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Heed The Omens In Delhi: India Is Headed For A Constitutional Dictatorship

10/06/2015 11:20 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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AHMEDABAD, INDIA - MAY 16: BJP leader Narendra Modi gestures to supporters as he sits with his mother Heeraben Modi, not seen, on her front porch after seeking her blessing on May 16, 2014 in Ahmedabad, India. Early indications from the Indian election results show Mr Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party was ahead in 277 of India's 543 constituencies where over 550 million votes were made, making it the largest election in history. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

An unprecedented mandate from the people in Delhi for the Aam Aadmi Party has invited an unprecedented wrath of the Modi government. As a journalist and editor, I had very closely observed his career graph and a long time ago I was convinced that in his style of politics, there was no place for dissent. It's not coincidental that four years before he became the Chief Minister of Gujarat, when the Gujarat riots had not yet taken place, world renowned sociologist, Ashish Nandy, after interviewing Narendra Modi for research, had said that that he had seen a classical fascist.

The drama which unfolded on Monday, and whatever had been happening with the AAP government via the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi, is a trailer for the political film to come in the near future. Today, I have no hesitation in saying that Indian democracy is heading for a constitutional dictatorship, where an emergency-like situation will be created, dissent and criticism will not have a place, political opponents will either languish in jail or be eliminated, institutions will lose their autonomy and will be made to serve the political interests of one man called Modi. The land of Gandhi will be turned into a banana republic.

jitender tomar

Many in the city had not even imagined that one day it would happen in Delhi, that a sitting minister (Mr Jitendra Singh Tomar) would be treated like a terrorist, an FIR most secretly would be lodged at 3 AM and by ten in the morning seven IPS officers with 33 cars would swoop down at his office, the minister's driver would be thrown out of the car and the steering wheel would be controlled by an officer of the ACP rank and brought to a police station. No notice was served. No summon was issued to the minister. He was issued a notice for interrogation in the police station. Mr Tomar's counsel Mr H.S. Phulka rightly said that in his entire legal career he had never seen police behave like this and in reply to which the Magistrate chided the police, "Your notice seems to be a farce" and "when Mr Tomar was cooperating with the investigation then what was the hurry to arrest him?" But those who know Modi know that he functions like this; it's his way to teach his opponents a lesson.

Today three ominous signs loom large over India and at stake is democracy. Since Mr Modi had assumed power as Prime Minister, the cabinet form of government has collapsed. Today, top cabinet ministers have no say in their ministry. Their secretaries are directly reporting to the prime minister and they have no power to appoint even their own PA. Foreign Minister, Sushma Swaraj, one in the race to be the prime minister, has no clue what is happening in her office. She is not seen during the PM's foreign visits. The Home Minister Rajnath Singh, the official number two and another claimant for the top post, had no idea about what decisions are taken on his behalf towards the Delhi government which comes directly under him and another senior cabinet minister seems to be instrumental in directly giving orders to the officers. The senior ministers, top bureaucrats, media personnel and party functionaries are scared to speak on the phone as they all are aware that their phone calls are religiously monitored like it was done in Gujarat when Mr Modi was the CM there.

"The media has vacated the adversarial role which is its right in a democracy as the fourth estate."

Having spent 23 years in journalism, and having been an editor for 8 of those, I had never seen top editors and promoters so scared. Everyone that I have spoken to, confided in me that they were under tremendous pressure to toe the government line or leave the job. The media has vacated the adversarial role which is its right in a democracy as the fourth estate. Either the media houses are aligned with the RSS ideology that is Hindutva or have quietly surrendered to the dictates of the government; a few smart editors are maintaining a facade of softly criticising the Modi government and ministers but not a word against or critiquing Modi is uttered.

"Today, I have no hesitation in saying that Indian democracy is heading for a constitutional dictatorship."

Thirdly, today the judiciary is under tremendous pressure to fall in line. Their right to appoint judges in High Court and Supreme Court through a collegium system has been scrapped and a new system in which the primacy of the government is established through the back door, has been brought in. Like Mrs Indira Gandhi, the committed judiciary is the new word which is very strongly propagated in the corridors of power. How the judges are managed for the government is a vocal whisper in the legal fraternity. Top judges are fighting a constitutional battle with the Government at the moment. The civil society movement is being crushed in the name of foreign funding. Green peace has almost been forced to fold up its operations and another 88 NGOs are on the radar.

Those who have an experience of Modi's Gujarat model of twelve years, say this will get worse as he gets unpopular. Today, Abraham Lincoln saying that "No man is good to govern another man without that other's consent" has no meaning and I am alarmed to think what Greek philosopher, Plato has said -- Democracy passes into despotism. The signs are ominous.

Ashutosh is the national spokesperson of the Aam Aadmi Party. His latest book is 'The Crown Prince, the Gladiator and the Hope: Battle for Change'.

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