DEFECTION: Despite several leaders of the TMC like its co-founder Mukul Roy who had defected to the BJP, Mamata trounced Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in the last West Bengal elections and raised hopes that she could repeat a similar performance in Delhi in 2024
By Rajan Narayan
During the JP Revolution the slogan in the suburbs of Andheri in Bombay was “Andhere me ek Prakash, Jayaprakash, Jayaprakash!” In 2024 we hope it won’t be “Modi, Amit!” but “Mamata-didi!” Prashant Kishor has the opportunity to play the role that Jayaprakash Narayan did during the post-Emergency revolution!
The I-PAC movement lead by political strategist Prashant Kishor is an action replay of the Jayaprakash Narayan movement just before preceding the Emergency declared by the late Indira Gandhi in 1975-77. In the run up to the Emergency, Indira Gandhi had been disqualified from her Parliamentary seat in Raebareli. Indira’s rival, Raj Narian, had filed a case against Indira Gandhi for misusing her official position to win the elections. Unfortunately for Indira Gandhi, the Allahabad bench of the UP High Court upheld the charges against Indira Gandhi. Any Member of Parliament who is disqualified even if he or she is the prime minister has to resign from Parliament. She automatically also lost her post as prime minister.
Indira Gandhi appealed against the verdict before Justice Krishna Iyer in the Supreme Court. But upholding the verdict Justice Krishna Iyer made it clear that she could not participate in proceedings of Parliament or vote on any bills. Any of the MPs would have resigned from Parliament. Instead, Indira Gandhi declared Emergency. She went to President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and got him to sign an ordinance dissolving Parliament and appointing herself as the dictator of India.
Overnight all the leaders of the opposition of all political parties were arrested. Censorship was imposed and all publications had to submit their papers and magazines to the censorship board. Just as Modi has killed the media, Indira Gandhi put in jail journalists who wrote against the Emergency.
Indira’s son Sanjay Gandhi introduced a forced family planning program called Nazbandi. Young man were rounded up and sterilized forcibly. All the slums in Delhi were shifted out far away from the city. Between mother Indira and son Sanjay there was no tolerance of any dissent.
One may say the JP movement is akin or predecessor to the I-PAC movement which started in Bihar. By a coincidence, all the three top leaders of I-PAC, Prashant Kishor, Rishi Raj Singh and Kunal Singh are from Bihar. The JP movement started as a students strike in Bihar. The revolt against the government spread to all parts of the country including Gujarat, which was the state ruled by Narendra Modi later.
The biggest shock to Indira Gandhi was the indefinite strike of the Indian Railways. You can imagine what happens to any country if all the trains stop running. George Fernandes was the leader of the Railway Workers Union. He went underground and in fact, stayed with me while in hiding for a week in Mumbai. Finally he was arrested and kept in chains as though he was a criminal. All the leading political leaders including Morarji Desai, YB Chauhan, leaders of the Left socialist parties were arrested. All young activists including professors in Mumbai University were not only arrested but the women were kept with leprosy patients and tortured.
JOURNOS NOT SPARED
Even journalists were not spared and Assistant Editor Sundar Rajan of The Times of India was jailed for over a year. The Indian Express was forced to sack its chief editor Srikrishna Mulgaonkar and there was a threat to take over the paper. I recall that on the day of the Emergency when I was walking to my office at the Onlooker magazine, the police were scrapping of our latest issue heading which said “Is this the end of Indira Gandhi?” The Emergency, like Modi’s government, also controlled what people could wear and the film industry was targeted for indecent exposure of the body.
AS Prashant Kishor has rightly pointed out in his recent interaction with the Indian Express, Indira Gandhi destroyed all political parties. She would not tolerate any opposition. She wanted to control the minds of all Indians. Indira thought she was the empress or the queen of India. If you disagreed she would chop off their head. Everyone lived in fear and even terror of what would happen next.
CONGRESS INDIRA LOSE
But Indira Gandhi realized that she could not carry on with the Emergency indefinitely. After two years she decided to lift the Emergency and called for a fresh election. Jayaprakash Narayan (JP) managed to get all the parties to unite to fight the Congress led by Indira Gandhi. All the political leaders who had been jailed came together. This included for the first time the Jana Sangh which changed its name to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) later.
Perhaps in retrospect JP made a mistake in giving legitimacy to the RSS through the backdoor by permitting BJP to join the alliance. The other partners included the Left and Socialist parties and even the regional parties. The BJP led-National Democratic Alliance (NDA) won 353 seats and the Congress led-United Progressive Alliance won 91 seats. The National Congress party itself won only 52 seats in the 1977 elections with Indira Gandhi herself losing her seat Raebareili to the person who got her disqualified, Raj Narain.
There is a parallel between what happened in 1977 and what is happening in 2021. The movement led by Mamata-didi is very similar to that of the JP movement. Mamata wants to rightly replace Narendra Modi as the prime minister in 2024. She inflicted a humiliating defeat on the BJP in the State assembly elections in West Bengal earlier this year. This was despite Narendra Modi and Amit Shah sparing no attempts to defeat Mamata-didi. Narendra Modi made the mistake of taunting Mamata-didi as though she was some woman of loose morals.
