9; Independents 2! Wholesale defections, a spell of President’s rule, death of an ex-CM, Supreme Court’s intervention, recall of a reluctant governor and four chief ministers later, the BJP finally grabbed power!|
|2||Jharkhand (2014)||BJP won 35 seats and its ally All Jharkhand Students Union 5 seats in the 81-member Assembly. They were just short of the majority. So, again they won over some independent members and lured 6 out of 8 MLAs of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha to gain a majority.|
|3||Bihar (2015)||In Assembly elections, the BJP got just 53 seats and 2 went to its allies in a 243 member House. It was a sound drubbing, delivered by the Rashtriya Janata Dal-Janata Dal (United)-Congress alliance which got a whopping mandate of 178 seats contesting as a pre-poll alliance. Yet, BJP broke up the alliance, lured away JD(U) and its leader Nitish Kumar, and in July 2017, formed a coalition government.|
|4||Goa(2017)||BJP won just 13 of the 40 total seats. They cobbled up a coalition after results were announced with small local parties that had openly contested against them and formed a government even as the single largest party. The Congress had to sit in opposition with 17 seats.|
|5||Manipur (2017)||BJP won 21 seats out of 60 while the Congress got 28. But the BJP won over two local parties National People’s Party and Naga People’s Front and a lone MLA from its ally Lok Janshakti Party to claim the government. The Governor Najma Heptullah, a former BJP MP, helped along by inviting the BJP-led alliance first to form the government.|
|6||Meghalaya (2018)||BJP won just two seats in the 60-member Assembly. But it struck a post-poll alliance with National People’s Party to become part of the government. Again, a helpful Governor, Ganga Prasad, a former BJP MLC from Bihar, helped.|
The power grab in Karnataka played out in two parts.
Part 1 (failed attempt) - 2018: BJP won 104 MLAs in a 224-member Assembly, missing out on the majority mark. But the former Gujarat BJP MLA Vajubhai Vala, in his new role as Governor of the state, invited BJP leader BS Yediyurappa to form the government, ignoring the larger Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) alliance. The Supreme Court intervened and called for a floor test the next day. Yediyurappa resigned rather than face defeat on the floor of the House and a new Congress-JD(S) government was installed after a six-day long BJP rule.
Part 2 – 2019: Presenting a new model for grabbing power, the BJP got 13 Congress, 3 JD (S) and one Karnataka Pragnyavantha Janatha Party MLA to resign from the Assembly bringing down the strength of the House and thereby getting a majority in it. The Congress-JD (S) coalition government fell and the Yediyurappa-led BJP regained power.
|8||Haryana (2019)||In the Assembly elections, the incumbent BJP government led by Manohar Lal Khattar lost its majority, getting 40 seats in the 90-member House. It lured the new Jananayak Janata Party into a post-poll tie-up even though JJP had severely attacked the BJP in its election campaign. JJP leader Dushyant Chautala was made deputy chief minister and BJP was back in power.|
|9||Maharashtra (failed attempt) (2019)||The ruling BJP-Shiv Sena won a majority in the Assembly elections but the two fell apart on who would get the chief ministership. After weeks of intrigues, an alliance between Sena, Congress and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) was hammered out on November 22 night. To sabotage this, early next morning, BJP coaxed Ajit Pawar of NCP to quit the Opposition alliance and join with BJP, supposedly with 54 MLAs. In a secretive ceremony, Governor BS Koshyari (former BJP chief minister of Uttarakhand) swore in the two member government. Within hours, this government had fallen because there was nobody with Ajit Pawar. He went back to NCP, and a new government led by Uddhav Thakeray of Shiv Sena was sworn in.|
|10||Madhya Pradesh (2020)||A segment of Congress MLAs was wooed away, reducing the effective strength of the Assembly after which BJP govt. was sworn in. The breakaway Congress leader, Jyotiraditya Scindia was awarded a Rajya Sabha seat and a ministership in the Modi government.|
|11||Rajasthan (2020)||A failed attempt to dislodge the Ashok Gehlot led Congress government like in Karnataka and MP|