Mainstream Weekly

Home > 2023 > Rahul, a hero in the fight against Modi’s communal politics | Radhakanta (...)

Mainstream, VOL 61 No 18, 19, April 29 & May 6, 2023 (Double issue)

Rahul, a hero in the fight against Modi’s communal politics | Radhakanta Barik

Saturday 29 April 2023, by Radhakanta Barik


Mahatma Gandhi had an imagination — where he finds the transformation of a society into a modern society. Jawaharlal Nehru and other national leaders started carrying that imagination forward. They articulated their imagination through a progressive constitution of free India, drafted by Ambedkar. A constitutional democracy worked out a political project of creating a modern society.
In a country where political leadership is a matter of inheritance, as Nehru’s heir, Rahul Gandhi, as a leader of a modern society has to fight maverick politicians out to destroy the secular fabric of Indian society that has emerged over the last one century because of the universal adoption of constitutional democracy by the average ‘citizen’ of this subcontinent.   

POST-COLONIAL INDIA inherited a hierarchical society, headed by the landlords, be they Hindu or Muslim. The constitutional state transformed this hierarchical (caste-based and land-ownership-based) society into many societies. Abolition of landlordism removed the leaders of the hierarchical social order. Implementation of land reforms shaped a new society, creating steps towards a modern state. A modern state cannot work in a traditional society. The grand project got implemented with the help of a political leadership, led by Nehru and supported by thousands of civil servants and political workers. Here, the imagination is, the state is the agent of transformation.

Nehru remains the epic person constructing a modern society and economy in an India still steeped in tradition. He gave foundation to political democracy where the contract between the people of India and the state got reinforced. The three pillars of democracy based on equality, liberty and justice remain the cornerstone of political order still in this country. Nehru’s was a great experiment to create public institutions based on these principles. The state is supposed to work as a ‘secular’ one, which provides the philosophical underlining of our ‘modern’ state. It is expected to be pluralistic and federal in respecting the diversity and cultural identities that comprise the nation called India. The 50-year-old Rahul Gandhi represents this diversity and cultural identity.

Nehru accepted planned development where the Planning Commission played an important role in allocating resources in various sectors and to the States that comprise India. This concept of planned development is reflected in the state control of the capital goods sector and commitment to economic growth in a mixed economy. State and private sector both contributed to the 80 years of growth. During the liberalisation phase, the Indian economy did not ignore the hand of the Planning Commission.

Indian economy created the infrastructure for sustaining democracy. Common schools set the foundation for a secular democracy. Breaking of the ritualistic caste hierarchy into four societies can create a playground where these societies can play with each other competitively to enhance democracy. Free and independent press gets guaranteed. Ideas turn into debating ones among friends and colleagues. Coffee houses become hot beds of debates. Public libraries are places of learning. All these are required for strengthening democracy. All these create vibrancy in the democracy that India is known for. Parliament turns into a creative debating place where both ruling and opposition play role in generating ideas. Rahul Gandhi is today at the helm of the group attempting to defend this structure of discussion and debate.

 Big public sector industrial and economical organisations, combined with big educational public institutions, disoriented a traditional society. Today, instead of top down ladders, Indian society looks much more flattened out with an admix of caste, religious community and economic class, where four fractions of societies have come into existence. High castes, Backward castes, Most-backward castes and Dalits and tribals form these broad categories. Here Hindu society (upper caste) has interspersed with the Muslim society and lower-caste societies.

 In class terms, on the top sit the capitalist class, allowed to use their interpretable activities to generate wealth. The middle class has emerging from schools, colleges and technical institutions built by a modern state. To run the economy, they played a creative role, with the support of working class. India has a great working class — global high wage islands have turned those who are asset-less, into people with assets. Nine out of ten per cent of people with assets are working class, urbanisation has allowed the rise and existence of a powerful working class, which includes the powerful bureaucracy in government as well as the private sector.

This model worked with a rational leadership, based on adventurous ideas based on reason. All the societies struggle to shape themselves and push themselves to go ahead, through reservation policies to accommodate Dalit castes and communities. Today, the elite in India do not belong to just one high caste, they are a part of the more broad-based social order where backwards and Dalits and tribals all jostle for their space. However, the national economy has entered a neo-liberal phase where the state has started withdrawing from economic activities. The only voice of protest in parliament in the last few years, has been Rahul Gandhi’s as an elected leader. Rahul’s disqualification from parliament is, thus, being seen as yet another attempt by the Modi government to silence Rahul.

