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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 8 New Delhi February 9, 2019

Whirligig Politics

Sunday 10 February 2019, by SC


One had known for quite sometime that the 2019 Lok Sabha elections would witness a no-holds-barred campaign with PM Narendra Modi firmly resolved to stay on in power and the combined Opposition determined to oust him from the office he currently holds. The PM’s speech in the Lok Sabha and Congress President Rahul Gandhi’s address outside Parliament today provided ample testimony of that possibility. Observers anticipate not just that, but increasing prospects of sharp deterioration of the level of debates. Already some leaders from the Treasury Benches have fired the salvo to this effect while attacking TMC supremo and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee for her uncompromising struggle against Narendra Modi of late. One of them—a Union Minister—even called her “anarchist” thereby signalling a new low in today’s politics.

Meanwhile, Mamata herself has withdrawn her dharna in Kolkata over the tussle between the city’s Police Commissioner and the CBI after the Supreme Court’s ruling on the subject, but warned of similar action in the Capital in the coming days. The Kolkata events have resulted in varied reactions, with some publications (like The Times of India) castigating Mamata in no uncertain terms while simultaneously asserting that the “caged parrot”, an euphemism for the CBI, must be freed “in public interest” and “even in the executive’s own interest”, adding that the BJP needed to “introspect why parties across the spectrum have joined hands against it” and underscoring the fact that the “CBI’s enthusiasm in booking Opposition politicians is not matched by its ability to take high-profile cases to their logical conclusion”.

Incidentally, one positive development of late has been the VHP’s publicly stated decision to hold back its agitation through mass mobilisation for the construction of a Ram temple at Ayodhya for the next four months. That means that in all probability the scenario prior to the Lok Sabha polls would not experience any escalation of the Ram temple dispute that could threaten peace and communal harmony as had happened immediately following the demolition of the Babri Masjid at the end of 1992. That good sense has finally prevailed to await the Supreme Court’s decision in the matter is indeed a welcome sign. One fervently hopes there would be no change in the mentality of those desiring the temple at Ayodhya in the days ahead.

However, the ‘cow’ problem seems to act as a “great equaliser”, as The Indian Express has opined. In ten years (2007-2016) the BJP Government of Madhya Pradesh had booked 22 persons under the National Security Act for suspected cow slaughter. Since then the BJP has lost the State Assembly elections and currently there is a Congress Government in the State. But the Congress is pursuing the same policy as the BJP in the matter.

Reflecting on this development, which does illustrate the Congress’ ‘soft-Hindutva‘ approach and needs to be unequivocally deplored, the same newspaper makes a pertinent observation:

In seeking to electorally encash the cow, the Congress may fail to distinguish itself from its main opponent. And anyway, it must know that the cow is not an infallible investment. (Shivraj Singh) Chouhan had announced the establishment of a Cow Ministry days before the model code of conduct for the Assembly election kicked in, but it did not appear to help his prospects.

Are the Congress leaders, and party President Rahul Gandhi in particular, listening?

February 7 S.C.

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