Narendra Modi tried to replace West Bengal’s famous Kali Maa with Shri Ram who was no competition to the most loved and feared avenging goddess of West Bengal. Not surprisingly Mamata-didi is seen as another avatar of the goddess Kali who would drink the power of Narendra Modi and Amit Shah! They had neglected the serious second wave of Covid-19 sweeping the country just to defeat Mamata Banarjee in West Bengal. But didi won despite several senior Trinamool leaders, including those who started the party with her like Mukul Roy and Babul Supriyo and several others, defecting to the BJP.
All the defecting MLAs lost in the assembly elections and had to return to the Trinamool Congress. Mamata proved that Narendra Modi and the BJP were not invincible and if everyone got together Narendra Modi can be defeated in the 2014 Parliamentary election in Delhi in 2024.
ADMITTEDLY, the Indian National Congress will have to get its act together if the BJP is to be defeated. It cannot continue to behave like a headless chicken running around. Even now the Congress does not have a president with Rahul Gandhi behaving as if he is more concerned with running away than taking up the leadership of the party. The party is split with a group of 23 senior leaders demanding that somebody from outside the Gandhi family be made Congress president.
It was in this context that Prashant Kishor commented that if all the parties did not unite the BJP would continue to rule the country for the next 20 years. The implication is that Mamata-didi may forget her hopes of being the next prime minister of India in 2024.
This is not the first time that a ruling party can be defeated. It may be recalled that if Atal Bihari Vajpayee became the first BJP prime minister, defeating the Congress party, it was primarily due to the Ram Janbhoomi movement launched by then BJP President LK Advani. It is the momentum of the Ram Janbhoomi movement which led to the destruction of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya which brought the BJP to power for the first time.
What Narendra Modi has done is much worse than demolition of the Babri Masjid. Narendra Modi has sold the country to industrialists like Gautam Adani and Mukesh Ambani. Even while the poor and middle class are suffering in the country post Covid-19 lockdowns, Mukesh Ambani has bought a palatial 45-room country home in the UK for over Rs500 crore.
Narendra Modi has no explanation as to where all the black money went despite demonetization. Over 99% of the currency in circulation has returned to the banks. So where has the black money gone. By imposing GST, Narendra Modi ruined the lives of small traders. Imagine the kirana shop which retails 50 different items filing GST returns every month.
Narendra Modi during Covid-19 times reduced poor hard working migrant workers to beggars. The scene of migrant labor walking 2,000 km back to their home states because they had lost their jobs, still haunts many with a conscience in the country. The truth is the Modi sarkar has become very rich while the poor and middle class have become poorer and marginalized.
I recall a letter on Facebook. A government retired employee points out that before Narendra Modi came to power he was getting around Rs20,000 from his investment in FDs in public sector banks. This has fallen with the reduction in interest rates to less than Rs10,000. So what fault is it of the common man that he put his trust in Narendra Modi and his government?
The reason why Modi should go is because he is not content to being prime minister. He wants to destroy all opposition forces. He wants to rule like an emperor for rest of his life. He wants to establish the dictatorship of Hindutuva. Under which you have no freedom to eat what you want. In Vadodara (Baroda) in Gujarat you are not allowed to display meat items in public. So all the stalls selling chicken shwarma have been closed. Several BJP State governments which have banned jeans and insist that women should wear saree or salwar- kameez.
The minority communities are being targeted repeatedly under Modi’s India which is no longer a secular democratic republic. It is a tyranny comparable to that in Iran where nobody may defy the Ayatollahs. It is rightly pointed out by Prashant Kishor that BJP and Narendra Modi are “Talibanizing” India.
But Prashant Kishor may yet be proved wrong. The Indian voters are very smart. Just as they said goodbye to Indira Gandhi for declaring an Emergency, they will get rid of Narendra Modi. But for this everyone must come together as they did post-Emergency elections.
The role of Prashant Kishor is to be a builder and not a breaker. The role of Prashant Kishor is to encourage parties to come together and not to make negative statements like BJP will rule forever! If the BJP is going to be in power for another 20 years why should Mamata Banarjee hope to be prime minister in the 2024 elections? Prashant has been hired to make Mamata the Prime Minister in 2024. The reason why the TMC has started its campaign for prime ministership in Goa is because Narendra Modi was launched from Goa.
It may be recalled that in the 2012 executive meeting of the BJP held in Goa when the late Manohar Parrikar was the chief minister, it was decided that Modi will be the chief spokesperson. From there it was only step to projecting Modi as a prime minister.
Prashant Kishore may have helped Modi to become the prime minister. He has an obligation now to make sure that Modi is not elected in 2024. That Mamata-didi who first defeated the Left and then the BJP in West Bengal is the only person who can defeat Modi. But even she needs the support of all political parties.
We are happy that Mahua Moitra has replaced Derrick O’Brien as the in-charge of the Goa Trinamool Congress’ campaign in Goa. Derrick O’Brein had no control over Luizinho Faleiro or even Prashant Kishor. Mahua Moitra is one tough woman with a mind of her own. Even during the West Bengal election she hired her own team and did not rely on I-PAC. The I-PAC team is understandably worried that Mahua Moitra will bring in her own team and they will be rendered jobless or sent of too Uttar Pradesh where the bigger battle for power is unfolding.