Was The BJP Government ‘Dead’ All Along?
A doctor said that the standard procedure to declare a patient dead in 1-3 minutes is to listen for the sound in the chestal area with a stethoscope, to feel for a pulse on the side of the neck and to flash a beam of light in the eyes to observe the absence of pupil contraction. Thus, stating the obvious, it is rather the absence of the heart’s sound, pulse and eye contraction; or putting it all together, the absence of important signs of life that makes someone dead. Taking the liberty to stretch this as an analogy to our present Modi-led BJP government, if one had to determine in under 3 minutes how much the BJP, NDA government is metaphorically alive or dead, it could be checking for the absence of signs of good governance like economic astuteness, accountability, honesty, constitutional regard, humanitarian efforts and secular politics.
No Country For The Poor?
Surely, after much non-productive populism the government tried to mitigate and brought down the GST, but it still eats majorly into the capital of the poor and the small. Also, the “Make in India” campaign and proposals in the 2018-19 budget concentrating on the agricultural and domestic sector will be beneficial to some extent, if implemented properly. But would you call all this revolutionising or damage-control?
A Legacy of Controversial Financial Bills…
The BJP led NDA government has shown that it can overlook legislative procedures and manipulate loopholes to meet its ends. In the Financial Bill 2016, it included amendments in the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act, through which foreign funding to political parties is legalised. Earlier, BJP and Congress had been found guilty of illegal foreign aid under the very law. These amendments, which are now a law, let them off.
In the Financial Bill 2017, BJP led NDA introduced electoral bonds that not only lifted the limit to which foreign funding is allowed but also provides anonymity to foreign companies that fund political parties. This has been famously termed as “legalisation of corruption”. Plus, the Aadhar, of whose benefits even the Supreme Court is doubtful, was also mandated via a Financial Bill.
In the Financial Bill 2018, the salaries and pensions of Members of Parliament were increased by almost 50%. The BJP allowed itself to spend Rs. 80,000 crores from the Consolidated Fund of India; this and everything stated above was passed without debate. The opposition did raise objections (not to the salary hike) as to how the unrelated non-financial Aadhar, FCRA and electoral bonds are included in the Financial Bills in the first place. But, BJP’s will to use its Lok Sabha majority, circumvent Rajya Sabha and use to its benefit the Rajya Sabha’s constitutional disadvantage in the procedure of passing financial bills triumphed.
Interference In The Independent Bodies…
It is important for a democracy to have institutions that can keep a check on the government and carry out vital functions without influence from any entity. However, time and again the BJP government has been accused of meddling with or stalling the functions of independent institutions.
For instance, the judiciary is constitutionally required to recommend appointments or transfers of judges. But the BJP led NDA government has multiple times overrode the collegium – seeking to influence or ignore its recommendation. Case in point: Making Ramendra Jain a permanent judge in the Punjab and Haryana High Court.
BJP also tried to form a National Judicial Appointments Commission that would give the government an indirect authority to choose and appoint the judges in the Supreme and High Courts (as the Union Minister of Law and Justice and the Prime Minister would hold key roles). Keeping in mind the arbitrary decisions taken by the Chief Justice of India, Deepak Misra, and the chaotic functioning of the Supreme Court in the past few months, as pointed out by the four senior-most judges of Supreme Court in a press conference, the judiciary truly needs to be remoulded. But should BJP get its way in the name of reform?
BJP did get its way in the matter of the merger of tribunals – the autonomous bodies that scrutinize government functions in several areas like income tax, telecommunications etc. It, again, illegally included amendments for non-financial tribunals’ acts in the 2017 Financial Bill, in which, besides reducing 36 tribunals to 18, it also gave the government power to regulate the faltered tribunals, and select and appoint its judges and members.
Also, the BJP has recently proposed that IAS, IFS, IPS officers to be appointed not just by the recommendations of the UPSC, which follows a fair and transparent procedure, but by also considering the training scores of the selected candidates, scores that are susceptible to influence and arbitrariness.
Humanitarian? Realpolitik? Or A Political Agenda?
India has a history of welcoming a great number of refugees indiscriminately. However, the government in 2016 proposed a Citizenship Bill, that seeks to ease the citizenship process and grant citizenships to the minority communities of the neighbouring countries… oh well, except Muslims. That means, let’s say, Hindu, Christian and Sikh refugees from Bangladesh and Pakistan would be allowed, but the persecuted Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar is to be pushed back by the Border Security Force. When questioned, the government replied, “…we don’t want India to become a refugee capital of the world…”
If anything it is synonymous to BJP’s silence over the rising communal violence in the country, where Dalits, Tribals, Muslims and Christians are made victims of “cow protectors” or in the name of “Ghar Wapsi” and Hindutva.
According to National Crime Records Bureau, incidents of communal violence have increased by 41% in states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra; and by 28% across the rest of the country. According to an independent study (WNTA), hate speeches have gone up by 490% in the four years of NDA government.
If You Have More Than Three Minutes to Spare…
There are several other and equally important parameters that the NDA government can be tested through. Fortunately, it has been made easy by a campaign called the ‘Wada Na Todo Abhiyan‘, established in 2004. Since 2005 it has been reviewing the governments’ performance keeping in mind their manifestos at the time of elections and its deliverance at the end of the governments’ term.