Threat to Democracy

The leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling dispensation have been claiming to be winning more than 400 seats in the forthcoming parliamentary elections of 2024. This is not based on any psephological analysis but purely propagated for political reasons. The BJP intends to change the Constitution for which a 2/3rd majority is needed.

The BJP has a twin-track strategy to undermine the democratic values, the values of equality of the Constitution. Its parent organisation RSS opposed the constitution right from the beginning. After the Indian Constitution came into being RSS's unofficial mouthpiece Organiser wrote, “…In Our Constitution, There Is No Mention of That Unique Constitutional Development in Ancient Bharat. To This Day His Laws As Enunciated In The Manusmriti Excite The Admiration Of The World And Elicit Spontaneous Obedience And Conformity. But To Our Constitutional Pundits That Means Nothing.”

When BJP came to power as NDA in 1998 one of the first things it did was to appoint a commission to review the Constitution. This Commission’s, (Venkatchaliah Commission), report could not be undertaken for implementation as there was a severe opposition to any tampering with the Constitution. From 2014, when BJP has been in power; times and over again it has used the preamble of the Constitution by deleting the words Secular and Socialist.

Before this when K Sudarshan became the Chief of RSS in 2000, he frankly stated that the Indian Constitution is based on Western values and should be replaced by one based on Indian holy books. “Sudarshan said the constitution was of no use for the people of the country as it was based on the Government of India Act of 1935, …We need not fight shy of altering the constitution completely,…"

Not too long ago, the Chief of PM’s economic advisory council, Dr Vivek Debroy had also called for a change of constitution in a lead article in Livemint on August 15, 2023. So voices of major stature from within the BJP organisation and state officials do keep raising such voices while officially the BJP or BJP Government makes the show of distancing itself from such utterances.

On another track; since BJP has been in power for the last decade, what has it done to the core values of the Indian Constitution: Democracy and equality? As far as democracy is concerned, all the pillars of a democratic state, Constitutional institutions ED, CBI, IT, and EC all are being controlled by the executive, and the executive itself is restricted to one person. The Judiciary at various levels has been weakened by various mechanisms. There are numerous examples of this; one such being the detention of Umar Khalid and refusal to hear his bail plea from the last three years.

Freedom of expression is down in the dumps. With the mainstream media under the belt of pro-government corporations, it is the Voice of Ruling Government which is broadcast through major TV channels and newspapers. The independent voices have limited space available to articulate their opinions. Freedom of Expression; the major pillar of a democratic society has gone for a toss.

Freedom of Religion has been declining with many International indices. ‘India as a country of particular concern,’ is the label for India as per the US freedom of religion watchdog. As per V-Dem India ranked 104 on the democracy Index, between Niger and Ivory Coast! This is what has happened during the last ten years, to practically denigrate democratic freedoms through executive actions leading to such a drastic fall in the democratic index.

Not long ago it was Lal Krishna Advani, who had said that India is living through an undeclared emergency. All the components of freedom have been stifled through the foot soldiers of Hindu nationalists apart from state officials, while the ruling Governments merrily look the other way around, a clear signal to these elements that this regime grants full impunity to violations of democratic rights of minorities and weaker sections of society.

India is joining the club of ‘Democracy suppressors’ like Pakistan or Sri Lanka. BJP is resorting to twin-track politics, aiming to change the Constitution on one hand and practically undermining it, on the other!

[Contributed by Ram Puniyani]

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Vol 56, No. 41, Apr 7 - 13, 2024