Unhappy New Year

suspension of mps

The fag-end of the just ended last year was filled with ominous portents for the democratic character and heritage of our country.The Parliament so far alive with vibrant  and often heated discussions and exchanges during previous governments has been reduced by deliberate and calculated ruthlessness to a mere rubber-stamp,and the combined opposition to a band of brawling  rebels otherwise harmless.As many as 146 MPs in two houses together  have been suspended and many wilful and brazenly undemocratic bills passed into law in tearing hurry, including the one on the constitution of the Election Commission by a Selection Committee of three members including two from the ruling party.The tactics with which this result has been achieved have been most disgraceful and outrageous.

What makes the situation even more ominous is the obvious failure of the combined opposition to grasp the exceptional nature of the challenge they face.They seem to think that they can easily turn the tide by the typical corporate style mass communication methods of manipulating the mass mind.Thus ruling out the redeeming active role of the people and leaving them prey to the powerful and toxic Fascist messaging devised long back in time by Goebbels and other star experts in propaganda.My humble opinion is that they should acquire a sobering grasp of Fascism by a timely reading of such old classics as William Shirer’s  RISE AND FALL OF THE THIRD REICH.

Rahul Gandhi found on his own an original yet historically rooted method of learning about  and from the people that drew their enthusiastic support with immediate obvious dividends with his Bharat Jodo Yatra.But partly owing to his own misconceived notion of politics as a hard slog with refreshing breaks and mostly to the Congress Old Guard’s customary view of the people as only objects of manipulation he failed to continue with it and exploit the advantage gained by it to press on farther.The sequel in the form of miscellaneous photo-ops as a man of the people in half a dozen roles had not gained him any credit but sadly had put him in danger of being perceived as a harlequin.

Congress has remained strangely blind to the fact that the arena is not empty but surrounded by a thousand eyes and arms of a vicious government and a massed jangle of media keen to spot and magnify any weakness.It seems to believe against all the contrary evidence that these are still more or less normal times.That’s the way their responses to BJP’S ( or rather the Sangh Parivar’s) moves appear to discerning minds.

Consider the imminent Ram Mandir dilemma.By acting quite against the Constitution Prime Minister Modi had from the beginning made himself the the central figure in initiation, planning,construction and now the coming inauguration of the temple.By various symbolic acts he has turned himself into the sole legatee and current icon of the divine human Ram.If any prominent opposition leader attends the function there is no doubt in my mind that his image  will at once be reduced to that of a  satrap paying homage to an emperor. An unenviable consequence! The damage from being shown up as somewhat less devout in devotion to a central Hindu deity will be less,if any.The only sensible way out is to declare plainly that owing to the party’s commitment to the secularism laid down by the Constitution the party cannot officially be a party to the function,but any member driven by piety is free to attend.

To my mind the crux of the matter is that the politics of the country has now changed radically.In stead of remaining passive objects of manipulation, such as beneficiaries or dumb followers of leaders the people now find themselves as active agents themselves,albeit now as drugged activists of a certain cause.The task before the opposition is to transform them into agents for restoring the democratic character of the state to their own benefit and enhanced power.

The trouble is that older politician in the opposition have no stomach for such a diminished role for themselves.They would rather have the people in their power either as beneficiaries or as dumb followers.But the nation has already passed that moment and they must either face the new challenge or retreat to being non-entities.The stresses of neoliberal economy have brought society to this point of no return.Fascism or people’s democracy.

A last word about the adventurous and plucky young men who had gatecrashed into the sacred precincts of democracy to light a few smoke-bombs.It is a pity that the opposition’s absorption into quizzing the vaunted impregnable security of Parliament under the watch of the Home Ministry and the PMO had not spared a moment for a few kindly words about the straying youths who are now faced with a dire fate.To hide their  failure and inefficiency the police and the intelligence branch are mounting an extremely vindictive and pitiless campaign to turn them into dangerous terrorists with foreign links and funding etc.etc.

The youths involved in this daring prank had been inspired by Bhagat Singh’s feat of calling attention to the most oppressive character of the British imperialist state by exploding a harmless bomb at the venue of the Legislative Council of British India.In both these cases there has been no intention of any violence.The breach of security in our time  had been a serious matter.But there are extenuating circumstances and the youths driven by undoubtedly good though immature intentions deserve some compassion.One hopes they will be helped gratis by counsels not sharing their folly but standing up for human rights. After all it is arguable that these times are as suffocating as those Bhagat Singh had protested.

Democracy means power to rule limited by people’s rights and the active role of watchdog institutions.BJP/RSS wants and works overturning all such safeguards in the name of Indian Culture.This turns out to be Fascism pure and simple.

Hiren Gohain is a political commentator

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