The Indian democracy these days is essentially the government of the BJP, by the BJP, and for the BJP. Whatever be the outcome of an election, the BJP ultimately comes to power –either through electoral mandate, or through defections and manipulation, and, if nothing else works, through parliamentary fiat.
In the end, elections are merely an opportunity for BJP leaders to discover India and make riveting speeches. Their outcome, in the larger scheme of things, is irrelevant.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal must have realised these maxims with the BJP making yet another bid to overturn the outcome of an election through its brute majority in the Parliament.
On Monday, the Lok Sabha passed a Bill that defines, as Aamir Khan once famously said about a soft drink, that the word “government” in Delhi means the Lieutenant-Governor (L-G). The Bill makes it mandatory for the elected government in the national capital territory to take the opinion of the L-G before any executive action. In short, elections in Delhi would now be a farce since all powers would vest in the L-G.
Delhi not doorast
The BJP’s obsession with taking control of Delhi is understandable. Delhi’s primacy in Indian democracy and geography makes it the centre of global attention. The BJP wants to own this important stage at every cost.
Much to its frustration, all its moves in the battle for Delhi have so far backfired. In six successive elections since 1998, the BJP has been rejected by the electorate. In the past two elections, in spite of a high-voltage campaign by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah, the BJP has been reduced to less than 10 seats in the 70-member assembly.
The BJP’s attempts to topple the elected government, which normally succeed, have failed in Delhi. It first tried to destabilise the government through defections, and later used the farcical ‘office of profit’ ruse to checkmate Kejriwal. But, the move didn’t work as the Delhi high court set aside the Election Commission’s decision to disqualify 20 legislators of Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
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The BJP then tried to control power through the L-G, arguing that all decisions be routed through him. But, in July 2018, the Supreme Court restricted the L-G’s powers only to three subjects — law and order, police and land. On all other matters, the SC ruled, the L-G had no independent decision-making powers and was bound to follow the “aid and advice” of the Delhi chief minister.
All its moves thwarted, the BJP has gone back to its strongest suit–its majority in the Parliament. Once the Bill is cleared by the Rajya Sabha, where the BJP has the required numbers, the Delhi chief minister will turn into a mere puppet of the L-G. And elections in Delhi would turn into an irrelevant spectacle.
To rail against the subversion of democracy, misuse of power and unconstitutionality of the Bill would be pointless. In its quest for lebensraum and hunger for power, the BJP doesn’t bother much about political morality or constitutional legality. Its defining motto in politics is power at any cost, through the use of saam, daam, danda and bhed (persuade, purchase, punish or exploit secrets). In its pursuit of power, the BJP is inspired both by Kautilya western dictators and philosophers. Till the BJP has a majority in Parliament, India should be prepared for concentration of power in its hands through every possible device.
Kejriwal’s tragicomic denouement
The brutal clipping of Kejriwal’s wings is a lesson for Kejriwal. Over the past few years, he had gradually turned into a parody of himself, attempting a volte-face from his earlier avatar of the BJP’s adversary to its clone.
In August 2019, when the Modi government had dismembered the state of Jammu and Kashmir and handed over administrative powers to the L-G, Kejriwal had hailed the move. “We support the government on its decisions on Jammu and Kashmir. We hope this will bring peace and development in the state,” Arvind Kejriwal had tweeted.
The Kashmir model of “peace and development” is now coming to Delhi. If Kejriwal revisits his tweet, he would find himself in the company of British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who, in 1938, had prophesied “peace for our times,” albeit in different circumstances.
The lesson for Kejriwal is this: selling your soul, like Dr Faustus, doesn’t work. Kejriwal’s endorsement of the BJP on Jammu and Kashmir and the Citizenship Amendment Act, his metamorphosis into a Hanuman Bhakt from a Bhagat Singh fan, and appeasement of the right-wing through populist measures like free travel to Ayodhya had already turned him into a clown impersonating the BJP.
But, he forgot that the BJP prefers a puppet, not a joker. And power, not entertainment.