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Mainstream Weekly, VOL LVI No 15 New Delhi March 31, 2018

Threat to Constitutional Structure

Saturday 31 March 2018, by Nikhil Chakravartty

From N.C.’s Writings

A situation of unprecedented confusion synchronising with the onset of serious crisis for the entire constitutional structure of the Indian state presents before the nation today.

On the one side is the outright challenge of the BJP, the most aggressive of political parties, threatening to defy the entire administration in a manner never seen before; and on the other, the ruling party at the Centre presents a picture of utter disunity with factions not only squabbling but at times taking recourse to physical violence to settle scores with each other. The prospect of a total breakdown of the system is no longer a matter of mere academic disputations but frighteningly an emerging reality. One wonders whether this premonition bothers those at the helm of public affairs in our country today.

With the imposition of the ban on the mammoth protest rally of 15 lakhs that the BJP leadership has threatened to stage in the Capital on February 25, it is clear that the overwhelming mass of public opinion in the country wants that such a confrontation should be avoided in view of the tense communal situation prevailing in many parts of North India. Most of the political parties outside the ruling Congress have disfavoured the imposition of the executive ban as such—sensitive as they are to the imperative of upholding civil liberties parti-cularly in troubled times such as these—but at the same time have openly warned against such a massive rally that may touch off an explosion of communal violence which nobody—neither the BJP nor the government—would be in a position to control. In fact, such an assurance from the BJP has largely lost its validity after what happened on December 6 when the Babri Masjid was demolished in the face of the BJP Government’s assurance to protect it.

Defying all appeals for forbearance, even by those usually friendly to it, the BJP leadership has taken up the ban itself as a challenge, and has unleashed a campaign of such venom that it openly undermines its claims to be a responsible party wedded to constitutional politics. A noteworthy feature of this latest round of BJP campaign is the open diatribe against the minority community, with its more aggressive supporters openly questioning if tolerance has at all been an axiom of Hindu faith. In other words, in contrast to the former style of BJP campaigning, which tried to project Hindutva as a way of life in which tolerance towards other communities was constantly claimed, the latest model of the BJP Raj promises no such approach of tolerance towards the non-Hindu minority communities.

The contours of the Hindutva that one can discern from the latest phase of propaganda by different members of the Sangh Parivar are thus one of an aggressive, bigoted approach. The opening that Vajpayee’s reasoned stand offered on the morrow of the demolition of the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya on December 6, seems to have been abandoned by the Sangh Parivar, whose present stand hardly takes into account the need for the BJP to abjure an aggressive Hindu communal posture.

In this context, one has to note that Advani during his recent visit to Bombay made no effort at demarcating the BJP from the Shiv Sena with its avowed campaign for calculated and systematic pogrom of the Muslim community. One recalls the suicidal phase of Akali politics when even its moderate leaders did not care to demarcate themselves from the militants with the result that today they have been reduced to the status of prisoners of the militant elements. Such a retreat from the moderate constitutional line can hardly enhance the position of the BJP in the national scene.

With all its lampooning of what it calls “pseudo-secularism” and of its opponents’ bid to capture the Muslim vote-bank, it is time for the BJP leadership to understand that any party aspiring to govern this country has to convince a good section of the minority community about its serious concern for its life and living as citizens of this country. This is precisely what in the eyes of the public demarcates Gandhiji’s Ram Rajya from the prevailing Ram cult of the militant battalions of the Sangh Parivar.

Here is the real test for the BJP leadership in its bid to be the future rulers of this republic. The controversy over the proposed February 25 rally has to be judged against this background, and not as a mere law-and-order issue. In dealing with this forbidding phenomenon of aggressive communalism, political parties ranged against it have to make a common cause in defence of constitutional politics of the parlia-mentary pattern. Inevitably, the task of forging such a common stand falls on the largest among the political parties, which happens to be the Congress party.

As the ruling party without majority support in Parliament, the Congress has all the more the responsibility of conducting itself as a unified political formation which would not permit factional politics to debilitate its strength and influence before the public. What is amazing is that at the very moment when unity is the need of the hour, the Congress party has succeeded in emerging as a house divided against itself.

(Mainstream, February 20, 1993)

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