THE END OF
The Asian Age, July 25, 2002
At the all-India level, the future of the
world’s biggest democracy depends extensively on radical
improvements in policy-thinking and action in the Indian
National Congress (INC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
In the Congress Party extra constitutional authorities have
managed to exercise an inordinate amount of influence over
party functionaries who have proved time and again to be
docile and subservient.
A rather similar pattern is now becoming
evident in the BJP. The political insanity of Narendra Modi
and his prototypes can only be overcome by moral
consciousness on the part of mature political leaders who
can stand up and resist demagogic mobilization.
Unfortunately most political commentators
and political scientists in India have failed to understand
the true dimensions of “political decay” and “political
insanity” on account of their addiction to “leftist moralism”
which has completely failed to yield an emancipatory
perspective, and has only aggravated the political paralysis
of social thinkers. It is more useful to discover the
perspective of conservative thinkers like Carl Schmitt which
can help expose the problematic character of Narendra Modi
who has moved Gujarat to disorder and violence, and deprived
the Indian Prime Minister and Indian Parliament of their
legitimacy. In The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy,
Schmitt pinpoints two factors – one, secrecy in
decision-making and two, domination of interests over
political discussion, as the chief elements leading to the
decay of parliamentarism. The basis of modern politics is
public decisions and public debate which exclude political
manipulations of crises.
The real tragedy of Modi for the BJP is that
he has retarded the philosophic and cultural evolution of
the party by evoking the spectre of the fragmentation of
India’s democratic model and by removing Gujaratis from the
wider global cooperation for which they are highly
qualified. The central leadership of the BJP has only
induced disappointment by its half-hearted response to the
crisis. Its complacency in keeping a despised chief
minister in power is ruinous and contradicts the idealistic
and universalistic rhetoric of India’s Prime Minister.
The BJP (continuous from the BJS or
Bharatiya Jana Sangha) had a lineage from Syama Prasad
Mookerjee and Deen Dayal Upadhyaya which provided enough
political space to soften the extremism of communal
politics. Emotionally and conceptually both of them
represented a radical break with long standing traditions
and dogmas of Hindu communal politics. They sought
objective opportunities for political choice between
alternate electoral strategies. They are still remembered
for providing sober and realistic political visions, for
opening options and opportunities leading to deepening the
relationship of the BJP (then BJS) within the Indian
political system in its pluralistic creativity.
To illustrate issues of political regimes
and standards of governance, we can take as a case study the
profound lack of affinity between chief ministers Bhairon
Singh Shekhawat of Rajasthan and Narendra Modi of Gujarat.
A great deal of thought and human and material effort was
invested by Shekhawat to develop coherent conceptions of the
relations between state and society, and to respect the
legitimate interests of the minorities. He personally
monitored the activities of all the ministers and officials
who tended to be over-assertive, counseling moderation and
restraint. Shekhawat was easily able to curb any parivar
zealot whose enthusiasm led him to trespass into areas which
would generate fear and mistrust among minorities. In short
Shekhawat as a BJP chief minister became a shining example
of pluralism and tolerance, and helped to legitimize the
evolutionary potential of the BJP for providing statecraft
with high democratic potential.
Modi started his tenure of political
activity in Gujarat by rejecting the autonomy of civil
society and destroying intra-party democracy. Beginning
with the episode of the public humiliation of the senior BJP
leader Atma Ram Patel, Modi’s actions have been disastrous
for the quality of politics and governance in Gujarat.
Modi’s political agenda has been totally
antithetical to that of Shekhawat in its rejection of the
Mookerjee-Upadhyaya political structure. The cognitive
shift inherent in Modi’s traumatisation of Gujarati society
is the direct opposite of the transparency and openness
needed in electoral politics. He has not gone through the
schooling of democratic politics, being the only chief
minister who has never been an MLA. His modus operandi
remains the same as that which he had used to manipulate
himself into a power position by creating conditions which
made the life of chief minister Keshubhai Patel impossible.
He slowly and insidiously worked through personal attacks
and inspired leaks in the media to stifle open, honest and
balanced political discussions, and mobilized the muscle
element of fraternal outfits to create violence and unrest.
To enhance his leverage on more vital issues even after
becoming chief minister, Modi failed to behave with the
restraint and grace befitting the status of high office.
The cessation of bloodshed was not the focus of his efforts
when the recent events in Gujarat spun out of control; he
remained tied to a myopic preoccupation with his own
demagogic political style which incites terror and
violence. Till he is ousted from power, Modi will ensure
that Gujarat remains engulfed in a civil Armageddon of his
If the BJP is to take pride in its founder
Mookerjee’s democratic principles, it will have to fight and
remove the deleterious effects of the Modi phenomenon. The
fact is that without full respect for transparency and
democratic accountability, the BJP risks losing out on its
strategic design for India’s political, cultural and
spiritual impact on the world. The Gujarat syndrome will
only invite foreign dangers and produce domestic upheaval.
It has presented Hinduism with a hideous face, in itself a
caricature of its best ideals and incompatible with the
circumstances of the new millennium. The bullying conduct
of Modi is a far cry from the integral humanism of
Upadhayaya or the preoccupation with moral and ethical
issues found in Mookerjee’s speeches in Parliament, such as
the one in which he opposed preventive detention as
undermining the basis of a liberal democratic order. The
BJP needs to reflect carefully on the importance of
state-building as a national ideology, and to rule out the
kind of violence and aggression embedded in the
“Talibanisation” of society which Modi is attempting in
To ensure its own future and that of
Gujarat, the BJP should aim at achieving eight main
democratic control and accountability over the VHP.
political norms for intra-party democracy and dissent.
damage to Hindu Muslim relations.
BJP’s political credibility by controlling the robber
with multiple social and cultural structures.
new version of nationalism.
capacity to govern.