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Mainstream, VOL LVII No 51 New Delhi December 7, 2019

BJP Is Not India

Sunday 8 December 2019, by Barun Das Gupta

Just five years in power have made the BJP so arrogant, so intolerant and so haughty! These five years have inflated its oversized collective ego so much that it has started equating itself with India, the Indian nation, the Indian people. Any criticism of the BJP is, ipso facto, an anti-national act, an act of treason. It discovers a mare’s nest in every bush.

The recent observation of Rahul Bajaj, the Chairman of the Bajaj Group of Industries, that there is an “atmosphere of fear” prevailing in the country and that people were “afraid to criticise the government” because they do not have the confidence that the government will appreciate any criticism, has raised Cain in saffron circles. It has given the party a new casus belli to attack India’s corporate sector—barring, of course, its friends like Ambani, Adani, etc..

Neither the Prime Minister nor his alter ego, the Home Minister, has refuted Bajaj’s charge themselves. Perhaps they thought that replying to Bajaj would be infra dig for them. They set their minions to do the job, to unleash a verbal fusillade against the critics. Rahul Bajaj was not alone. Another industrialist, Biocon MD Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, has also spoken in the same vein that the government does not want to hear criticism.

BJP loudmouths are accusing Bajaj and others like him of being pro-Congress. As the BJP has nothing positive to show in its five-year rule, it can only pass on the blame of their incompetence to the Congress, as if the Congress were the radix malorum or the root of all evils. Congress leaders are being systematically hounded, arrested and put in prison, to be kept detained as long as possible. Former Finance Minister P. Chidambaram has passed well over 100 days. He has lost 13 kg of weight. On each day of hearing, the CBI asks for extension of his detention, claiming that he may fly out of the country or influence witnesses. Former Karnataka Chief Ministers Siddaramaiah and H. D. Kumaraswamy have been charged with— hold your breath—sedition! Another Congress heavyweight of Karnataka, D.K. Shivkumar, has also been booked.

Bajaj and Kiran Mazumdar were only voicing the fear that has gripped the people so much that they are fearful of articulating their fears in public, fearing swift reprisal of the state. The government cannot face the stark reality that the economy is collapsing. It is resorting to empty rhetoric and laughable claims. A lesser luminary of the party, Nishikant Dubey, has made an astounding statement in Parliament. He has said that Gross Domestic Product or GDP “has no relevance and should not be treated as Bible, Ramayan and Mahabharat”. He certainly deserves to be made India’s Finance Minister!

As the GDP falls, industrial production falls, interest on bank deposits falls, rate of employment generation falls, exports fall, real wages fall, savings fall, investments fall and the economy hurtles to a crash, public discontent rises. The only way the government finds to face it is to suppress it by creating an atmosphere of pervasive fear. This is the obverse of the coin. The reverse is a sickening, obsequious eulogising of Narendra Modi. In a debate with the young CPI leader Kanhaiya Kumar, BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said: “Baap hain Modi, hamaare nahin, poore desh ke baap hai Modiji”. In the year of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi, who is called the Father of the Nation, the BJP has given this nation a new father!

But suppressing criticism and discontent has its concomitant risks. If you cannot give vent to your anger, the anger does not die, it is driven deep within and smoulders. Pressure builds up within the system which has no safety valve of releasing it. Ultimately, it endangers the system itself. The army of sycophants the Prime Minister has chosen to surround himself with will never tell him the truth, because they are mortally afraid of him. That, however, will not put off the day of reckoning for Modi and his cohorts. They can only resort to more and more repression but in the long run repression always proves to be counter-productive.

Eminent economists who wanted to render sound advice to him, have left him one by one. Raghuram Rajan, Urjit Patel, Biral Acharya, Modi’s own NITI Ayog Deputy Chairman Arvind Panagariya, Arvind Subramanian—have all left the NDA Government one by one. Another eminent economist and Nobel Laureate in Economics, Amartya Sen, was hounded out of the Nalanda University. The Modi Government does not want talent. It wants those who will always be His Master’s Voice.

Modi had an initial advantage—of a moribund and quiescent Opposition that was in no position to offer resistance. Fortunately, that situation has started changing. If the Opposition parties can unite and build up mass movements on the burning issues of the people right from now, there is every possibility of their being able to dislodge the BJP from power in 2024 and restore democracy in the country. Will they be able to rise to the occasion?

The author was a correspondent of The Hindu in Assam. He also worked in Patriot, Compass (Bengali), Mainstream. A veteran journalist, he comes from a Gandhian family and was intimately associated with the RCPI leader, Pannalal Das Gupta.

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