AA Edit | It’s time to introspect on democracy in India

The Asian Age.

Opinion, Edit

Political vendetta cannot be an excuse or defence against massive, institutionalised corruption

Delhi Police personnel escort Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia form Rajghat ahead of his questioning by CBI in the liquor policy case, in New Delhi. (PTI Photo/Manvender Vashist Lav)

Some of most important regional and opposition leaders from different states and parties took to stating their grievances and allegations against the BJP-led Central government in an epistolary format, even as Rahul Gandhi, the leader from Congress, was expressing the same sentiment and assessment of India’s democracy, in a J’Accuse mode at exclusive tete-a-tete in elite Oxbridge circles.

The sum and substance of all of it was pretty much a repeat of the opposition’s charge against the Narendra Modi government from the beginning — that it does not respect democracy and can resort to any means, including misusing agencies and institutions to crush voices of dissent, especially the opposition.

The leaders had the immediate provocation of the arrest of Manish Sisodia, the deputy CM of Delhi, and senior AAP leader, in the Delhi liquor scam, to which they referred, but also highlighted the larger danger to democracy and a relentless attack on the opposition from 2014.

Interestingly, the Congress party did not join in to sign the letter, but others including Chief Ministers K. Chandrashekar Rao and Mamata Banerjee, besides obviously the two AAP CMs, Arvind Kejriwal and Bhagwant Mann, joined to address PM Modi by asking — “We hope you would agree that India is still a democratic country. The blatant misuse of central agencies against the members of the opposition appears to suggest that we have transitioned from being a democracy to an autocracy.”

“After a long witch-hunt, Sisodia was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation without a shred of evidence against him,” the letter, which was also signed by former CMs Farooq Abdullah, Sharad Pawar, Uddav Thackeray and Akhilesh Yadav, besides and Bihar Deputy CM Tejashwi Yadav, further said.

Ironically, and tragically, most of the charges made by these leaders have been against them in the states, where criticism of ruling party leaders carries stern retaliation, and the state opposition parties face the same systemic attacks on them, including massive luring of leaders and elected members, and misuse of agencies available to state governments.

There is, of course, no democracy without an opposition; and while the ruling party may do a lot to weaken or defeat it, the government cannot and should not participate in such an endeavour; nor any of its agencies misused. Equally significantly, political vendetta cannot be an excuse or defence against massive, institutionalised corruption. Let each one of these state leaders also check how terribly guilty they are of the same attack on democracy.

The core point raised by the letter is significant and must be discussed, debated and the government must consider it seriously. The agencies too must introspect. It might be no consolation at a latter day moment of democracy’s demise that everyone contributed to its downfall — because if it could be saved by certain actions, certain agencies and certain people, their silence and evasion will prove too expensive.