At the turn of the century, the capitalist class began eyeing India’s highly successful public sector. Tension among four societies took a violent turn. This is the time when a regional, parochial and communal leadership came up, with Narendra Modi as leader. He confronted the modern state in a casual manner and supported the disgruntled ‘high-caste’ and the hungry capitalist class. His method was to communalise politics and create an imaginary enemy like the Muslims as the rival society. Communal politics affected the economic and industrial growth which stagnated the economy and created huge unemployment. Modi allowed the capitalist class from his home State Gujarat to grab juicy government projects, build airports, ports and other infrastructure and buy the PSUs. This has caused rift even among the capitalists as only a few like the Ambanis and Adanis acquired disproportionate amount of wealth. The opposition has so far been led by Rahul Gandhi, the great-grandson of the same Nehru who industrialised India and piloted policies that fostered public institutions.

Coming of Hindutva politics under the leadership of Modi creates a break in the political tradition of modern India, which threatens its political culture. Core values of neutrality and non-partisan behaviour of the administrative elite and judicial elite are threatened under the present partisan system of governance advocated by Modi. Hundreds of retired civil servants have raised the issue of mis- governance under the Modi dispensation and bypassing the Rule of Law. They have written letters to the President of India exposing the wrong administrative policies pursued by the Modi government. Instead of correcting the path of public administration, Modi has threatened these civil servants by amending the Pension Act, to prevent them writing on administrative failures. Civil servants, however, have not been silenced as pension is their right.

We have to understand the role of Rahul Gandhi in the context of all these circumstances created by the Modi government. For the last ten years Rahul has remained at the forefront to fight against the injustices and wrong policies of the Modi government. The Congress Party, for the first time, remains without power at the Centre for an entire decade. This is a challenge for the Congress Party. However, it is not a challenge just for the Congress but the entire opposition and anyone who believes in democracy and development.

When Modi came to power in May 2014, he and his right-wing coterie did not imagine a pandemic situation. Millions lost their jobs in the cities and had to return to their villages during two years of Covid 19. Covid brought a challenge to Modi’s free-trade politics. Even immunisation became a challenge for the laissez-faire state under the Modi regime. Industries closed, mostly because of lack of support from the government and due to unplanned lock-downs and inability to retain labour. Rahul Gandhi raised the issue of compensation for workers who became unemployed and sought a financial package for the small-scale industries which employs the maximum number of unskilled workers. The government refused to do help the common people and small industries, at the same time it gave massive financial concession to the big industries. This discriminatory policy was lambasted also by leading economists and thinkers of India living here or abroad. This made the Prime Minister attack leading economists by saying they were the Harvard vs Hard Work lot.

Rahul Gandhi has started learning the art of being in the opposition faster than many other political leaders. In a multi-cultural and multi religious society, secularism is the precondition for sustaining democracy. Rule of Law is very critical for providing governance to people. Services need to be delivered to each citizen without questioning his or her religion.

Modi’s politics has also eroded the independence of press and it is no longer the fourth pillar of democracy. Most of these media houses are controlled by some Industrial houses who are actively supporting the government. Rahul Gandhi has dared to point this out in various public fora abroad.

Many public institutions, which earlier kept the balance between the state and democracy have become weak due to government action. The best example is the Comptroller and Auditor General’s office which is supposed to make the government accountable for all expenditures, on the basis of approved policies and budgetary allocations made by the parliament. This is not happening now and the CAG is a caged institution, much like the Central Bureau of Investigation. The CBI, supposed to be an independent investigating agency, has lost its autonomy under the present government and is being used to curb opposition, like the Aam Admi Party. The Enforcement Directorate is supposed to inquire into the Money laundering activities. Today both these organisations are haunting the top leaders of the opposition and opposition institutions.

The most important public institution in the country is the effective and independent judiciary, which has pandered to the Modi government on many an occasion. From Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi to Justice Bobde have turned out to be great supporters of the present government which affected the independence of the court. Most of the constitutional cases (a lot of them public interest litigations) like the one against Demonitisation to the one seeing stay on repeal of Art 370 in J and K were kept pending or ignored for long. Some of the important corruption cases like Rafale purchase did not get any response. The same thing happened to the Election Bond case which censures the method of funding of political parties.

The Rafale issue made Rahul Gandhi popular and brought him out as an effective spokesperson for public interest. It is a defence deal prepared by the UPA government. In practice the deal needed to be executed by Modi government. But it was dropped when Modi went to France, and a new purchase agreement for fighter jets was drawn up. Instead of HAL, India’s well-known and tried and tested fighter plane maker, a PSU, a private Anil Ambani company that had never made planes became the Indian partner for the Rafale acquisition. This raised many eyebrows. The case went to Supreme Court and the investigation was supposed to be done by the CBI but in a Delhi Police (under Central govt) coup, the CBI chief himself was removed. The CAG prepared a document which did not contain the cost and pricing of these fighter planes. All these activities took place in a hush-hush manner. Rahul Gandhi’s words in and outside parliament were harsh, ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’.

