For someone who is anti-BJP, but more than that, anti-establishment, the results are certainly not what I would have wanted, much less hoped for. That prompted this attempt at deciphering things.
Correct political analysis is not something I have been accused of. Plus, there are wheels within wheels within wheels and this is an attempt to look at the big picture. God is in the details, they say, so I ventured out of my atheistic comfort zone to agnostically touch upon them without getting immersed completely in the details.
So here goes, starting with a background that meanders to the present, analysing things along the way.
Since 26 November 1949, there has been an ongoing tug of war between two of the three pillars of democracy – the legislature and the judiciary, as to who the custodian of The Constitution of India is. The bureaucracy knows that so long as it can play both, the legislature and the judiciary, its pretty perch will not be disturbed; it will come to no harm.
Through great judgements, that restore constitutional values of a polity from waywardness to landmark judgements which opened new directions in constitutional thinking and added new dimensions to what were established constitutional principles, the role of the custodian of the Constitution of India has oscillated between the legislature and judiciary. (I am not citing the judgements here for the sake of brevity.)
The judiciary speaks through its judgements (or many a time, the lack of judgement) and while I will refer to them every now and then, my focus is on the Legislature and all its actions (or inactions) that have led us to the election results in five states.
Coming back to the topic, in its quest to become the custodian of the Constitution of India, every single government since 1951 has tried to curtail the independence of everything that it could, including attempting to subvert independent institutions and bring them under its control.
Some attempts have been feeble, some strong. Some attempts have been disguised with cunning; some have been brazen. But the moot point is that every government has tried to subvert the institutions and gain control.
When the Supreme Court said the CBI was a caged parrot, the general citizenry was overjoyed that the Court had spoken a truth that everyone already knew. In the legislature, the treasury benches were attacked by the opposition for caging the parrot. The citizenry never realised that the court calling the CBI a caged parrot did not free it. The opposition knew that the caged parrot would come in handy when they occupied the treasury benches. And along with the caged parrot, the ED, RAW, NCB, ECI et al. As mentioned earlier, the question is not about the degree of misuse.
As every government, by force of its numbers in the legislature, curtailed the independence of institutions, the party whose dispensation was in power also got control of these institutions. So a word against the party or the person became a seditious act against the nation, though sedition laws began to be invoked much later. The “Indira is India and India is Indira” syndrome began to be seen with its many mutations and manifestations.
A short synopsis on the diﬀerent issues before I proceed to the possible and possible solutions.
The suspicions around EVMs:
There are two distinct allegations – (i) that the EVMs are hacked and (ii) that the EVMs were changed.
I am neither technically qualified, nor knowledgeable, to comment on whether the EVMs can be rigged.
But on the question of whether they can be changed, my answer is an emphatic yes. After all, with the independence of the ECI largely perceived to be compromised, and with pliant oﬃcials (remember, the oﬃcials are bureaucrats, whose services for the time being are placed at the disposal of ECI) it is very possible to change the EVMs.
With an electronic device, one needs only to ensure that the outer casing is an exact copy. About the machinery/circuitry inside, who knows, unless one gets to handle that device completely? A simple example is: can one decide the configuration or data contained in two diﬀerent makes of computers only by looking at the casing?
Ballot papers, on the other hand, will leave various other easily identifiable evidence – quality, texture, colour, size of the ballot papers, the stamping ink on it with its own colour, texture etc. etc.
The second issue is how people forgot the Covid deaths, bodies in the Ganga, inflation, unemployment, etc. etc.
Here, let’s take another example – I abduct you, tie you up and leave you practically incapacitated. Four days later, without food or water, when you are not even in a position to see straight, I come to you with a glass of juice, a sumptuous meal and give you money for the bus fare back home. Will you, in a sort of state of the Stockholm syndrome, be grateful to me? Or will you punch me in the face? My guess is that you will be extremely happy with me for letting you free. The realisation that there are physical and psychological scars of the abduction that you faced at my hands will come only later. My take is that that is exactly what happened in the BJP ruled states.
The BJP states executed the cash transfers and ensured the smooth distribution of rations. Remember, the bureaucracy can be super eﬃcient in a carrot and stick situation. And the stick that BJP politicians wield in BJP ruled states is quite well known.
The third and last main issue is about the themes of campaigning.
BJP was all about Hindutva, riding on the sentiments of the majority population. The Mandir was important. But more important were girls, not from the poll-bound state, but in some faraway land, going to college wearing a hijab. Or those guys, again in another State, oﬀering namaz in open grounds. It is said, “भूखे पेट भजन ना होवे गोपाला”. With food on their plate and cash in their pockets, of course, the Mandir issue and the hijab and namaz were bound to gain traction.
In reaction to this is the politics of Muslim identity promoted by Owaisi, or the politics of Dalit identity by Chandrashekhar Azad. Reactionary as it was, it did not gain traction.
