The dominance of Aaya Ram Gaya Ram in Indian politics leading to the last rite of democracy

sachin pilot

One more state government is about to collapse due to the tactical activities of Aaya Ram- Gaya Ram’s. In Rajasthan, the 18-month-old Congress government could be ousted any day. Exactly four months ago, the state government led by Kamal Nath, a veteran Congress leader from Madhya Pradesh, had collapsed in the same way. In Rajasthan, another experienced Congress leader, Ashok Gehlot, is working hard to stay in power. And in both cases, the relatively young leaders of the Congress party, abandoning their ideology, are trying to bring down their government by organising and manipulating the party-hoppersunder their fold. The thread of this puppet show, of breaking and forming governments, is in the hands of the country’s main ruling party, the BharatiyaJanata Party. It is the same party whose supreme leader, and the Prime Minister of the country, NarendraModi says, that“India means democracy ¾democracy is our great legacy, it’s in our DNA”.

Before discussing the contradiction between this statement and the reality, let us explore the colourful presence of Aaya Ram-Gaya Ramin the politics of democratic India. The word Aaya Ram-Gaya Ram in Indian politics originated in Haryana in 1967. Gayalal, an independent MLA from the newly formed Hasanpur assembly constituency, switched parties three times on the same day to give birth to a new non-ideological political culture. When Gayalal returned to the Congress in the evening after joining the United Front, Congress leader Rao Birendra Singh jokingly said at a press conference in Chandigarh, “Gaya Ram is now Aaya Ram.” The culture that MLA Gayalal gave birth to later became the culture of Congress. BhajanLal further strengthened this Aaya Ram-Gaya Ram culture in Haryana. BhajanLal left the Janata Party and joined the Congress with 37 MLAs to retain his chief minister’s seat after Indira Gandhi returned to power in Delhiin 1980. In 1982, Chowdhury Devilal took the initiative to form a government in the state with the support of 48 MLAs. But at the behest of the ruler in Delhi, the then Governor of Haryana, G. D.Tapase, gave the minority BhajanLal government a month to prove its majority in the 90-member assembly, an act which essentially allowed the latter to sell MLAs according to Aaya Ram-Gaya Ram formula.

Realising this, Devilal sent 48 of his followers to his farmhouse in Tejakhera village in Sirsa district and a hotel in Delhi. ButDevilal could not triumph. Some MLAs of Lok Dal, with the help of Congress workers from Delhi, practically escaped from hotel and entered BhajanLal camp. One MLA had even escaped through the bathroom window of the hotel. There was no difficulty, after that, in proving BhajanLal’s majority in the assembly. Since then, in Indian politics, it has become a routine process to topple the ruling government or other elected bodies by shifting allegiance of MLAs, MPs and other elected representatives from the ruling party to the opposition. There is no role for the common man, who had given the mandate through the electoral process, in this change of power.However, after the death of Indira Gandhi, under Rajiv Gandhi or Sonia Gandhi, Congress did not show interest in the game of breaking up the government by buying and selling legislators. Coalition governments, in different states, have fallendue to the withdrawal of support by one or a few of the constituent parties. However, the horse-trading of the MLAs, leading to the dissolution of an elected government and subsequent formation of a new one, was not heard for a long time.

