IS MODI WHISTLING IN THE DARK?By Badri Raina

By Badri Raina

The situation is not very encouraging for the Modi-led BJP on fronts – like corruption, ‘vikas’ and dynasty – that it has been upholding as its great achievements.

As the electoral bonds corruption issue unravels embarrassingly for the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, Narendra Modi, unsurprisingly, seems to have decided to brazen out his governments’ and party’s complicity in what has been called “the biggest scam in the world”.
Attendant fact: Finance minister Nirmala Sitharaman, who is a member of the Rajya Sabha, confessed recently that she has chosen not to fight the Lok Sabha election because she does not have “that kind of money.”
Is that a way of distancing herself from the Rs 6,060 or so crores received from the bonds into party coffers?
That the Supreme Court was obliged to strike down the electoral bonds scheme with scathing observations on the intent both of the government and the State Bank of India to keep the dirty details of t he scheme under wraps is now common knowledge.
The BJP’s much-touted USP – of being above and beyond venality – has come apart massively.
Realities that were customarily dismissed by the charmed base of the right-wing are today admitted, however shamefacedly, also by ‘godi’ anchors and reporters.
The fact that the bonds scheme had a confidentiality clause built into it which his government fought tooth and nail to uphold makes Modi’s rather juvenile defence a matter of common mirth: he is now claiming credit for the fact his shady scheme has made it possible to know the names of the givers and the takers.
The fact is that the government and the State Bank which it holds in administrative thrall knew all the time who had paid how much to whom; only non-BJP parties and the public at large were in the dark.
Such was the corrupt finesse of the scheme, ostensibly framed to cut down cash contributions to political parties.
That even with the bonds scheme in place, twice more contributions were made and received in cash remains still a little known detail.
How reminiscent that of the first grand demonetisation fiat, ineffective as has since been apparent, to enable turning black money nice and white (as Justice B.V. Nagarathna remarked recently).
Is Modi therefore whistling in the dark, expecting that he still has enough cult-credit on the issue of corruption to tweak the popular psyche?
The coming days will no doubt see further unlovely revelations related to the bonds scheme – details that cannot but also further lower the BJP’s standing in the voter’s eyes, Ram temple notwithstanding.
Given that the government just the other day deregistered some five NGOs for receiving foreign funds allegedly without warrant, and has forbidden the use of these funds, the question that must be asked is this: Now that the bonds scheme has been declared “unconstitutional” and illegal, what is to happen to the proceeds thus far received and used?
In other words, why shouldn’t the same principle not apply to the money received from the quashed bonds scheme?
The Kejriwal episode has already brought to light how a real money trail in the matter of corruption led from a PMLA-accused-turned ‘approver’ to the ruling coffers after his arrest! Some Rs 55 crore at last count.
Even more importantly, the corruption-tainted approver’s allegation against Kejriwal, made after several unsuccessful tries by the ED, was deemed sufficient grounds to arrest a sitting chief minister, with allegedly no corroboration.
At that rate, the redoubtable V.D. Savarkar might also have been held guilty on the basis of a thorough averment to the Kapur Commission by the approver, Digambar Badge.
The law in that watershed case however chose not to proceed for lack of “corroboration.”
The common piety of the ordinary Hindu can still feel rather challenged by a spectacle wherein the ruler chants “Jai Shri Ram” from one side of the mouth, and denies the ugly truth of proven venality from the other side.
The situation is not very encouraging for the Modi-led BJP on the other fronts that it has been holding centre-stage as its great achievements.

Where is vikas?
A rigorous scrutiny of ‘vikas‘ or development claims, both by opposition parties and economists of probity, have conclusively brought home to the public that this claim is nothing more than a cruel joke so far as the overwhelming majority of Indians is concerned.
Details here have appeared far too repeatedly to warrant further enumeration.
Let it be said crisply that if on one side the absolute number of billionaires in India has climbed to 271, the world’s third largest, more than 60% of citizens face real pauperisation. No wonder the government is obliged to distribute free cereals to some 81 crore Indians.
Figures related to per capita income, percentage of joblessness, malnutrition and stunted retardation among children, India’s ranking on the global hunger index, anaemia among women, and the prices of consumer goods have by now become familiar indices in common knowledge.
Not to speak of the shameful and shamefully unending paper leaks related to exams, devised both to make money and to postpone the emergence of a generation of job seekers after completion of their degrees.
No matter how loudly Modi speaks of guarantees, the people know that these guarantees have value only for the select band of fat cats.
Even when it comes to Ayodhya and Kashmir, the traction of these communal agendas seems to have worn off, except among cult-followers to whom fact or reason are of little account.
Sadly for Modi, the manufactured victimhood of Hindus has long transmogrified into triumphalism, often violent, disenchanting many sections with the real ideological purposes of these agendas.
That Modi, the head of a constitutionally secular state took upon himself to do the religious rites of installing the idol of Ram in the new temple building at Ayodhya has, as the media showed us, disillusioned, even angered, the more rightful aficionados of the faith whose duty in these matters is inscribed in religious texts and broadly accepted by all Hindus.
The question was asked – who represents the Sanatan – Modi or the Shankaracharyas?

Dynasty
Dynasty is the third arrow in Modi armoury. It is true that having renounced a family life, Modi is personally well-placed to draw attention to the persistence of family holdings in the matter of political empowerment.
But, here is the point: you cannot uphold family as the great cultural bulwark of the Indian way of life and of values, but wish away this persistent social fact from the past within an unfinished democracy when it suits you.
The more visible and embarrassing fact of course is that the dynasty principle suffuses the BJP’s own top party and legislative brass, not to speak of its allied parties with whom Modi does regular business day in and day out.
If the family remains an advantage or disadvantage to Indians aspiring forward in all aspects and options, it is simply an abstraction to think politics can remain immune to this hardy reality. Importantly, aspiring family scions are finally tested by the public. This is reason why a Tejashwi Yadav makes it and his brother, Tej Pratap does not.
Not much else is left in the right-wing political propaganda machine, is there?
Everything with regard to the success or failure of this disingenuous armoury must depend on the success or failure of the ways in which forces opposed to the ruling party/establishment manage to have hard realities registered in the public mind.
As of this day, from all inputs studied, the BJP seems poised on a prospective score of or about 250 seats in the parliament-to-come. Much of course can change in the coming month-and-a-half.
Most pressingly, of course, there is the small matter of whether the Indian republic will remain a constitutional democracy, or formalise an electoral autocracy, or go fast forward to a regular theocracy.
How able and independent state institutions may come to be ought also to be everybody’s takeaway from the political life of the last decade.
Badri Raina is a well-known commentator on politics, culture and society.

Courtesy: The Wire

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