September 30, 2022

India’s Election Circus 2022 (Part II)

Other than caste and reservations, creed played by political parties in varying measures is the most obnoxious. It has become centrestage in upcoming elections, especially in UP. Witness the hate speeches and violence around the nation. Critical examination of any of the past several communal riots would reveal the start point invariably is power-hungry politicians

By Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

The magnitude of effort put in by the BJP to win upcoming UP assembly elections is unprecedented including the barrage of PM Modi’s virtual rallies commencing January 31, which should afford the BJP a comfortable win. Electioneering in western UP on January 27, Home Minister Amit Shah said that UP poll results will decide the destiny of India.

Writing for Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Richard M Rossow, Senior Adviser and Wadhwani Chair in US-India Policy Studies, says BJP has not won a single-party majority in a large state election since 2017. Since then, they have lost a few states and clung to power in others through coalitions. At the end of 2021, the party had 21 chief ministers out of the 30 states and territories with legislatures, and six of the seven states headed to elections this year are held by the BJP. With state re-election rates hovering around 42 per cent in the last five years, the BJP’s control over states could be seriously diminished.

UK’s MI5 recently issued an unprecedented security warning accusing Anglo-Chinese lawyer Christine Lee “seeking to covertly interfere in UK politics through establishing links with established and aspiring parliamentarians across the political spectrum” and to “cultivate relationships with influential figures” on behalf of China’s Communist Party (CCP).

Above is what China, Pakistan and the West (whose national interests only partly match ours) would be doing in India. Salability of our lawmakers/wannabe-lawmakers is on display though the purchase price remains secret, as also price of tickets for contesting elections. Rest assured foreign funds are pouring in through hawala and other means, and using the enemy within to influence election outcomes.

Politicians and wannabes can stoop to any low. A guy can call the prime minister of a country waging proxy war on India for the past three decades his Bada Bhai, claim they both played gulli-danda together and Bada Bhai’s army chief gave him the tightest hug whispering sweet promises in his ear. At the age of 58, he can publicly touch someone’s feet crooning “Maiya Mujhe CM Bana Do” to the sniggers and smiles of spectators.  

Politicians and wannabes can stoop to any low. A guy can call the prime minister of a country waging proxy war on India for the past three decades his Bada Bhai, claim they both played gulli-danda together and Bada Bhai’s army chief gave him the tightest hug whispering sweet promises in his ear. At the age of 58, he can publicly touch someone’s feet crooning “Maiya Mujhe CM Bana Do” to the sniggers and smiles of spectators.  

We are a Hindu majority nation and will remain so in the foreseeable future, of which there is no doubt. Presently, there is much talk about breaking with the colonial past. But why are we afraid to address the top two priorities to break from the colonial past? First, isn’t ‘India’ the biggest colonial baggage that we are carrying? Amid all the talk of Hindutva and Hindu nation, why is the BJP mortally scared to change the nation’s name to ‘Hindustan’?

Second, a view circulating reads: the Bureaucracy (Brown Sahibs) was a gift to India by the wily British to ‘control’ India. The Indians, true to their nature, made it worse, which is now becoming unbearable. Bureaucrats have assimilated power from blessings of the politicians and crass stupidity of the Armed Forces leadership by their submissiveness to the bureaucracy and accepting ‘bureaucratic control’ rather than ‘political control’.

Delivering the inaugural address at the NITI ‘Transforming India’ Lecture Series in New Delhi on August 26, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “We cannot march through the 21st century with the administrative systems of the 19th century.” But the only action government took was lateral induction of 14 joint secretaries but placed them under additional secretaries and secretaries of Indian Administrative Service (IAS), which made them ineffective from day one. Some left midway and balance after completing deputation.

Insiders in the government opine the bureaucracy centred in the deep state with foreign links is so powerful, it can send politicians and ministers packing in no time.

A decade after New Zealand’s Independence in 1907, the government realised bureaucrats would not give up their British ways; feathering their own nests and protecting their predominant position in governance. So, government appointed a commission which recommended lower bureaucracy entry continuing through the public service commission but weaning out ‘deadwood’ of higher bureaucracy and replacing 50 per cent with professionals – specialists like engineers, medical, military, chartered accountants, company secretaries, academia etc. Parliament passed the report in full and speedily implemented it.  

Some say BJP may dump Beating of the Retreat being British origin and especially since Jawahar Lal Nehru started this practice in India. Others say it will be retained for the optics though British-era bagpipes, bugles, pipes and drums will be replaced with Indian-origin musical instruments, and eventually may even take the shape of a carnival. There are jokes galore on social media about the tune Monica Oh My Darling of the naval band. Some say Monica is the counter to Sonia while others feel Monica will be replaced by Bulbul who has mesmerised the national hierarchy. 

Other than caste and reservations, creed played by political parties in varying measures is the most obnoxious. It has become centrestage in upcoming elections, especially in UP. Witness the hate speeches and violence around the nation. Critical examination of any of the past several communal riots would reveal the start point invariably is power-hungry politicians. We have come to an inflection point where the All India Muslim Personal Law Board objects to Surya Namaskar attributing it to Hinduism, while Hindu Vahini workers are stopped in the act of hoisting the Tricolour on Jinnah Tower in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh.

Fortunately the Indian Armed Forces remain secular; a culture that needs to be followed by the nation. But this can happen only with public push because attempts will continue (and redoubled) to break the Armed Forces from within – call it unconventional instrument of power and tool of subversion of enemies in conjunction with forces within India or power-hungry politicians.  

