Rajat Sharma

Rahul must not challenge popular mandates by dubbing them as “electoral autocracy”

akb2711On Thursday, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, while quoting a Swedish institute’s report, tweeted: ‘India is no longer a democratic country’. He quoted a Swedish institute V-Dem (Varieties of Democracy). V-Dem claims, it works with more than 3,500 country experts and it has a global advisory board.

Members of the board include Pakistan People’s Party leader Aitzaz Ahsan, India’s Centre for Policy Research chief Pratap Bhanu Mehta and JNU Professor Nirja Gopal Jayal. The institute has been set up the Department of Political Sciences of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.

In ‘Democracy Report 2021’, V-Dem has downgraded India from ‘world’s largest democracy’ to an ‘electoral autocracy’. The report says: “Narendra Modi led the BJP to victory in India’s 2014 elections ..and most of the decline occurred following BJP’s victory and their promotion of a Hindu-nationalist agenda.”

The report further says, “In general, the Modi-led government in India has used laws on sedition, defamation, and counterterrorism to silence critics. For example, over 7,000 people have been charged with sedition after the BJP assumed power and most of the accused are critics of the ruling party. The laws of defamation, upheld in India’s Supreme Court in May 2016, have been used frequently to silence journalists and news outlets that take exception to policies of the BJP government.”

I do not know from where the V-Dem got its figures, but if laws of defamation have been used to silence Modi’s critics, Rahul Gandhi should come forward and disclose whether he or his party men have been framed in any defamation case for making allegations against Modi for putting Rs 30,000 crore in Ambani’s pockets in the Rafale deal.

Rahul Gandhi should know how more than 1,40,000 people were arrested and put in jail without trial during 20 months of Emergency imposed by his grandmother Indira Gandhi in 1975. This figure is from Amnesty International report, the organisation, which Rahul and his aides love to quote nowadays.

Nearly 27 lakh people in 1975 and 83 lakh people in 1976 were forcibly sterilized during the Emergency, according to Population Bulletin. The entire opposition was thrown into jail for 19 months. Right to Life and Liberty, as enshrined in the Indian Constitution, was abrogated and four out of five judges on the Supreme Court bench were forced to give judgement supporting the government’s power to abrogate this right. The only brave judge who wrote in dissent was Justice H R Khanna. It was he who wrote “detention without trial is anathema to all those who love personal liberty”. This dissenting judgement later cost Justice Khanna the post of the Chief Justice of India.

If Rahul Gandhi says there is no democracy in India now, he must come up with facts and figures to show whether censorship has been imposed on the media, or whether journalists have been thrown into jails for writing against the government, as his grandmother did during the Emergency. Rahul Gandhi alleges that the voice of the opposition has been muzzled. Right from 2014, Rahul and his party men had been levelling baseless allegations against Narendra Modi. Were they ever prevented from voicing their allegations? Rahul had alleged in 2019 that Modi had favoured Anil Ambani to the tune of Rs 30,000 crore in the Rafale deal. Did anybody try to muzzle Rahul’s voice?

It’s time Rahul should come forward and clarify what type of democracy he wants. Does he want a democracy where a family controls the running of a government for 10 years by using remote control? Does he want an ‘Accidental Prime Minister’ like Dr Manmohan Singh, whose cabinet approved an ordinance, but had to stall it, after Rahul tore up the copy of the ordinance in public at a press conference?

Rahul and his aides must understand that the people of India have twice given clear mandates to Narendra Modi. The people of India have rejected the concept of rule by a single dynasty. In elections after elections, the Congress has lost the states where it once used to rule. To label the people’s mandate as “electoral autocracy” by quoting a report written by two professors sitting in a Swedish university, is like being an ostrich hiding its head in the sand. Rahul should wake up and try to mobilize his partymen in order to build a strong opposition instead of relying on reports prepared in foreign land.

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