The situation has changed, just like many other things in social life. Today, the Congress, the creator of Aaya Ram-Gaya Ram culture, is far from the power centre of Delhi. In 2014, the Union government at Delhi formed by the BJP, the so-called flag bearer of good governance and democracy. And from the moment since the seizure of power till today, the Aaya Ram-Gaya Ram culture has added a new dimension thanks to the BJP’s aggressive role in the country’s politics. During the UPA regime, Uttar Pradesh Congress MP Jagdambika Pal used to sit on the treasury bench in the LokSabha and verbally abuse the BJP. He left the Congress and joined the BJP just before the 2014 general elections. After the formation of the NDA government led by NarendraModi, in the first session of the LokSabha, it was seen that Jagdambika Pal was sitting on the treasury bench and abusing the Congress!Inderjit Singh, the son of Rao Birendra Singh who had coined the word Aaya Ram-Gaya Ram in 1986, was a member of Dr.Manmohan Singh’s cabinet,is currently in NarendraModi’s cabinet. The only condition for being in the circle of power is to give up idealism and morality. But isn’t this Aaya Ram-Gaya Ramculture of change of party of MLAs, MPs or other elected people’s representatives supposed to be destroyed in a vibrant democracy? The BJP’s central electoral plank in the 2014 general election campaign was its announcement to create a transparent political environment by ensuring an end to the corrupt culture of the Congress in the financial and political spheres. But after coming to power, the BJP has also tarnished democracy as it has filled into shoes of the Congress and followed the latter’s unprincipled steps.

In 2003, during the first NDA government led by AtalBehari Vajpayee, the BJP started playing the game of change of government. In Arunachal Pradesh, Congress chief minister GegongApang joined the BJP with all his party workers. Overnight the saffron government was formed. But that government lasted only 44 days much to the dismay of the BJP. The golden period of the game of change of party allegiance under the tutelage of the BJP is seen during the rule of the second and third NDA governments led by NarendraModi in recent days. It has happened despite NarendraModi claiming himself to be the guardian of democracy in front of the countrymen and the world. In an interview given to the Time magazine in May 2015, NarendraModi said, “If you were to ask me to choose between democratic values and wealth, power, prosperity and fame, I will very easily and without any doubt choose democratic values.”Within 15 months of that interview, BJP joined the game of dislodging the government in Arunachal Pradesh. On 16th September, 2016, PremaKhandu left the party with 43 MLAs leading to the fall of the Congress government led by NabamTuki. However, the BJP in 2016 was very cautious,having learnt from the failure of 2003. A new party, the People’s Party of Arunachal, was formed under the leadership of PremaKhandu, and this new party first formed the government. Within three months, PremaKhandu joined the BJP along with 33 MLAs. The government of the People’s Party of Arunachal overnight became the government of the BJP. With this transformation, began thecremation of democratic values ​​in the world’s largest parliamentary democracy.

Congress-ruled state governments are toppled by ensuring the defection of its legislators. The NarendraModi-Amit Shah duo, whohold the Congress responsible for all the injustices and corruption in the country, is following the Congress in a bid to gaina monopoly of power. The so-called democratic steps to form a BJP government in Manipur or Goa are not discussedfor the sake of brevity. In his reply to the budget debate in the LokSabha on 7th February 2018,Prime Minister NarendraModi said, “… Democracy is not the contribution of Congress or Nehruji. Democracy is flowing in our veins, and democracy is in our tradition. I am the chowkidar of this democracy. I will not allow any harm.” In July 2019, coalition government, of Janata Dal (Secular) and the Congress, led by  H. D.Kumaraswamy, was ousted from power in Karnataka after just one year and sixty-one days. In March 2020, the Kamal Nath-led Congress government in Madhya Pradesh also collapsed after ruling for only one year and ninety-seven days. In both cases, the reason for the fall of respective governments is that the legislators had left the ruling party/alliance and had joined the BJP. Which democratic tradition is the BJP defending by overthrowing one after another the elected governments formed by the opposition party government? What is the essence of democratic DNA that permits manipulationof legislators leading to the downfall of government with a mandate to rule for five years? If Indira Gandhi could be justifiably criticised or blamed for what had happened in Haryana in 1967, 1980 or 1982, then why shouldn’t NarendraModi-Amit Shah be held accountable for the recent collapse of the governments of Arunachal Pradesh, Karnataka or Madhya Pradesh? The journey of the BJP government, following the footsteps of the earlier Congress regime, is not to safeguard democracy but to perform the last rites of the democratic norms of the country. And in this journey of destabilising successive governments, perhaps the governments of Rajasthan, Maharashtra and Chhatisgarh are next in line.

Asish Gupta is a senior journalist




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