Speaking ahead of the 40th anniversary of India’s Emergency, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) patriarch LK Advani said that the nation was as vulnerable today as it was back then because our politicians do not have a commitment to democracy. Opposition parties, especially the Congress, have taken this statement to be an “indictment” of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government. The irony of the Congress party’s allegations is there for all to see. In fact senior Congress leader, Digvijay Singh had the temerity to say that since Advani was himself a “victim of Emergency”, the senior BJP patriarch was hinting at a larger malaise in our polity today. In one swoop, Singh has scored the proverbial own-goal since it was only in 2004 that Congress president Sonia Gandhi called former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi a “true democrat”.
In the larger scheme of things, Advani’s comments will have no real bearing on the current ruling dispensation. The BJP patriarch has been relegated to the party’s senior leaders’ panel, which barely has any influence on the daily workings of the government or BJP. If Advani did intend to take a pot shot on the Modi regime, one is afraid that the BJP veteran has no moral ground to declare that our politicians today have no commitment to democracy. In the early 1990s, it was Advani, who led the communally charged movement for the construction of a Ram Temple in Ayodhya. According to numerous political commentators, the actions of the BJP patriarch and those involved, have left an indelible scar on India’s democratic structure.
However, if there is any politician that possesses some grounds for co-opting Advani’s statement against the Modi government, it is Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal. Of course, one cannot argue in favour of the undemocratic expulsion of former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav. The issue, however, is about the recent actions of the Centre in Delhi, through its proxy the Lieutenant Governor (LG). Last month, the Centre had issued a notification, which underlined the LG’s position as the “administrative head” of Delhi and that “services” are out of the purview of the State government. In addition, the LG had sanctioned the transfer of seven inspectors of the Delhi police to the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB), besides appointing its chief over Kejriwal’s choice. Clearly the LG had no business trying to appoint officers of his choice to the ACB, against the wishes of an elected Delhi government. Subsequently, the Delhi High Court dismissed the Centre’s notification that the LG was the “administrative head” of Delhi and “services” are out of the AAP government’s purview. Although the matter is currently being heard in the Supreme Court now, one must not forget that AAP was voted back into power on the back of a mandate that no party has achieved in recent times. The ruling party at the Centre, meanwhile, was summarily rejected by the people of Delhi. Despite such a decisive mandate behind the AAP government, the Centre continues to meddle in its affairs. The warnings signs are there for all to see.