Abrogation of Art 370: This was a critical issue regarding the nature of Indian federalism. In one night, the Modi government decided to abrogate Art 370 and divided the State into three parts. It created two central ruled regions and a union territory. This was a part of the RSS agenda without going through the courts.

Like in many other countries in the world, Covid-19 crippled India’s economy and society It was so mismanaged that even in the second phase, a large number of deaths took place and bodies were found burnt on the river beds in the absence of sanitary disposal facilities. This created a panic situation. Rahul Gandhi had at the time called for immunisation to be done by the state not by private players.

 Rahul Gandhi, invited to speak at Cambridge University on ‘the challenges’ to Indian democracy, happened to spotlight the forces working against democracy. As a leader of the opposition, he said, under the Modi regime, Press freedom and constitutional rights of the average citizen have been eroded. The politics of hatred has created fear in the minds of India’s biggest minority community. The Modi government wanted an apology from Rahul Gandhi but Rahul Gandhi stuck to his words and has as such forfeited his parliamentary presence.

Ashutosh Varshney says the Indian democracy has declined to just an electoral democracy although a Swedish political agency brand it as an ‘electoral autocracy’. He does a contextual analysis of the Indian democracy, where minority rights are threatened with the spiraling of cases like lynching, attacks on Muslims by cow vigilantes, love Jihad and the latest, bulldozing the houses of Muslims. All these prove that Indian democracy is unable to protect the constitutional rights of minorities. (The Indian Express, April, 2023)

An American corporate investigation agency called Hindenburg, in the beginning of 2023, took up the issue of manipulation of Adani company shares by off-shore entities and their report exposed this fraud online. This created panic in the share market and resulted in falling of share value of Adani stocks. Furthermore, it was revealed that many public sector companies like LIC and SBI have invested in these companies which affect public interest. This issue turned into a national issue which brought all opposition parties together to demand the constitution of a Parliamentary Committee to look into the company, but Modi government refused to do this.

In the meantime, very conveniently, and at an opportune moment, Rahul Gandhi has been convicted in a case filed by a BJP MLA, protesting Rahul’s 2019 election speech. The local court of Surat convicted him. On the same day, parliament created history by removing Rahul Gandhi’s membership from the Lok Sabha. Legal experts say, the case against Rahul Gandhi cannot stand (P Chindambaram, The IndianExpress, April 2023).

Rahul Gandhi went on a walkathon for six months, from Kanyakumari to Kashmir, which too brought him huge public support last year. This angered the Modi government, which had earlier crafted an image of Rahul as ‘Pappu’, a derogatory word in Hindi. The yatra reimagined Rahul as a fighter for public cause. The best political commenter says that Rahul’s enlarged image has put Modi down in politics (Suhas Palshikar in an interview with Karan Thapar for The Wire). As Palshikar puts it, ‘the most devastating development that is unfolding and more directly connects to PM Modi, relates to the Hindenburg report on an Indian corporate house. Despite his eloquent silence, Modi will be unable to shirk this away. The government cannot disown that corporate nor can it defend it. While the government may adopt subterfuge, abuse the judicial process to deflect the issues and might as well rescue itself by not responding to criticisms and questions by hiding behind the presiding officers and their decisions to expunge core questions [in parliament] on the Adani affair, The PM has for the first time been allowed to be seen as vulnerable’ (The Indian Express, 17 February 2023. It is in the context of Rahul Gandhi’s speech in Parliament getting expunged from the records.)

Politics in the subcontinent is hotting up as the 2024 general elections draw near. Most of the opposition parties have started supporting Rahul Gandhi’s candidature for Prime Ministership. This has created a new situation for Modi and friends who wanted to bully the opposition leaders, with the help of CBI and ED, but have been so far unsuccessful in preventing the opposition from uniting. The way politics is taking shape after 2019 shows Modi’s authoritarianism. However, it is the economic slide-down, combined with a high rate of inflation and falling of the consumption level that makes the situation precarious for the Modi government. The attacks on Rahul Gandhi have pushed the middle class away from Modi, which Modi is aware of. It is the negative politics of the Modi government which is creating rift among Modi fans. In Mahabharata, the Kauravas refused to pay Krishna just five villages to avoid war. Similar is the case with the Modi government. India knows that Rahul Gandhi is emerging as a leader on his own merit not as the son of Sonia Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi or grandson of Indira Gandhi or the great-grandson of Nehru who began the epic journey of building a modern secular India.

Edited by Papri Sri Raman

ISSN (Mainstream Online) : 2582-7316 | Privacy Policy|
Notice: Mainstream Weekly appears online only.