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Is India under BJP joining the ‘democracy suppressors’ club of Pak, Sri Lanka et al?

By Ram Puniyani* 

The leaders of BJP,  the ruling dispensation, have been claiming to be winning more that 400 (370 BJP + 30 allies) seats in the forthcoming parliamentary elections (Char sau paar) of 2024. This is not based on any psephological analysis but purely propagated for political reasons.
Justifying this ‘char sau par’ the Karnataka BJP MP of long standing Anantkumar Hegde explained the need for such a figure. As per him BJP intends to change the Constitution for which 2/3rd majority is needed. In a public meeting he stated, that the party needs 400 seats to change the Constitution:
“If the Constitution has to be amended -- the Congress fundamentally distorted the Constitution by forcefully filling unnecessary things in it (added, secularism, socialism), especially by bringing in laws that were aimed at suppressing the Hindu society -- if all of this has to be changed, it is not possible with this (current) majority."
BJP distanced itself from this statement of the sitting MP, as if they do not really approve of such a statement. There are some news items saying that due to this statement he may be denied the ticket. Whether he is denied a ticket on this ground or not; one thing is sure that BJP has no aversion to such statements. This MP had said the same thing in 2017, when he was a Central minister in the BJP government. He was duly given the ticket from this party in 2019 General elections by BJP.
Rahul Gandhi, Congress MP, and many others feel that what Hegde is saying is precisely what explains the figure of 400. “The statement of the BJP MP that he needs 400 seats to change the Constitution is a public declaration of the hidden agenda of Narendra Modi and his Sangh Parivar. The ultimate goal of Narendra Modi and the BJP is to destroy Baba Saheb's Constitution. They hate justice, equality, civil rights and democracy,” Rahul Gandhi wrote in Hindi on X (formally Twitter).
The former Congress president also alleged that “by dividing society, guarding the freedom of expression and crippling independent institutions, they want to turn India's great democracy into a narrow dictatorship by conspiring to eliminate the opposition”.
The BJP has a twin track strategy to undermine the democratic values, the values of equality of our Constitution. Its parent organization RSS opposed the constitution right from the beginning. After the Indian Constitution came into being, RSS' unofficial mouthpiece "Organiser" wrote:
“…In our Constitution, there is no mention of that unique constitutional development in ancient Bharat. To this day the 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 our Constitution. From 2014, when BJP has been in power; times and over again it has used the preamble of our Constitution by deleting the words Secular and Socialist.
Prior to this when K Sudarshan became the Chief of RSS in 2000, he frankly stated that the Indian Constitution is based on Western values so 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…"
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
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 organization and state officials do keep raising such voices while officially the BJP or BJP led Government makes the show of distancing itself from such utterances.
On another track, since BJP has been in power for the last one decade, what has it done to the core value of the Indian Constitution: Democracy and equality? As far as democracy is concerned, all the pillars of democratic state, Constitutional institutions ED, CBI, IT, 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 corporates, 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 US freedom of religion watchdog. As per V-Dem India ranked 104 on democracy index, between Niger and Ivory Coast! This is what has happened during the last ten years, to practically denigrate the democratic freedoms through executive actions leading to such a drastic fall in 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 looks 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.
As such if we look around every ‘religious nationalist’ outfit is averse to democratic freedoms. They do resort to tuning their constitutions in such a direction, also their ground level workers resort to the actions promoting divisive and oppressive politics. India is joining this club of ‘democracy suppressors’ like Pakistan or Sri Lanka. BJP is resorting to twin track politics, aiming for changing the Constitution on one hand and practically undermining it, on the other!
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*Political commentator. Youtube, Facebook, InstagramTwitterPinterest, My WebsiteMy App

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