BJP must respect Indian democracy

This is not the first time that Indian democratic principles have been flouted by politicking that BJP has indulged in. BJP leaders like LK Advani violated principles of India’s secular democracy around two decades ago. With the aim to convert secular India into a Hindu state, they took out communal demonstrations, as a part of their Hindutva drive, which led to anti-Muslim riots across the country and demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992. The mosque was demolished to construct a temple on the same site. The issue is still being legally fought in courts.  

Undeniably, the communal drive helped BJP gain greater political prominence than it had before. The BJP had only two seats in the Lok Sabha in 1984. The use of communal card, that is the Hindutva drive, including the plan to build a temple at the disputed site, helped BJP emerge as the largest party in 1996 Lok Sabha elections. The communal card, however, did not help BJP assume power. In 1996, BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee became prime minister for only 13 days. The BJP returned to power in 1998, with the support of other parties, only after it agreed to put its communal agenda on the backburner. Though this coalition split soon, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) returned to power in 1999 to stay on for the whole term with Vajpayee as Prime Minister. The BJP was able to win the support of several other political parties only after it gave in to their secular demands. The BJP was thus able to stay in power.

But the BJP failed to have the same luck again as the anti-Muslim Gujarat pogrom of 2002 made voters have doubts about this party’s secular credentials. The subsequent elections in 2004 and 2009 thus helped the return of Congress to power, with a coalition government.

The BJP’s political history is witness to it having played havoc with the country’s democracy and secular ethos for its narrow political gains. The party appears to have learnt now that the communal card can no longer help it gain politically. With India home to numerous political parties, the importance of vote banks along religious, regional and ethnic factors has increased tremendously during the past two decades. This includes the Muslim vote. The BJP fears that using the communal card will help rival parties gain votes of Muslims as well as of secular non-Muslims and thus create a greater dent in BJP’s political base. This apparently explains BJP’s political strategy of abusing the country’s parliamentary democracy. The monsoon session of the Parliament concluded on September 7 after functioning for less than a week. The BJP legislators paralyzed the functioning of the Parliament by their unruly and rowdy behaviour. They also demanded resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over alleged irregularities in coal block allocations.

Certainly, as elected legislators it is the duty of all members of Parliament to scrutinize the functioning of the government. But the hard fact is that BJP members did not allow the Parliament to even function. This indicates that these legislators failed to live up to their democratic and parliamentary responsibilities. Besides, the Indian prime minister is not expected to hand in his resignation simply on demand of opposition parties or of any self-acclaimed leader. He holds this office on the strength of the support of a majority of legislators in Parliament. Constitutionally, he is obliged to hand in his resignation when and if his government is voted out of power or when his term ends officially.

Over the past two years, the BJP has been giving increasing importance to exciting political frenzy outside Parliament against the government on corruption issues. If the BJP is seriously concerned about ousting the present government, why hasn’t it given any importance to exercising its political right to vote against it inside Parliament? Obviously, the BJP is conscious of the fact that it is not going to gather sufficient votes to defeat the UPA inside the Parliament. Therefore, failure of this move would be equivalent to BJP making a mockery of its own anti-Congress political strategy.

The BJP has deliberately indulged in rowdy behaviour in Parliament so that it gains more time in making noise against the Congress through demonstrations, rallies and other similar moves outside the Parliament.

Definitely, the BJP has the democratic right to  question and criticize the government’s functioning. But the manner in which it has abused the country’s democratic principles cannot be ignored. Earlier, the BJP created havoc by abusing the country’s secular democracy. Having learnt that the communal card will not help it politically, the party has now sought to corner the Congress by showing disrespect to the parliamentary democracy.  Once considered a “model democracy,” it is a shame that India is now earning criticism for its non-functional parliament. The BJP must answer as to what are its political priorities where Indian democracy is concerned. If it is not concerned about the importance of the parliamentary democracy, the party must seriously deliberate on the need to participate in elections!

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 October 2012 on page no. 11

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