Yesterday was the day of the 59th episode of prime minister Narendra Modi's radio talk 'Mann ki Baat'. He congratulated the country for accepting the Supreme Court verdict on Ayodhya "with ease and with peace" showing patience and maturity. He expressed pride over India proving that national interest is supreme. He also highlighted the feature of Indian constitution that protects the prestige and rights of citizens.
All these are themes that formed the substance of 'Mann ki baat' ever since its beginning. The overall content of his talks have always been marked by themes of the honour and sanctity of the country and the constitution, and the vigilance and zeal he as a prime minister has been showing in protecting them. His radio talks are all punctuated by calls against corruption, nepotism, plunder of public assets and terrorism. Through all this he has been portraying a dream of a 'new India' that banishes all such evils, and anointing himself as its kingmaker and an avatar of the nation, nationalism and national interests. There is also the invariable refrain of blame on his predecessors for their corruption and autocracy that according to him caused all the misfortunes of the country. What Modi and his party's president Amit Shah keep harping on and highlighting is about a new India that is purged of misrule by the Congress, and especially by Gandhi family, which landed the country in its current plight. Such an India, the two reiterate over and over, will be a nation rising fresh after a holy bath in national pride. Even to open the mobile app in the name of Modi, one has to take a pledge under the hashtag '#AmNewIndia'. Only when one commits himself to strive for an India that is free of corruption, waste and alcohol will the prime minister's app be open. Thus what Modi rule amounts to is an intense campaign of image building through catch-phrases.
But even when while berating Congress and the Gandhi family and calling out slogans for a new India, Narendra Modi, Amit Shah and the party led by both, are not only following in the footsteps of the Congress in their evil acts in toto, but even outdoing it. The events that took place in Maharashtra on the night of last Saturday prove just that. The sangh parivar, the lifeblood of the current regime is in an attempt to gag those who expose the shortfalls of governance; it seeks to hush up the failings of government machinery including the police and the armed forces, and in mob violence; in the name of praising the sanctity of national institutions it treats dissident voices as anti-national. But when something comes up as hurdles to its autocratic rule, the regime does not spare a single constitutional institution as an idol to be protected. The Maharashtra operation, making the President and central cabinet mere spectators, and carried out in the samll hours of Saturday, was really the climax of this attitude. It was bypassing all the normal procedures required to withdraw president's rule and to instal a ministry, that they pulled the rug from under Uddhav Thackeray and infiltrated Fadnavis into power.
Such a sabotage has never happened ever since the midnight of 1 July 1984 when Indira Gandhi, by using her own appointee governor Jagmohan, dismissed J&K chief minister Farooq Abdulla overnight and installed his brother-in-law GM Shah. Then on another midnight, i.e. 25 June 1975 despite not being convinced of its validity after searching the constitution, Indira declared emergency. But, for that the then President Fakhruddeen Ali Ahmed who was roused from sleep, had to resort to sleeping pills after signing the Emergency declaration – an act that turned the president's title into a synonym for a rubber stamp. But in issues, right from the bifurcation of Jammu-Kashmir to the repeal of president's rule in Maharashtra, the way the sangh parivar regime made President Ram Nath Kovind a mere spectator, was more pitiable than this. Earlier, Indira Gandhi had some remotest loophole in law to latch on to. It was through an almost a similar loophole that the other day, the prime minister used his discretionary powers without a meeting of the cabinet.
That too was for Fadnavis, who had sworn that there would never be a truck with the corrupt NCP. In the midnight murder of democracy, Fadnavis made a partner out of Ajit Pawar, who was involved in the Maharashtra State Co-operative Bank scam, and in criminal cases charged by police, Enforcement Directorate and Anti-Corruption Buireau for corruption running to crores of rupees when he was deputy chief minister in charge of water resources department. Thus Modi and BJP are running roughshod over democracy and surpassing the autocratic era of Indira Gandhi, but in the meantime repeating ad nauseum the rhetoric of 'new India' - and in a manner sour even to the new generation of Congress. During the Indira era, however, there was a segment of media institutions with courage, and a strong judiciary for the country's rescue by putting an end to the Indira era. But in the new age, when the place of Arun Shouries has been taken by Arnabs, and the place of judges VR Krishna Iyer and HR Khanna by Ranjan Gogois, where else will things move other than along the path of power.