Opposition Free India

It is an Elected Autocracy

Syed Ali Mujtaba

The arrest of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has given a a new spin to the general election of 2024. The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is managing the fall-out of this spin in a bid to convert democracy into electoral autocracy.

The United States has come out with the statement on Kejriwal's arrest saying, “it encourages a fair legal process" and is closely monitoring the recent arrest of the Delhi Chief Minister.

Last week, Sebastian Fischer, a spokesperson of the German Foreign Ministry said that the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister is “politically motivated".

While India has kept mum on the US comments, it has lashed out at the German reaction, risking its defense and economic ties with the powerful Western European nation.

At home, the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal, the Delhi Chief Minister has triggered a near-unanimous condemnation from all the opposition parties.

Akhilesh Yadav, leader of the Samajwadi Party has warned of a people’s “revolution” if Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues with his politics of vendetta.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has commented; “A scared dictator wants to create a dead democracy.”

Derek O’Brien, Trinamool Congress leader said; “How can we expect fair elections in India if sitting CMs and prominent opposition leaders are arrested weeks before the national election?”

Tamil Nadu, Chief Minister MK Stalin described the arrest of Delhi's Chief Minister as a “fascist” step.

 Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said the arrest was part of an “outright vicious and callous design to silence the opposition voices.”

Since the BJP government under the leadership of PM Modi came to power in 2014, 95 percent of the cases are taken up by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate against the politicians belonging to the opposition. This represents a rise of 60 percent for the CBI, and 54 percent for the ED, from the days of the previous Congress-led government under Manmohan Singh that ruled India from 2004 to 2014.

Meanwhile, India has slipped in the international democratic indexes under Modi's rule after arrests and raids of the opposition leaders, the critics, and the journalists.

In truth, the Modi government uses the Enforcement Directorate, the CBI, the Election Commission, and the Judiciary to achieve its nefarious ends.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has complained that the party is unable to continue the political campaigning because all its bank accounts have been frozen in connection with the ongoing tax disputes.

Last month, the agency arrested Hemant Soren, the Chief Minister of Jharkhand, on charges of corruption. There have been similar arrests after raids on the houses and properties of the opposition leaders like the TMC leader Mahua Moitra, BRS MLC K Kavitha Rao, and DMK Minister K Ponmudi. These cases point to the fact that the BJP government is going all out to silence the opposition.

The arrest of Arvind  Kejriwal is also seen as an attempt to crush the Aam Aadmi Party, a democratic political party that rose in the shadow of the BJP in 2014 and now rules two states; Delhi and Punjab, in opposition to the BJP.

Now, with the arrest of Arvind Kejriwal almost the entire top leadership of the Aam Aadmi party is behind bars. Former Deputy Chief Minister, Manish Sisodia, and former ministers Satyendar Jain and Sanjay Singh are all in prison. This is a grim reality of India, how democracy is subverted in the largest democracy in the world.

So far the Modi government has arrested two Chief Ministers, Delhi and Jharkhand, and many opposition leaders and possibly may arrest many more who do not endorse his style of governance. This style of Modi rule has silenced the opposition as they remain in perpetual fear and detest from raising any voice of dissent fearing they may be may also be guillotined.

The witch-hunt of opposition leaders is an attempt to crush any alternative rule to the Modi administration in India. This is unbecoming of democracy where democratically elected leaders are being harassed and arrested under one pretext or another.

 Call it “dirty politics” or any other name foisting ‘bogus cases’ on the opposition leaders is a fact and this is a new normal in Indian politics.

The arrest of Arvind Kejriwal also demonstrates the desperation of the BJP government as it is jockeying for power for the third time. Some analysts believe that the Modi government is positioning itself to authoritarian rule by closing in on Kejriwal and other opposition leaders. It’s a signal that the 2024 election will be undemocratic and farcical by all means.

There is no denying the fact that the BJP government is consolidating its power through authoritarian rule using the enforcement directorate, the CBI, and the election commission all to perpetuate its high-handed style of rule.

This style of governance has made some opposition leaders warn that the 2024 election will not be a free and fair exercise and there will be malpractices at the voting and counting stages. Money matters in elections. So does muscle power. And BJP has both of them in abundance.

All points to the fact that the 2024 Poll will be a one-sided affair due to the uneven playing field. Its results are taken for granted in favour of the continuation of the Modi rule.

The latest World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders ranks India below Afghanistan and Libya; in a list of 180 countries, India comes in at 161st place. Under Modi’s electoral autocracy, a single critical piece of reporting is sufficient to warrant the taxman’s–or the policeman’s–knock on the door.

Modi is a product of the ideology of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh(RSS) which has never accepted the Nehruvian idea of India, has challenged its basic premise, and termed the constitution a replica of the Western thought process in which nothing is Indian.

This General Election of 2024 could bring changes like no other in India. Should the ruling BJP return to power with a massive mandate, it is expected to change the Indian Constitution. The democratic space for opposition will go on forever. Europe knows what fascism is and it is the turn of Indians to witness what it means in real life.

[Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba2007@]

Back to Home Page

Vol 56, No. 43, Apr 21 - 27, 2024