The third theme was the supposed middle ground taken by AAP. The Diwali puja, telecast live, the tirth yatras for senior citizens, etc. Plus, he wasn’t speaking against Narendra Modi, who has and continues to capture the imagination of a lot of people. AAP got results in Punjab, where, it needs to be said, that the rations and cash transfers had not been done efficiently by the Congress government. And there was no scope, either for the BJP or the Akalis. AAP did not gain much traction elsewhere
The fourth theme was constitutionality, the rule of law, secularism, unemployment, financial distress, etc. etc. All nonsense, as it appears. When one is hungry, one needs food on his plate, here and now. Not a sermon on the state of the economy and what you will do to change it. The BJP ruled states got the people food on their plates and in addition, money in their pockets, smoothly and eﬃciently. Not those raising the issues of constitutionality, rule of law, secularism, unemployment, financial distress etc. etc. Their fate was probably sealed right there.
And therefore, no matter how eﬀective the campaign is, how huge a crowded one draws, it is not going to convert into votes.
To quickly reiterate what I have said earlier before I come to the solutions.
The legislature is now the sole custodian of the Constitution and by extension and proxy, the high command of the dispensation in power.
Read that again.
I have said the legislature, not the legislators. They too have been turned powerless and, if I may say so, impotent just like the other pillars of democracy. This is manifest in the rule by ordinances, arbitrary decisions by bureaucrats and the silence of the judiciary on matters of any importance – be it article 370, CA – NRC – NPR, farm laws, etc. etc. (Of course, the Amazon-Future Group battle is very important, so I refrain from commenting on that.)
As practically anyone who is not a mouthpiece of the government will vouch for, presently the compromised Constitution, subdued independent authorities, rural distress, unemployment, economic issues are the problems, but they are macro problems. The micro problems are only two – food on my plate and cash in my pocket. That is what the government (not legislature) and its instrumentalities addressed and addressed well in the BJP states.
To counter this, it is the legislators I repeat legislators (with the back-end support of the political parties, of course) who will have to literally bell the proverbial cat. First and foremost, there has to be the realisation that laws are there to protect citizens from criminals; and the Constitution protects the people from the government. Action will thus have to be taken keeping this principle in mind.
The first action to take would be to prepare a list of bureaucrats who are definitely pro-government and act as per the government’s whims and fancies. And not necessarily in accordance with the Constitution. The other part of the list will have to have names of bureaucrats who are either neutral or in a way, anti-government. (Using the principle of an enemy’s enemy being a friend, those bureaucrats who are anti-government will should be included in the list of neutral persons.)
Make a similar list of judicial oﬃcers – those were eﬀectively working as government agents and those who, to quote Mr. Justice (Retd.) Akil Kureshi, have got a certificate of independence.
Let this list be declared by the legislators on the floor of Parliament so that no action can be initiated against them. It will also make the list public. Also, make it clear that this list is dynamic and if bureaucrats act in accordance with the law and in accordance with the Constitution, those who find their names in the pro-government list will be able to change it and have their names in the neutral list provided they act in the manner becoming of them.
Now start filing oﬃcial complaints against such persons (in the name of some political worker of the party), while the legislators target these bureaucrats in the legislature of the cadre to which the bureaucrat belongs and while parliamentarians target these bureaucrats in Parliament.
To explain this in a little detail, I will give an example of the video that emerged a few days back that was purportedly from Madhya Pradesh. An old man, whose land had been encroached upon by unscrupulous elements was not getting the help that he should have got from the concerned bureaucrat and the situation had made the old man fall at the bureaucrat’s feet.
This bureaucrat’s past will have to be dug out; there is bound to be some more dirt on him. Multiple complaints need to be filed about his various wrongdoings. Then raise the issue in the (in this case Madhya Pradesh assembly as well as in Parliament because an IAS oﬃcer is an All India Services oﬃcer.
In about a week after filing such complaints, approach the judiciary. Any delay or anything, however small, that comes in the way of the dispensation of justice must lead to an impeachment motion being moved against the concerned Judge.
The numbers in Parliament may not see the impeachment motion succeeding, but creating a lot of noise will certainly make things diﬃcult for the judges – at least it will put their post-retirement benefits in jeopardy.
Aim at targeting at least four diﬀerent bureaucrats every week and moving an impeachment motion against at least two judges in the same period. This should be the single-minded pursuit for the next two years.
Do not look at winning elections, improving your numbers, or any other what have you, in 2024. Do not focus on your gains, concentrate on their losses. And be the person who represents a constitutional authority that upholds the Constitution of India.
If I, the citizen, the sovereign, can approach persons representing constitutional authorities, not for pushing through big-buck deals, but for (a) getting food on my plate (b) getting money in my pocket and (c) protecting me from the violation of my fundamental rights, we might just continue being a democracy. And we might start believing that the Constitution of India, which begins with “We, the People…” is in safe hands and not in ‘custody’ and inaccessible.
There might be a viewpoint that says that this will lead to anarchy. To them, I say only this – when there is a malignant tumour in your body, the only aim is to remove it if one wants to survive. The side-eﬀects of the surgery and/or chemotherapy are tackled later.
a social worker and writer,
based out of Ahmedabad