Almost all units of the Indian Army have a Sarv Dharm Sthal – a place of collective worship where all ranks irrespective of individual faith and religion pray together. Establishing such worship facility was suggested by this author to the National Foundation for Communal Harmony (NFCH) in New Delhi a decade ago but there was no response. NFCH is an autonomous organisation under the Ministry of Home Affairs established on February 19, 1992.

How many of us know that 14 universities in Germany are teaching Sanskrit, Sanskrit is acknowledged globally as mother of all languages and NASA acknowledges Sanskrit the best for computer programming? In April 2012, CBSE made Chinese a foreign language subject for middle school students in 500 schools, with plans to promote study of Chinese in 11,500 middle schools. Why then the hesitation to learn Sanskrit at least as a foreign language for those who feel ashamed to acknowledge it as their own because they relate it to Hindu religion?

How many of us know that from the time Amarnath Cave was discovered, where thousands of people go for pilgrimage annually, all the priests’ chanting prayers, performing puja and distributing prasad are Muslims? How many know that the Moin-ul-Islam madrassa on outskirts of Agra teaches boys and girls of both Hindu and Muslim community Sanskrit and Arabic languages?

Do we know American philosopher Thoreau said, “In the great teachings of Vedas, there is no touch of sectarianism. It is of all ages, climes and nationalities and is the road for attainment of the Great Knowledge.” Voltaire reiterated their importance by saying, “The Veda was the most precious gift for which the West had ever been indebted to the East,” But we cannot dispel misperceptions that Vedas relate only to Hindu religion if politicians are intent on polarising the public. It is only through communal harmony that we can gift our children the Vedas – not through violence.

Most importantly, universal application of syllabi in schools is the need of the hour as all schools backed by religious organisations have skewed syllabi which make the youth more emotional and radical instead of becoming balanced and rational citizens. In this context, Pakistan-origin British Barrister Khalid Umar wrote in October 2021, that universal syllabi must be applied to all madrassas in India since Ghana-i-Hind (establishment of Islamic rule across India through Jihad) is taught in almost every madrassa in India and Pakistan, and the Scheme for Providing Quality Education in Madrasas  (SPQEM) introduced in 2009-10 in India to encourage Science, Mathematics, Social Studies, Hindi and English did NOT address the skewed teachings that make  youth emotional and radical. (https://m.facebook.com/story.php?story_fbid=10220648731904429&id=1119306885).

There are many comments about PM Modi wearing Uttarakhandi cap and Manipuri stole for the Republic Day Parade timed for the coming state elections, though some related his triangular cap to Netaji Bose. Similar chatter was during West Bengal elections last year when Modi sported the Rabindranath Tagore-like white flowing beard and even penned a poem on Makar Sankranti. Same was for Modi sporting a turban and trimmed beard during the NCC parade in view of upcoming Punjab election. But optics has always been Modi’s penchant.   

The astrology circuit predicts Modi will win the 2024 general election but beyond handover premiership midway. It could be concurrent to adopting a presidential form of government and him becoming President, which is why One Nation, One Vote is in news? Modi’s praise for Ghulam Nabi Azad in Parliament and award of Padma Bhushan has sparked speculation that Azad may be BJPs preferred CM face when statehood is given to J&K, or even the next President to influence Muslim votes in 2024, if President Kovind is not given second term.  

Insiders in the government opine the bureaucracy centred in the deep state with foreign links is so powerful, it can send politicians and ministers packing in no time

Finally, if the Modi government ‘truly’ wants to transform India, it must address the following as the top national priorities:

  • Rename India as Hindustan or Bharat breaking the colonial umbilical cord.
  • Holistically overhaul the bureaucracy akin to what New Zealand did more than a century ago. With Modi abolishing the Planning Commission (replaced with Niti Aayog) and demonetisation in single strokes, it should not be difficult. This will also address the Centre-States tussle over IAS officers’ deputation and Centre’s grouse of states not sparing sufficient IAS officers.
  • Amend Article 102 of the Constitution and Provisions of the People Act to bar individuals facing criminal charges from contesting elections and permit politicians to contest elections only from one constituency.  
  • Amend the Anti Defection Law to stop the ‘obscene’ practice of sale/purchase of MLAs, MPs and politicians. Does this happen in America – the other largest democracy? Alternatively, let EC hold open auction for politicians wanting to switch political parties (IPL-style), enabling the public to know how much our system has degenerated.
  • Enact ordinance for reservations to be based ONLY on financial status, provide for education and coaching for this reserved category but NOT lower the educational qualification percentage in jobs. Existing practice has lowered standards pan India.   
  • Enact ordinance for universal syllabi in schools – ‘One Nation, One Curriculum’ to be implemented on forthwith basis.
  • Establish maiden Sarv Dharm Sthal for public in the National Capital. States and political parties should similarly do so – Jis Mein Dum Hai.
  • Time-bound transparent trials of politicians facing criminal charges and relieve such individuals from ministerial posts till cleared by Courts.
  • Amend the Anti Defection Law to stop the ‘obscene’ practice of sale/purchase of MLAs, MPs and politicians. Does this happen in America – the other largest democracy? Alternatively, let EC hold open auction for politicians wanting to switch political parties (IPL-style), enabling the public to know how much our system has degenerated.    

The author is a veteran of the Indian Army. Views expressed are personal and do not necessarily reflect the views of https://strategicaffairsindia.in

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