BJP has abused India’s secular and parliamentary democracy

BJP has abused India’s secular and parliamentary democracy

BJP has abused India’s secular and parliamentary democracy

India’s leading opposition party has once again held the country’s democracy almost at ransom, displaying no regard for political ethics and norms. This time, India’s parliamentary democracy has been abused by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). This is not for the first time that democratic ideals of India have been flouted by politicking that the BJP has indulged in.
BJP veterans like Lal Krishna Advani violated principles of Indian secular democracy around two decades ago. With the aim to convert secular India into a Hindu state, they took out communal demonstrations, which led to anti-Muslim riots across the country and demolition of the Babri Masjid on Dec. 6, 1992. The mosque was demolished to construct a temple on the same site. The issue is still being legally fought in the courts.
To a degree, the communal drive helped the BJP gain greater political prominence than it had before. In 1984, the BJP had only two seats in the Lower House (Lok Sabha) of Indian Parliament. The use of communal card, that of building a temple at the disputed site, helped the BJP emerge as the largest party in 1996 Lok Sabha elections. The communal card, however, did not help the BJP assume power. In 1996, BJP leader Atal Behari Vajpayee remained prime minister for only 13 days.
The BJP returned to power in 1998, with support of other parties, only after it agreed to put its communal card on the backburner. Though this coalition split soon, the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) returned to power in 1999 to stay on for the whole term with Vajpayee as prime minister. The BJP was able to win support of several other parties only after it agreed to their secular demands and decided to put its Hindutva agenda into cold storage. The BJP was thus able to stay in power only after it agreed to commands of Indian secular democracy. The party did not have the same luck again as Gujarat’s anti-Muslim carnage (2002) exposed the group. The 2004 elections thus helped Congress return to power with a coalition government. The Congress-led coalition succeeded in 2009 too.
The BJP’s political history is witness to the party playing havoc with democracy for its political gains. Now, the party is well aware that the communal card can no longer help it gain politically. With India home to numerous political parties, the importance of vote banks along religious, regional and other ethnic factors has increased tremendously. This includes the Muslim vote. Playing communal card will help rival parties gain votes of Muslims as well as secular non-Muslims and thus create a greater dent on the BJP’s political base. This apparently explains the BJP’s political strategy of abusing the country’s parliamentary democracy. The monsoon session of Parliament concluded this month on Sept. 7 after functioning for less than a week. The BJP legislators paralyzed the functioning of Parliament by their unruly and rowdy behavior. They demanded resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh over irregularities in coal block allocations.
Democratically speaking, as elected legislators it is duty of all members of Parliament to scrutinize functioning of the government. The hard fact that BJP members did not allow Parliament to even function indicates that these legislators failed to live up to their democratic and parliamentary responsibilities. The Indian prime minister is not expected to hand in his resignation simply on demand of opposition parties or of any self-acclaimed leader. He holds this office on strength of support of the majority of legislators in Parliament. Constitutionally, he is obliged to hand in his resignation when and if his government is voted out of power or when his term ends officially.
Over the past two years, the BJP has been giving increasing importance to political frenzy outside Parliament against the government on the issue of corruption. If the BJP is seriously concerned about ousting the present government, why hasn’t it given any importance to exercising its political right to vote against it in Parliament?
The BJP is well aware that it is not going to gather sufficient votes to defeat the Congress in the House. Therefore, failure of this move would be equivalent to the BJP making a mockery of its own political strategy against the government. The BJP has deliberately indulged in rowdy behavior in Parliament so that it gains more time in making noise against the Congress through demonstrations, rallies and other similar moves.
Certainly, the BJP has the democratic right to question and criticize the government’s functioning on streets through speeches, strikes, marches, conferences and other means. Even if a significant number of people turn out showing their support for the BJP’s tactics, the real political test for the government will be when national elections take place.
The BJP must explain what its political priorities are where Indian democracy is concerned. Earlier, the party created havoc by abusing country’s secular democracy. Having learned that communal card will not help it politically, the party has now sought to corner Congress by showing disrespect for parliamentary democracy. Earlier, considered a “model democracy,” it is a shame that India is now earning criticism for its non-functional parliamentary session.

- The author is an Indian freelance journalist who has written extensively for national newspapers.

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