Mini-dictators might not have dared if it weren’t for the atmosphere created nationally.
The world may be flat or round, but it is a shrinking space for democrats and democracies. The recent prominence of the far-right in Western and Eastern Europe, the Islamist hold in long-secular Turkey; the spike in English chauvinist nationalism now making Brexit a near certainty; in India the demonstrated indifference to the spirit of democracy 70 years after the adoption of a democratic Constitution; and the election as President in the US of Donald John Trump who appears to cock-a-snook at the fundamentals of democracy with every tweet he sends out, may well boost anti-democracy sentiments around the world.
This is where lies the importance of the proceedings underway in the United States to impeach President Trump, regardless of whether the move succeeds or fails. But make no mistake. The powerful case made out in the US Senate on Wednesday for the President’s impeachment serves as a reassurance that it is possible to speak truth to power in the face of the severest constraints. It would have been heard with great care by democrats and their opponents in all nations.
President Trump made the almost boastful remark at the World Economic Forum in Davos (Switzerland) that it is his government, which had all the documents (while its opponents had none), meaning the data to nail him would be denied to those who sought his ouster from office. This is the typical high-handed approach of anti-democrats. In all countries where democracy is being sought to be eclipsed, variants of this theme are being dished out by populists who fooled the people and won office by promising to remove corruption, raise standards of living and serve the people selflessly.
India is no exception to this phenomenon, and India is no exception either to the decline in every metric of prosperity, probity and public satisfaction. Ideologies filled with nativist passion generate hate in society as we can now amply see in this country; they are bankrupt on ideas about raising output, productivity, employment and societal security. Is it any surprise that this year we have invited to be the chief guest for the Republic Day, Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who is seen as a Trump for the Tropics. That is the sort of friendship our leaders like.
Such is the present climate in the country that the chief minister of UP, supposedly a Hindu monk, can declare that any protester against the CAA who speaks of “azadi” or freedom — a cry now frequently heard in the context of “azadi” from hunger or communal politics — will be booked for sedition. It is this climate which recently emboldened the West Bengal president of BJP to gloat that CAA protesters “were shot like dogs” in UP, Delhi and Karnataka — all states in which his party calls the shots or directs the police.
Mini-dictators might not have dared if it weren’t for the atmosphere created nationally. The impeachment proceedings in the US raise the hope that anti-democrats can be challenged with vigour.