The Dictator Is Down_Throw Him Out

The second phase of the ongoing Lok Sabha elections has consolidated the trends that surfaced with the first phase - fatigue and dejection among BJP voters and growing frustration and desperation of the Sangh-BJP top brass. Voting is now over in close to two hundred seats across India. States like Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand have already given loud indications about the expected 2024 outcome giving rise to the formula 'south mein saaf, north mein half' (sweep NDA away in southern states, reduce it to half in the northern states). But more than turnout figures and poll predictions, what merits attention is the evolving discourse in this protracted electoral battle.

The BJP had begun its campaign on an aggressive note with the confident claim of a 400-plus tally, unleashing a virulent attack on the opposition in the name of 'parivarwad' (dynastic politics) and 'bhrashtachar' (corruption). But just a week into the elections, these slogans cannot be heard any more. The strategists of the Sangh brigade realise that these slogans do not have any resonance. The public discourse has shifted to the expected scale of the BJP's decline and the growing assembly of corrupt dynasts from all quarters under the BJP umbrella. A desperate Modi is therefore back to his trusted and tested core agenda of anti-Muslim polarisation.

Two bizarre accusations of 'Muslim appeasement' are being hurled against the Congress and INDIA coalition - that properties of Hindus, including 'mangalsutras' (wedding necklaces) of married Hindu women, would be confiscated and redistributed among Muslims and that OBC reservation quota would be reduced to accommodate Muslims on the basis of religious reservation. Yogi Adityanath has added two new preposterous charges - that the whole country would be subjected to Shariat or Muslim Personal Law and that cow slaughter would be promoted indiscriminately across the country. The campaign that began with a 400-plus bang is now busy spreading bogeys to whip up communal hate and scare the people about the opposition coming to power.

All these absurd accusations are only exposing the growing desperation in the BJP camp. In fact, the audacity of the BJP should enrage the people. Nothing could be more outrageous than the crocodile tears shed in the name of the poor by a party that has been singularly responsible for massive destruction of livelihoods of toiling Indians and the erosion of income, savings and social security of even millions of middle class households. The mischievous attempt to pit OBCs against Muslims by presenting the latter as usurpers of OBC quota is rooted in patent falsification of facts. Sections of Muslims already get reservation not as a community but on the basis of occupation and caste and in most states the overall quota has been enlarged to accommodate Muslim OBC/EBC castes.

Indeed the real concern about reservation today is its systematic and accentuated undermining in the Modi era. Indiscriminate privatisation of economic enterprises and social sectors and contractualisation of employment have greatly restricted the scope of reservation, making it near redundant. The system of lateral entry in higher echelons of bureaucracy has been expanded to bypass and abort the very idea of reservation as a tool to ensure due and adequate representation of all hitherto excluded and grossly underrepresented sections of society. The real demand arising today from the social justice point of view is that of caste census and expanded reservation as initiated in Bihar. The BJP remains staunchly opposed to this idea and it is to cover up this opposition that the red herring of OBCs versus Muslims is being introduced to divert attention from its own fundamentally anti-reservation and Brahmanical approach.

The historical opposition of the RSS to the idea of social justice and reservation is no secret in India. The BJP's withdrawal of support to the VP Singh government in 1990 was prompted essentially by the party's opposition to VP Singh’s historic announcement of OBC reservation as recommended by the Mandal Commission. Soon after Modi's 2014 victory, it was none other than RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat who came up with the proposal of review of the reservation policy in India. Today the same Mohan Bhagwat has started talking about 'tolerating' reservation for another two hundred years because of two thousand years of caste oppression! And Modi has the audacity to try and scare the SC/ST communities that an opposition victory would jeopardise SC/ST reservation!

The public concern in India today is no longer limited to the issue of reservation. The people have reasons to worry about the very future of India's Constitution. It will indeed be perilous for modern India to ignore the historical antagonism of Golwalkar's RSS to Ambedkar's Constitution. Right at the time of the adoption of India's Constitution, RSS had openly denounced it and openly batted for Manusmriti as India's ideal constitution. In spite of the BJP not having an independent majority, the NDA government led by Vajpayee and Advani did not feel shy of appointing a commission to review the working of the Constitution. In the last ten years, the Modi government has already inflicted a thousand cuts on the Constitution, subverting its spirit and principles and even denting its basic structure at every opportunity.

On the occasion of the 75th anniversary of India's independence, Modi's principal economic advisor Bibek Debroy wrote an article advocating a new constitution to realise the 'full potential' unleashed by the Modi regime and its policies. Some Sangh ideologues even have the temerity to call Ambedkar's Constitution a colonial document and advocate a new constitution in the name of 'decolonization'. It is therefore time that India remembered the warnings issued by Babasaheb Ambedkar on the eve of the adoption of the Constitution. The core features of Ambedkar's Constitution - the system of parliamentary democracy, its institutional architecture of checks and balances, the separation of powers and the federal framework - are all faced with major existential threats. The credibility of the very electoral process is being challenged everyday by the BJP's Operation Lotus expedition with new models being thrown up - from Chandigarh and Khajuraho to Surat, Indore and Arunachal Pradesh - at various stages of elections from nomination of candidates to the counting of votes.

When Modi, Shah and Bhagwat start giving India guarantees about the stability of the Constitution and the system of reservation, it is not difficult to understand that the regime is trying to evade its imminent defeat by lying through its teeth. The first two phases have set the tone and direction of these elections, we the people of India must now take it forward to ensure a clear victory and decisive majority of the INDIA coalition through the forthcoming five phases.