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Anshul is a Political Science and Law graduate from the University of Delhi. He is interested in political, legal and policy developments and frequently writes on related themes. You can contact him on anshulkumarpandey [at] gmail [dot] com.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Vindictiveness and Autocracy : "Achhe Din" Defined

Ever since the BJP led NDA government took charge on May 22, its leader and our new Prime Minister hasn't stopped preaching to us the value of working together to build the nation. That's all fine. However, if one were to analyze his words and deeds over the past few days, it would reveal a gap so vast as to make the Grand Canyon look like a small crevice.

Throughout the elction campaign, the auditory and visual senses of the voters were bombarded with the promise of 'achhe din' or 'good days'. We were told that since Independence, all the governments which had been elected by the people of India with full majority had pulled wool over their eyes and had not succeeded in bringing in the much needed development. In short, institution building for the proper functioning of a democracy, development of the heavy industries and manufacturing sector, a successful space programme, nurturing of premier educational institutes, decentralization of power and evolution of a robust federal structure of government did not really count as development as they did not result in the Nifty and Sensex markers going haywire. What was needed, we were told, was a CEO style of governance which would put India on the fast track of prosperity to emerge as a superpower of the 21st century.

Now, we are indeed being given the taste of a CEO style of governance which involves a heavy dose of vindictiveness and autocracy. 

Eyebrows were first raised when the new government decided to coerce the incumbent governors of the states appointed by the previous government to resign from their posts and thus make way for the new favorites. This was directly in contravention of the judgement passed by the Supreme Court in B.P. Singhal vs. Union of India where the court had laid down that the power to remove a governor cannot be exercised in an arbitrary, capricious or unreasonable manner and should only be exercised in rare and exceptional circumstances for valid and compelling reasons. The whole situation was ironical because it was the BJP which had first raised a hue and a cry in 2004 when the newly elected UPA government decided to remove the governors appointed by the NDA regime.

The Supreme Court judgement did not deter the new government from transferring the governors from one state to another with impunity leading to the resignation of the Governors of Uttar PradeshChhattisgarh, West Bengal, Nagaland and Goa. 89 year old Governor of Gujarat Mrs. Kamla Beniwal, who had not so cordial relations with Mr. Modi during his tenure as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, was transferred to Mizoram with just five months left in her tenure. 

Close on the heels of the whole controversy surrounding the transfer of governors came the refusal of the government to elevate Mr. Gopal Subramanium, a senior advocate in the Supreme Court, to the post of a judge of the apex court as recommended by the collegium of judges. The Chief Justice hit out at the government for segregating the file of Mr. Subramanium from the other three nominees without his knowledge and consent. 

Mrs. Indira Jaising, writing in the Business Standard, sadly noted that the institutions of governance had surrendered their autonomy and lambasted the CBI for doing a complete volte-face regarding Mr. Subramanium's clean record after the change of government at the center. She also remarked that "no ruling party can be allowed to pick and choose its judges in a cloak and dagger manner".

However, it was clear for everyone from the start that the real reason for witholding Mr. Subramanium's elevation as a judge of the Supreme Court was not his alleged affinity with the previous UPA government, but his role as an amicus curiae in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case where he opposed the bail application of Mr. Modi's right hand man Amit Shah. This motive bacame even more clearer days later with the elevation of Mr. Shah as the President of the BJP.

Accused of fake encounters involving Sohrabuddin Sheikh, Tulsi Prajapati among others, Amit Shah spent three months in the Sabarmati jail before he secured bail in 2010. He has also been caught on tape discussing the ways in which the investigation in the case of Ishrat Jahan fake encounter case could be thwarted. Most disturbingly, Mr. Shah has been accused of orchestrating the daily surveillance of a particular woman on behalf of Mr. Modi, a scandal which eventually came to be known as 'snoopgate'. 

All these controversies and the fact that Mr. Shah has a record of being as divisive and polarizing on religious matters as Mr. Modi hasn't deterred the Prime Minister from having his way and appointing him the new BJP chief. 

All these developments make Mr. Modi's promise of ensuring the safety of women in the country and cleansing the polity by barring the entry of criminals sound like a most fantastic chimera. The joke doing the rounds on social media these days is that the Prime Minister promised 'Achhe Din' not for the general public, but for his own partymen! With the exit of reputed legal luminaries like Mr. Subramanium and the rise of alleged criminals like Mr. Shah, that surely seems to be the case.

This Post was Published in CounterCurrents