Mysterious are the ways of politics. Why did the BJP ask its time-tested leader Yediyurappa to give up the chief ministership of Karnataka? Why did it ask Basavaraj Bommai, inheritor of a rare tradition of corruption-free politics, to become the new CM?
It cannot be that the BJP has suddenly turned against corruption. Notice that it paid attention to Father Yediyurappa’s request that his two beloved sons be given high positions in state and central governments. Notice also that the loving father took his sons to Delhi in a chartered aircraft. In our country, even politicians marked for the waste basket live in royal style.
The glories of corruption dazzled people so demonstrably under Yediyurappa that his own BJP comrades got worried. A group of influential party MLAs had started feeling that things were getting bad enough to harm the party. The internal campaign they began must be the main factor behind the fall of a leader considered invincible. Only BJP leaders can punish a BJP leader.
It is ironic that the drama unfolded in Karnataka even as the Prime Minister declared that dynastic politics was the greatest threat to democracy. The Prime Minister’s stock in trade is exaggeration. He knows what everyone knows: That Indira Gandhi, the embodiment of dynastic politics, failed to get her dynasty entrenched. If she had succeeded, Rahul Gandhi would be sitting on the throne, instead of struggling as he does to find a name and habitation for himself. Even the magic of Jawaharlal Nehru could not make dynastic politics the threat Modi says it is.
We need to look at countries like Syria to know what dynastic politics is. Its President, Bashar al-Assad, is re-elected whenever elections are held. Currently, he is in his fourth term, having secured 95 per cent of the votes. (The other 5 per cent must have been left out to make things look nice.) Modi faces no such problems. Even well-argued books by reputed researchers pose no problems for him because that is seen as no more than part of functioning democracy. Debashish Roy Chowdhury and John Keane have written ‘To Kill A Democracy: India’s Passage to Despotism’. The title speaks for itself.
The widely-read Christophe Jaffrelot’s latest book has a descriptive title that sums up the message: ‘Modi’s India: Hindu Nationalism And The Rise of Ethnic Democracy.’ He argues that “India is transitioning from a de facto Hindu Rashtra to an authoritarian Hindu Raj” where a Hindu-dominated system turns minorities into second class citizens. Having created this intellectual commotion, Modi says: “I don’t want power. I want to serve people.” People are too down and out to laugh.
Politicians cannot create public opinion. Based on observed events, public opinion forms on its own. This is why Modi’s efforts to belittle Nehru have been as ineffective as his attempts to cast himself in larger-than-life moulds. India’s democratic culture is rooted in people’s awareness of democracy’s fundamentals. These fundamentals have been part of our routine of life ever since the Constitution was framed and the state started functioning under its terms and conditions.
Let it not be forgotten that the Prime Minister condemned dynastic politics from a platform conspicuously avoided by all other political formations in the country. It was the Constitution Day event in the Central Hall of Parliament and it was boycotted by 14 opposition parties including the Trinamool, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and the Left parties besides the Congress. Even on a topic accepted by almost all political formations, Modi is unable to get public support from groups outside his own.
The threat to democracy is not from dynastic politics as the Prime Minister says. The real threat is from one-leader politics. It is not accidental that the Modi Cabinet is similar to the astronomical model in which the earth and planets revolve around the Sun at the centre of the universe. Copernicus was ridiculed and threatened when he said the earth went round the Sun.
India has its own Copernicuses who are ridiculed for speaking the truth. But the truth remains unaltered. The earth does go round the Sun. Karnataka goes round the BJP. The burning brightness of the Sun is so powerful that we cannot look at it. The fire that burns at the core of the BJP is so blinding that we cannot really see what is going on. We are happy that a good man emerged from the fire to sit on Karnataka’s CM chair. Will anything more come out of the fire?