Competitive muscle-flexing

BJP’s March to Lalbazar on Thursday, coming close on the heels of CPM’s March to Nabanna on Monday, was an exercise in competitive muscle-flexing – of who can clash more violently with the police and give a better demonstration of rowdyism. As far as the police are concerned, their handling of the BJP demonstrators was quite lenient compared to their liberal use of the lathi on the CPM activists. But how far have the people been impressed? How far has their support for one party or the other increased? Because it is ostensibly to win over more people to their respective sides that the two shows of strength were staged. On this question both parties are maintaining a stoic silence.
The BJP is the party ruling the country. As such it has immensely more responsibility for keeping its flock disciplined and within the bounds of democratic protest. If any opposition party’s cadres had done the same thing in, say, Bhopal or Lucknow or Mumbai, the States where the BJP is ruling, how would the BJP have reacted?  Or, to bring in the CPM, what would have been Pinarayi Vijayan’s reaction if any opposition party had resorted to the same type of hooliganism at Thiruvanantapuram? Adopting double standards comes easily to political parties, irrespective of their ideology or whether they are in power or out of it. For example, as long as Akhilesh Yadav was the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, the BJP claimed it was a goonda raj in UP. As soon as Yogi Adityanath took over the reins, the BJP stopped complaining about the law and order situation.  Despite the lynching of individual members of the minority community by cow vigilantes or the killing of dalits by upper caste people, everything was hunky-dory in UP.
It is the people who are of least concern to the political bosses. They never try to find out the people’s reaction to their political acrobatics and competitive violence. Nor do they ask themselves what they have really gained by clashing with the police, destroying property and getting their own cadres severely beaten up. Ours is still a fledgling democracy and most of the precedents the political parties are creating – from corruption to nepotism to intolerance to showing scant respect for democratic norms – are actually eroding the people’s faith in democracy. Once this faith is totally lost, Indian democracy will be in the gravest danger because then people will be willing to accept any dictator who promises to restore order in civil life.

Sunday, 28 May, 2017