Caeser’s four wives—the executive, the legislative, the judiciary and the media—are going through a nasty divorce. Is it a marriage of convenience or like in many marriages, is someone cheating, at least, metaphorically? Last week, three Supreme Court justices held legal gadfly and RTI addict Prashant Bhushan in contempt for tweeting that the court, specifically four CJIs, aided the destruction of Indian democracy. The judiciary by its own admission is a victim of intolerance.
When the contempt missile hit Bhushan, nobody took particular notice because criticism offending the sensibility of someone or the other, and immediate retribution, is the new normal. Bhushan’s only support came from Leftist intellectuals like Arundhati Roy and Ramachandra Guha whose ideological credentials are as lucid as that of Rajasthan Governor Kalraj Mishra, a former BJP Union minister, and governor. He’s been hazing Ashok Gehlot on calling an Assembly session though he isn’t cool about a trust vote.
Though not totally unexpected in the timing, the ED has summoned Gehlot’s brother in a corruption case.
The fourth pillar, the media, is too numb to get its knickers in a twist. Editors over a whiskey-soda do privately bemoan fear in the newsroom and sob that India’s institutions are crumbling. Perhaps they are. Though it’s the job of the media to ask uncomfortable questions, many TV channels take pride in being ventriloquists; last week on a national English channel, a Congress groupie was called a “kutta’’. But you can’t blame the Modi government alone.
The erosion has been going on since the 1970s when Indira Gandhi became India’s, strong woman. Institutions are staffed by people with ideological, political, and social affiliations because people will be people. There are provisions in the Constitution to protect the integrity of principled action.
Governance is the art of preserving democracy through compromise and accommodation without diluting the interests of the ruling party. It’s no surprise that every tough government will try to corral institutions. An independent-minded judge could be transferred or another could be rewarded with a Rajya Sabha seat. However, institutions are supposed to be nonpartisan.
A senior SC judge chose to praise Prime Minister Modi at a public function. A top CBI officer expressed annoyance with ‘the Abrahamisation of Hindus’. The current CDS, when he was Army Chief, had openly touted his political opinions—unheard of in the Indian Army which is a neutral institution.
The Opposition—unlike in the 1970s when the JP movement brought Indira to her knees —is petrified. UP’s caste boss Akhilesh Yadav has lost his tongue. So has corruption queen Mayawati. Chandrababu Naidu is schtum. So is Stalin. Only Rahul Gandhi’s lonely rant on social media asks the government why Chinese soldiers occupying Indian territory—according to his satellite photos—aren’t thrown out. Since it’s him, the questions aren’t taken seriously. For Caesar’s wife, divorce is history. It’s the alimony that counts.
(The writer can be contacted at email@example.com)