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Why the BJP should lose in Gujarat
By Saisuresh Sivaswamy
|Most columnists suffer from a delusion. Which is that they often expect -- in more serious cases, believe -- that what they hold out should be the way things turn out to be. A certain King Canute took this trait to the extreme, but journalists are not too far behind when it comes to unmasked egotism. Life's reality check, alas, sooner than later puts paid to such fancy notions, and the seasoned writer becomes a cynic.
By my above yardstick, I must be a veteran cynic. Nevertheless, through the miasma of such negativity, if I were allowed one fanciful wish, desire, it would be that the Bharatiya Janata Party lose the election for Gujarat assembly. And lose badly at that.
After the Supreme Court's rebuff to the state government, which entered into an unseemly spat with the Election Commission over holding the poll as per its desire, one could argue that it has anyway lost its moral sheen so what's with it winning or losing elections.
If only things were so simple -- but politicians of the likes of those belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party, who have stumbled into power after a lifetime spent in running after it, are not prone to such niceties.
A man like Narendra Modi, for instance, will not see the un-light of his ways unless he is told to go by the people, whose name he swears by.
The tragedy, thus, is that the brand of politics he has perfected in Gujarat has become so successful for the party that nominated him chief minister, that his continuance in office after the state elections -- whenever they are held -- is a certainty. In fact, his continuance is a must if the strategy has to work elsewhere.
While his party may think he is thus good for its electoral prospects, what is good for Gujarat is not necessarily good for India even if the BJP may believe to the contrary.
The tragic reality about pre-and post-Independence India is that communal riots are something we have to live with, they are not going to be wished away in a hurry. Various figures are touted about as the number of riots since 1947 in the country, as if the human tragedy they represent can be summarised into cold statistics. Successive governments have, at various times, even utilized the trauma of Indians killing each other for their selfish, electoral ends -- the most notorious one being the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984.
Yes, there have been any number of riots in the country, but where Narendra Modi's Gujarat differs from the rest is in the fact it did nothing whatsoever to control the weeks of blood-letting sparked off by the carnage on Sabarmati Express -- that is, if it did not actively fan the violence.
It was not the first time that rioting has been used as an electoral tool. The Shiv Sena, while it was in the Opposition, went after the Muslim community in Mumbai in January 1993, in retaliation for the violence the previous month following the Babri Masjid demolition. The Congress party under P V Narasimha Rao, after seeing that the Muslim vote had slipped out of its hand following its failure to protect the mosque, did little to prevent the violence, and Maharashtra was lost.
The difference between Maharashtra in 1993 and Gujarat 9 years later is that the Shiv Sena was in the Opposition then, while the BJP was in power in Gandhinagar. Not only was it thus complicit in the murder of innocents and destruction of property, it was also guilty of gross dereliction of duty.
Such a government would have been shown the door long ago in any dispensation. By sticking with the discredited regime and worse, by allowing it to seek a fresh mandate so soon after the dance of death, the Bharatiya Janata Party has shown that is not just a party without compunctions, it is also a party without soul.
Its political masters, from the prime minister and deputy prime minister down, may be helpless to take an independent, fair decision on what needs to be done in Gujarat, but surely they can't be ignorant of the message from apolitical, constitutional entities whose actions wax eloquent.
Under the Constitution the President does not have much of a role to play in governance. Yet, at times his actions can speak louder than any word can. As it did, when A P J Abdul Kalam chose the riot-hit areas of Gujarat for his first official visit after being sworn in as Head of State. The state government could whitewash entire areas in time for the visit, but what it could not hide thus was its failure to live up to the role enjoined on it by the Constitution.
This is the government that the BJP wants the people of Gujarat to vote back in office.
When the Election Commission -- another Constitutional body -- refused to play ball with the state government over the timing of the state elections, the government sought the Supreme Court's intervention over what it called a clash of responsibility. By backing the EC's judgment in the matter, the Supreme Court has exposed the undue haste shown by the Narendra Modi government in seeking a mandate.
Why are the Gujarat government and the BJP so keen on early elections in Gujarat? The answer is not all that difficult to fathom. Atavistic passions aroused by mass civil disturbances tend to die down after some time, unless they are continuously fanned and kept alive. Elections held in the immediate aftermath of the Gujarat violence, say, in March of this year would have wiped out the non-BJP parties in the state; already, with Shankarsinh Vaghela helming the Congress party, the BJP is down to a more realistic tally, but who knows what will come over the voter three months down the line, given that every week sees the government in New Delhi clobbered by scams. It is this uncertainty that is dogging Modi and his bosses in New Delhi.
For, if the BJP wins Gujarat, as all initial reports say it will, the BJP will be hard pressed to replicate its strategy in other parts of the country, since consolidation of the Hindu vote has been its avowed political aim.
Which is why Narendra Modi and the BJP need to be defeated in Gujarat.
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