Resistance in the republic of fear

Columnist  | Anand K Sahay

Opinion, Oped

We seem to be getting back to the time when the RSS-BJP used to plead with the country not to practise “political untouchability” against it.

The manner in which the BJP has been run by the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo, the party has slowly begun to isolate itself from other political parties, including its own alliance partners. (Photo: PTI)

Unlike any other government that preceded it, the Narendra Modi regime has had the temerity to treat India as a plaything, and the country is resisting. This is why Modi raj is likely to go out in a dust-haze of infamy. After the Gujarat election late last year, signs of the downfall have been gathering force.

The tricks of the plutocracy now appear to work less and less. In the face of every odd, Ahmad Patel’s election to the Rajya Sabha before the Gujarat Assembly polls had exposed the limits of money power summoned by the devious. This was confirmed in the recent Karnataka state election when not a single Congress or JD(S) MLA switched sides. The lotus wilted that day.

Karnataka’s BJP leader had asked the governor for seven days to prove his strength in the House, but the governor gave him 15. The hand of the regime was etched large on the blatant and disgraceful plan to manipulate, or the governor — an old faithful from Gujarat — wouldn’t have dared. The Supreme Court convened at 2 am to nip the mischief in the bud.

The manner in which the BJP has been run by the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo, the party has slowly begun to isolate itself from other political parties, including its own alliance partners. Voters too seem to be giving it the cold shoulder. The BJP’s voting percentages are dropping. Soon only a tight knot of the RSS faithful is likely to remain, not much else.

We seem to be getting back to the time when the RSS-BJP used to plead with the country not to practise “political untouchability” against it. People gave them more than one chance to demonstrate that the BJP was “a party with a difference”, as it loudly claimed.

Since the Atal Behari Vajpayee government had many stakeholders (it was a coalition of as many as 24 parties at one stage), the people gave Mr Modi a clear majority of his own in Parliament so that he may give governance a good shot, but are ruing their mistake.

Now the main worry of the people seems to be how best to get the monkey off their back, and they are looking for direct and open political ways to achieve this end. They are making the democratic Opposition move in the direction of joint action against the regime.

It is a shame how things have gone on PM Modi’s watch. In order to entice the people so that they may elect him as leader with adequate strength in Parliament, the RSS’ chosen man promised stability and development for all. What he has delivered is the opposite.

It is no exaggeration to suggest that the present government — unlike any in the past — has unleashed anarchy. If the government had gone into the hands of the Naxalite bands, it is unlikely that greater chaos may have prevailed.

The Modi government has promoted social disorder and enmity among sections of Indians through its attitude of malign indifference when resort to violence has been taken by roaming gangs of Mr Modi’s and Mr Shah’s ideological kind in various parts of the country, especially where their party is either in power or in a situation of influence.

Indeed, on social media the PM has been reported to “follow” those with criminal intent who in the name of religion have plotted murder, and has not heeded calls to “unfollow” these unsavoury types. Armies of thousands of Hindutva thugs have been unleashed on social media in controlled fashion in order to intimidate critics of the regime, among them politicians and journalists.

The well-known television news anchor Ravish Kumar, in his newly-published book, The Free Voice, gives us a taste of what he has been through with thousands of so-called trolls choking his phone with threats to him and his family. The mafia tracks him. They let him know they know the routes he takes to work and tell him what they plan to do to him. They speak Hindutva language and spell out Hindutva thoughts. The police are hesitant to act.

The impression is that there can be no restraint on the thugs since they have the implied protection of those who matter. “The socialisation of fear is complete. To be afraid is to be civilised in this New Democracy,” writes Mr Kumar.

What Prime Minister in a modern democracy, which seeks to leave its impression on the world stage, will accuse his predecessor, a highly respected man, besides a former vice-president of the country and a former Army Chief, of plotting with an unfriendly neighbouring country to have him defeated in an election? Mr Modi has done just that.

The PM disgraced his office when he said such unworthy things to the Gujarat electorate last year. This underlined his unfitness for the job. More, it subliminally appeared to sanction violence against the so-called plotters. With Mr Modi and Mr Shah campaigning in Gujarat with no holds barred, the BJP managed to scrape through. But what if it had lost? Would former PM Manmohan Singh and senior members of his party been made targets of hoodlum violence? This is not an idle question in the republic of fear.

Even in the recent Karnataka election, Mr Modi said while campaigning, “Listen with your ears open, you Congressmen! I urge you to control your tongue. It is Modi you are dealing with. Watch your words or you may have to pay a heavy price.” This is a free translation in civilised English. In the original Hindi, this snatch of a speech by the PM while campaigning sounded like a dark threat of a kind heard in B-grade gangster films. The meek Dr Singh was disturbed enough to urge President Ram Nath Kovind to restrain his Prime Minister.

When such a voice is unleashed from the highest level against the largest Opposition party in Parliament, the signal to storm-troopers is that they may do anything they like to strike fear in political opponents. But the people also hear. In the end, it is they who will return the compliments and settle the score.

In his landmark book, Behemoth (1942), Franz Neumann wrote that violence was “the very basis upon which the (Nazi) society rests”. He called violence “the rational instrument of political power” of the fascists, and noted that it was “a technique of dominating the masses from above that served to establish totalitarian control over German society”.

In just under four weeks of Hitler being appointed the German Chancellor by President Paul von Hindenburg, the fascists burnt down the German Parliament on February 27, 1933 and blamed the Communists. Within weeks, the socialists and the Communists were dealt with one by one as they continued to bicker and were removed from Parliament and eventually banned, hounded and killed. Fortunately, in India, the Opposition is trying to come together to challenge the strong-arm tacticians.

In an article written in 2000 for a current affairs journal, Dr Subramanian Swamy — then president of Janata Party — spoke discerningly of three prongs of a takeover bid of the RSS. The first two were demonising of those who challenge and refuse to be co-opted, and degrading the institutions of democracy so that people may lose faith in them (and become resigned to the actions of the storm-troopers later). We have witnessed the Modi government unleash the CBI, Enforcement Directorate and the taxman on the Opposition. We have also seen what’s happened to the RBI, Supreme Court and Parliament (where the unheard of happened when a no-confidence motion was not permitted to be moved).

The third prong is the open subversion of the Constitution. Fortunately, we are not there yet. People power is strong enough to stop the disrupters of democracy.