For far too long, Indian politics has been about defending the indefensible even as optics warrant a certain obligatory introspection, if not a graceful acceptance
There have been two distinct ways of defending the indefensible in the Indian political narrative across partisan lines. Individuals/groups operating under larger political denominations or patronage have routinely and increasingly resorted to either the counter-accusatory distraction of whataboutery when exposed or have attempted to weave a creative context to justify their indefensible act. The society’s deeply polarised and divided sentiment along partisan lines has disallowed the recognition of the indefensibility of the wrong act perpetrated. And, instead, remained satisfied in rattling counter-facts, attributable to their opponents, or worse, bought into the yarn of contextual “necessity” for the said act. With no higher authority calling the routine bluffs or the emergence of powerful societal voice of restraining the indefensible acts, the perpetrators often go scot-free, reading or misreading the “silence” of the leadership as being tantamount to encouragement. So while political tempers boil frequently, chicanery reigns supreme and ultimately, Indian society gets even more wounded and regressed. Concurrently, the symbols of the law of the land get diminished in the practical sense as individuals/groups take upon themselves the task of meting out “justice” by taking law into their own hands. This dangerously weakens and further discredits the required faith in sovereign institutions like policing agencies, judiciary and Governmental departments.
At an extremely pensive juncture of the national mood, the Prime Minister personally intervened to express his displeasure at the rote spectre of whataboutery and ready “contexualisation” of the indefensible acts. Recent times have seen multiple instances of individuals/groups (across all States with different political dispensations in-charge) usurping power to ostensibly deliver instance justice; whilst acting in shades of brazen vigilantism, mobocracy or sheer hooliganism. This time, the Prime Minister reacted with alacrity, seriousness and specificity when he termed the conduct of a certain lawmaker “unacceptable” and added for good measure, “no matter whose son.”
The fact that the people called out were from the ruling party itself made the Prime Minister’s act even more powerful, impactful and potentially transformational. The entire political drama across the country has been embroiled in competitive one-upmanship with basic governance suffering from the lingering hangover of electoral passions.
The usual mud-slinging, name-calling or whataboutery that followed such acts made headlines for a few days but rarely acted as a deterrent. This time, the message seemingly was: Thus-far-no-more. This augurs well for the country as a whole.
Certain people as also institutions should always be expected to be legally and morally above board — logically, the law enforcer (police forces), law interpreter (the judicial domain) and above all, the law-maker (elected Members of Parliament and State Assemblies). They are expected to be the first among equals of the citizenry to personify the Constitutional propriety, dignity and rectitude.
On assuming the leadership of NDA and the BJP parliamentary party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had first bowed and respectfully touched his forehead on the Constitution of India — a symbolic move to register his reverence for the Constitution in the “temple of democracy.” Sadly, the spirit of Constitutionality is not demonstrated by some law-makers in matching measure. This needs to be condemned outright, without fear, favour or selective bias. Given that any such reprehensible act also has an ecosystem that supports, breeds and actively encourages the perpetuation of such brazenness and lawlessness, it is imperative that the naming-shaming exercise extends to the entirety of such an ecosystem.
Therefore, the yeoman call to expel all those who partook in the unrepentant celebrations following the release of the said law-maker from jail on bail, is far-reaching and very consequential in disabling such a regressive culture and ecosystem. For far too long, Indian politics has mastered the art of deflecting and defending the indefensible, even as prima facie, optics warrant a certain obligatory introspection, if not a graceful acceptance.
The heavily tilted mandate in the recently concluded elections naturally lends itself to either the undesirable possibility of domineering and presumptuous conduct by some of those in the majority group, or the overtly shrill, negative and combative behavior by those in minority — this in the functioning of participative democracy is often at the cost of reason, decorum and constitutionality. Therefore, given the fractured mood of Indian politics, it was imperative that the starting point of the “correction” was triggered by insisting on putting the ruling house in order so that the national leadership cannot be accused of any political bias or “conspiracy” in the condemnation. Simultaneously, it puts a moral pressure on all those in the Opposition, too, to follow suit.
The 34-year-old first-time law-maker in question represents not just his constituency or his party, but also a certain “generation” that seeks positive change, evolution and dynamism of fresh ideas in the India of 2019. The onus of responding to the overwhelming mandate, trust and responsibility reposed in the youth cutting across the party lines of this “generation” of law-makers, ought to walk-the-talk of “tomorrow” and not that of “yesterday”.
Indeed, there are glaring inefficiencies, sub-optimal competencies and ineptitude in the functioning of various governmental arms but the only thing worse than that itself is the smug conviction and the sense of entitlement in taking the law in one’s own hand. It is in the legit functioning of democracy to ensure that the Opposition plays its invaluable role of opposing and questioning the Government of the day. Whereas, the Government itself needs to simultaneously address all concerns raised fairly and squarely, without attributing motives. However, the dance of democracy does not entitle the members of the ruling party or that of the Opposition parties to behave in a manner that is not befitting of their Constitutional expectation, irrespective of the party flag to which such erring members belong. Hopefully, this timely intervention by the Prime Minister himself will go a long way in changing the course and conduct of our elected lawmakers.
(The writer, a military veteran, is a former Lt Governor of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Puducherry)
Writer: Bhopinder Singh
Courtesy: The Pioneer