H Trevor-Roper, a British historian, wrote a seminal book called The Last Days of Hitler. Germany had virtually lost the Second World War, the Allied armies had swept through Europe and were hammering at the very heart of Germany and the Soviet forces were on the outskirts of Berlin. Yet within the Hitler bunker, the megalomaniac who was the Fuehrer and his inner court were still ordering non-existent Germany armies to take the field against the enemy. Trevor-Roper’s description of the last days of Hitler was so graphic that even today when one reads the book one can actually see the scene unfolding before him.
India is not a Nazi dictatorship because it is a deeply entrenched democracy. The difference between a dictatorship and democracy is that a dictatorship ends when the dictator is removed, whereas democracy is a continuing process of government in which elections are held periodically, but a certain thread of consistency in political approach, policy and implementation runs through the entire fabric of governance. For example, when the Labour party came to power in Britain, replacing the Conservatives, the economic and social policies of the new government were very different from those of the Conservative government, but in terms of the method of government, the rule of law, the supremacy of parliament in legislation and of the judiciary in adjudication remained unchanged. Even in India, despite the brief period of authoritarian rule between 1975 and 1977, the basic decency of a democratic system remained. There was no personal vendetta against the outgoing prime minister, Indira Gandhi. That is why in 1980, after the general election she and the Congress came back to power. Similarly, when the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) formed a government under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, it continued to treat Sonia Gandhi and her family with respect.
2014 is a very different story. The Congress seems to have gone into battle almost as if it has no hope of winning. The prime minister, the finance minister, the minister for information and broadcasting have all stayed away from the hustings, thus sending a message that they are not confident of winning. It is obvious that Sonia Gandhi has her own agenda of seeing her son in power. That is why the party has become centred on her and Rahul Gandhi. There is no visible alternative leadership and even the entire burden of the election campaign seems to have fallen on Sonia, Rahul and Priyanka. Take the example of Madhya Pradesh, a state I know so well. There is no feeling that anyone is in charge of the election campaign in this state. From all of this, one could be excused for presuming that perhaps after May 16 there will not be a Congress-led government in India.
One of the consequences of this feeling is that the main rival is BJP, whose leader for the purpose of the election is Narendra Modi. Right from 2002 the Congress, the secularists and the so-called liberals have demonised Modi in the context of the events at Godhra and thereafter in 2002. What this has succeeded in doing is to make Modi a known name throughout India and build up his image larger than life. The more this happens the more the Congress panics and the more shrill are the attacks on Modi. It is obvious that this is not a campaign fought on issues, ideology and policy. Instead, it is fought on the basis of counter-vilification of the main political players. Is this fair to the country? Anyway, coming to the Hitler bunker theme, with the countdown of the present government nearing the end, with the government being a caretaker from the day polls were announced, the UPA government is behaving exactly like Hitler and his acolytes in their last days. Dig out any dirt, real or imaginary, against Modi so that he can be kept at bay and Delhi isn’t overrun. The latest attempt was the ridiculous proposal to appoint a judge of the Allahabad High Court as a commission of inquiry into alleged illegal phone tapping and surveillance of a woman by Gujarat police, allegedly under directions from Modi. Even UPA allies such as the National Conference and the NCP were horrified at the proposal and publicly opposed it. The bid was aborted, but did the Congress seriously think it would sway the voters, with the last constituency going to polls on May 12, or whether the commission would last even for one day if Modi came to power?
Leading the Congress charge was Kapil Sibal. I would strongly recommend to him that as a lawyer of repute he should at least read the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952. Section 3 of the Act says, “The appropriate government may, if it is of the opinion that it is necessary to do so… appoint a Commission of Inquiry for making an enquiry into any definite matter of public importance …” If an offence is committed under any law, the procedure given in the Code of Criminal Procedure, especially Chapter XII of the Act, will apply, a complainant may file an FIR with police or alternatively, directly approach a competent magistrate; an investigation will be made and if a prima facie case is made out, the case will be challaned and submitted to a magistrate who may or may not take cognisance of it. In the instant case, there is no FIR registered by the alleged victim, therefore, there is no police probe. Under the Indian Telegraph Act the word “telegraph” includes every appliance or apparatus by which signals, etc., can be sent electronically or electromagnetically. Under Sections 23 and 24 of the Indian Telegraph Act any unlawful attempt to learn the contents of any message, popularly called phone tapping, is a criminal offence and, on conviction, the accused is liable to punishment. If Gujarat Police have done illegal phone tapping they should be pulled up under these provisions of law. If there is undue invasion into privacy by illegal surveillance, then under IPC Sections 166 and 167 the guilty police officer can be punished. If in the course of illegal surveillance any attempt has been made to outrage the modesty of the complainant, severe penalty can be imposed under IPC Section 354. In any case an alleged criminal act cannot possibly form a subject matter of public importance calling for the setting up a commission of inquiry. It would be a gross misuse of the Act.
Manmohan Singh is a very decent human being, who cannot play the part of Hitler during his last days. He must firmly tell the party whose government he heads that under no circumstances will he allow such gross misuse of any law meant for very special circumstances, as a last ditch weapon against Modi.
M N Buch, a former civil servant, is chairman, National Centre for Human Settlements and Environment, Bhopal;