Famous Urdu poet Mohammad Iqbal once wrote a shikwa (complaint) to Allah, in which he lamented bounties always rain on the houses of non-believers while thunderbolts strike only the hapless Muslims.
Iqbal’s famous line, ‘Barq girti hai bechare Musalmanon par’ (thunderbolts strike only the Muslim), explains the current virulence of Indian agencies monitoring the 2019 elections. For, their thunderbolts of wrath are also falling only on the bechara (opposition).
Over the past few weeks, starting with a raid on Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath’s aide, the Income Tax (I-T) department has been regularly swooping down on the opposition in search of illicit cash. While opposition parties from north to south have been targeted with remarkable selectivity, not a single leader from the BJP or its allies has been visited by I-T sleuths so far.
On Tuesday, the department raided the Tuticorin residence of DMK leader Kanimozhi on the basis of a report by the district collector. A few hours later, there were similar raids on the house of a leader of the AMMK, the party floated by TTV Dhinakaran. Another raid a few days ago in Vellore, again on a DMK candidate and his associates, had led to the cancellation of polls.
On April 16, IT officials raided premises owned by people allegedly close to Janata Dal (Secular) in Karnataka’s Mandya and Hassan districts where party chief HD Deve Gowda’s grandsons Nikhil Kumaraswamy and Prajwal Revanna are contesting.
The same day, 16 raids were carried out all across Karnataka. But, only one BJP leader was targeted. The trend of raiding the opposition had started soon after electioneering began, with the MP chief minister. On the morning of April 7, I-T officials had scanned premises of several persons linked to Kamal Nath. Since then, it has become a regular feature of the ongoing elections.
The I-T department and other agencies are well within their rights to keep track of illegal transactions and cash flows. But, the selective application of the law, the flimsy explanations after the raids, and their politicisation by the BJP throws up a valid question: Why this kolaveri only against the opposition di?
The BJP is the richest party in the fray this year. In terms of rallies and voter outreach, it is running the biggest campaign this election. On its payrolls are several PR agencies, aviation companies and event managers; every day the Prime Minister and his team criss-cross the country in choppers, expensive vehicles to address mega rallies at ostentatious venues. Does the I-T department think the BJP and its allies are running their campaign only through wire transfers, cheques and accounted cash while the opposition is the one dealing in cash, ironically, after the PM’s surgical strike in November 2016 that was meant to wipe out black money?
This is not to argue that the opposition should be let off if it is using unaccounted cash in the campaign. But, the manner in which the raids are being carried out — with prior information to the BJP, as was the case in MP, where its leader Kailash Vijayvargiya revealed the alleged haul much before the IT department — and their selective use point to the misuse of law to harass the BJP’s rivals.
With one swift snap of his fingers, like Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War, Indian institutions monitoring the 2019 election have made half our political world disappear from their radar. Away from its prying gaze, this blessed half is going about the business of electioneering without being bothered by investigating agencies. The other half, meanwhile, is under siege.
While anonymous tip-offs — some of them have led to embarrassment for the I-T department, like in Tutticorin where the sleuths reportedly found nothing — are being acted upon, the opposition’s formal complaints are being blatantly ignored.
For the past two days, the Congress has been demanding a probe into a suspicious ‘black box’ in PM Modi’s helicopter that landed in Karnataka’s Chitradurga. Similarly, it has been alleging that BJP leader BS Yeddyurappa was heard on tape offering cash to buy out Congress legislators. But there has been no action so far, not even an acknowledgement of the complaint by probe agencies.
The real test of power is its ability to deliver equitable justice. When it is used as a weapon to punish rivals, dole out favours, power first becomes an instrument of fear and gradually a subject of joke. The selective IT raids have, unfortunately, led us to a point where nobody takes them seriously.
This was evident in Modi’s speech in the aftermath of the raids on Kamal Nath’s aides. Eager to pounce on the opportunity, he labelled it as a Tughlaq Road scam. But the ensuing yawns and apathy forced him to drop the subject within a short time. Obviously, even the electorate knows, the government’s thunderbolts strike only the opposition.