Saving the Constitution!

Prime minister narendra modi talked eloquently about the Constitution while observing the Constitution Day on November 26 in the central hall of parliament. It was actually a big joke. He was addressing mostly his party MPs as opposition members boycotted the event in protest against the Modi government’s systematic exercise to destroy constitutional norms. The Constitution was adopted by the Constituent Assembly and it came into force on January 26, 1950. Modi’s party—Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)—wants to replace it with a theocratic one to suit their ideological orientation scripted by RSS. Their constitution is likely to be modelled after Manusmriti. Everybody knows how he is obeying the constitution by amending the citizenship law. The notorious Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) has created a human catastrophe in Assam—a BJP-ruled state. Thousands of people are stateless living in concentration camps under sub-human conditions. Modi was at worst mocking at the Constitution by marking the Constitution Day which he introduced with a lot of fanfare in 1915. People these days are afraid to raise voices against curbing of rights, rather constitutional rights. Sedition Law is used, better to say misused, to silence voice of dissent. He runs a reign of terror in the name of combating terrorism. People in Kashmir and Assam are in a perennial state of fear psychosis as it was the case during Indira Gandhi’s emergency. Even a large number of human rights activists are behind bars because they criticise Modi’s autocratic rule. Nobody knows how many innocent people are languishing in jails for years without any trial. And thus Modi is ensuring constitutional rights to the citizens of India. As it was the occasion to celebrate the Constitution Ambedkar featured prominently in his speech. They have long been trying to sffronise Ambedkar with a view to creating a vote bank among Dalits. But Dalit bashing is part of their hidden agenda as their frontal organisations frequently resort to violence against Dalit boys and women. Just showering praises on Ambedkar won’t wash their politics of hatred against the Dalits and Muslims. Indian constitution guarantees equal rights for all but the Modis are hell bent to show the world that it is designed only for the elitist majority community. Dalit students are being continually harassed by the BJP’s students’ wing. They face humiliation day in and day out in institutions. They decide the dress code and food habit of people against the spirit of the constitution. The BJP-ruled state of Assam has recently issued an order banning sale of beef within 5 km of a temple. It is one way of ghettoising of the minority community. ‘Hitler who unleashed the biggest ever pogrom in history was a vegetarian’.

But mere walk-out or boycott is no answer to Modi’s autocratic rule. Opposition parties, including left parties are passive on-lookers in the Modi regime. They failed to utilise the huge anti-BJP political space created by the year-long farmers’ agitation. They just react to spontaneity while the Modis set the agenda.

Interestingly, at the same meet Modi slammed dynastic parties accusing them of pushing the country towards a crisis and subverting the constitution, with an apparent dig at the Congress and some regional parties, having electoral alliance with the Nehru dynastic party. He said such parties were present from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, taking no names but making his principal target clear. Congress people, however, didn’t try to defend themselves much against the hard reality, they just dismissed Modi’s allegation as diversionary tactics. They ‘sought to answer Modi’s attack on dynastic parties, suggesting obliquely that authoritarianism posed the real threat to democracy while the bogey of dynasty was being raised to divert people’s attention’.

For one thing dynastic culture in Indian parliamentary politics has come to stay. In a sense feudal traditions in politics continue unabated. Congress cannot get rid of it so long as the Gandhi clan is there, albeit because of family based leadership this party’s decline seems irreversible. As for regional satraps they treat the states as their exclusive fiefdoms, necessitating dynastic rule, all in the name of democracy and the Constitution. Outside parliament, BJP president J P Nadda by supporting his Prime Minister, accused the Congress and other opposition parties of “insulting Dr Ambedkar” and terming them anti-Dalit, without really substantiating his charges. When they talk of the Constitution they try to capitalise on Ambedkar in their own way. The ground reality tells a different story—the Modis have successfully undermined the Constitution and parliamentary democracy using brute majority in brazen disregard of established parliamentary principles and practices. So they have a right to observe the Constitution Day!

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Vol. 54, No. 24, Dec 12 - 18, 2021