by Nilofar Suhrawardy 22 March 2023
With India being the largest democratic country in the world, how can a few words uttered by anyone, anywhere be viewed as strong enough to shake its democracy? Irrespective of whoever says what about Indian democracy in any part of the world, including India, to what degree should their comments be viewed as dangerous, damaging and/or from any angle threatening for Indian sovereignty, including its democracy? It is amazing that credibility, worth and strength of Indian democracy is considered weak enough to weaken just by anybody’s remarks. At present, chaos and noise over Congress leader Rahul Gandhi’s “remarks” made in UK seem hardly in keeping with ethics expected to be accorded at least some consideration by respected politicians elected as Members of Parliament. Rather, the impression seems to be created as if Indian democracy has been severely shaken by certain remarks assumed to be and/or allegedly made by Rahul Gandhi.
Rahul’s comments expressed at Cambridge University in London (March 4) have been reported by various outlets of media. He, reportedly talked about Indian democracy being under pressure and opposition voices being stifled. He said, “The institutional framework which is required for democracy — Parliament, free press, and the judiciary, just the idea of mobilization, and moving around all are getting constrained. So, we are facing an attack on the basic structure of Indian democracy.” Sadly, the recent days have been witness to this being actually demonstrated in both Houses of the Parliament.
Certainly, the respected legislators expressing apparently their stand on Rahul’s comments have the right to do so. But rather than hold or as it seems, prevent other parliamentary proceedings from taking place, it would perhaps be more appropriate to present a record of Rahul’s comments which seem to have agitated a considerable number of legislators. At present, it is possible, all who are expressing their stand on Rahul’s comments may not really be familiar with what he actually said. And even if they are and/or learn about the same, their stand is expected to be only be based on what their party dictates permit them to pursue. Nevertheless, democratic and constitutional ethics demand that screen recording of Rahul’s comments is telecast before respected legislators and also via various outlets of media. Or at least, he is personally permitted to clarify what he said and if possible display a recording of the comments being strongly criticized by legislators of the government. Democratically speaking, the entire country has the right to know as to what are the respected legislators making so much noise about.
Given that Rahul Gandhi is projected as a “weak” leader by his rivals, it seems fairly ironical that a few words uttered by him should agitate them to virtually create such a political storm. Rahul expressed his stand as an opposition leader, as mentioned earlier, on democracy being constrained in India at various levels. Strangely, he is expected to apologize for this and has also been apparently blamed for asking foreign powers to intervene to save Indian democracy. His comments, as quoted by several sources of media, are hardly suggestive of his having said anything of this nature. But of course, there is no remedy for negative and biased interpretation any individual, group and/or party- including legislators – deliberately opt for. However, with respect to spreading, propagating and repeatedly making noise about the same before media, in public and/or any place, without any justification, may also amount to defamation based on distorted facts.
Seriously, the entire country isn’t too concerned about what Rahul may have or may not have said in London or elsewhere. But the media coverage given to him is adding to their interest. Paradoxically, little importance is being given by agitated legislators to media coverage gained by Rahul by their making a noise against his “comments”. The majority of people are fairly used to habit of politicians targeting each other. And as parliamentary elections approach, these blame-games are likely to become louder and more frequent. West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee’s reported comments about a “deal” between BJP and Congress seems to follow this trend. But yes, what is certainly drawing concern is the minimal time accorded in the Parliament to issues which need to be given greater importance, including grievances affecting people in general. Perhaps, some attention should also be paid to how much money has actually been wasted by the storm created over Rahul’s comments.
True, each time democratic and constitutional rights of any citizen or community are illegally affected, democracy, secularism as well as sovereignty of the country is also attacked. This happens each time a woman is abused, minorities or any individual is/are harassed, lynched or made to suffer in any manner by anti-social elements. The same cannot be said about Rahul’s comments. The “storm” raised over his comments is probably being deliberately indulged in to divert people’s attention from Adani-issue.
A report of US-based Hindenburg Research has accused Adani Group firms of stock manipulation and financial fraud, which send its shares into a sharp fall. Though the group has denied these allegations, it has prompted opposition leaders to demand an investigation into this scam. Earlier this month, Indian Supreme Court appointed a five-member panel to investigate the allegations. Since Adani is believed to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, he is said to have gained from this political tie by the Opposition. Adani has denied this charge. What cannot be denied is that so far no comment has been reported to be made by Modi on this issue. Also, following allegations, Adani Group’s companies have seen at least $100bn fall in their market value. While legislators belonging to government have created a ruckus in Parliament on their demand for an apology from Rahul, the opposition members are demanding a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC)’s probe on Adani issue.
With respect to chaos over Rahul Gandhi’s comments, the question is why target him over what he reportedly did not say? Simply speaking, a similar political storm is least likely to be raised if probably any other politician is verbally attacked. The prime objective of the respected legislators seems to have been to gain attention of how agitated they are against Rahul. Perhaps, this strategy may not have been indulged in if Rahul’s Bharat Jodo Yatra (Unite India March) had not succeeded in primarily shattering impression created by his rivals about his being a “weak” leader. But targeting him at present, when voters are more concerned about other issues, including Adani-scam is hardly suggestive of a wise political strategy being pursued.
Democratic ethics are certainly not being respected by legislators’ noise not permitting other legislators to express their views. This only adds credibility to Rahul’s comments on Indian democracy being under pressure and opposition voice being stifled. It is a little surprising that BJP master strategists seem hardly concerned about their anti-Rahul tirades in the Parliament being fairly baseless and weak!