Turning Christian, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has read the theological riot act to the Left Democratic Front in Kerala.
It is another matter that were a national-level poll to be conducted to determine which political formation in the republic of India is most guilty of committing these sins, the results might surprise Modi distressingly.
Be that as it may, the matter of the sins is rendered problematic by an earlier averment that the honourable prime minister once made, namely, that the “constitution” is “our holy book”.
That being so, a republican or constitutional order must oblige us to redraw the list of deadly sins, somewhat along the following lines:
- The subversion of secularism, a “basic feature” of the constitution enshrined in the very Preamble;
- Subversion of the fundamental right to free expression and to the freedom of choice;
- Subversion of the principle of equality before the law, wherein not only political and intellectual adversaries but all wrong doers are made answerable to justice without fear or favour;
- Subversion of the constitutional or statutory autonomy of state institutions in order to ensure public faith in their fair-minded and impartial investigation and scrutiny of public and private issues;
- Subversion of the constitutional injunction to prevent the concentration of national wealth, and to secure and protect the right of people to the natural resources of the land (see Article 39);
- Subversion of the ethos of social harmony by dividing the polity along retrograde, emotive subjectivisms, and targeting segments of the populace thought to be inimical to ruling preferences;
- Subversion of the open and impartial functioning of parliament and its committees, calculated to prevent political opposition from making their case and be agents of critique;
- The cooption of large sections of the media to the official view of things on pain of losing lucrative government favour, or a punitive worse;
- Subversion of the principle that all government data and government activity be available to citizen scrutiny under the constitutional right to information;
- Subversion of the fundamental right of citizens to assemble and peacefully but fearlessly to protest such actions as they deem to be inimical to the public interest and to the democratic system;
- Subversion of the right of religious and other minorities to profess, practice, and propagate their faith in peaceful order without being subject to harassment by lumpen adversaries with official patronage and police complicity.
The holy book of the constitution requires that these sins be avoided like the plague if the republic is to remain healthy and democratic in body and soul.
Following his own averment relating to the sacred status of the constitution, one would think that it is these sins the chief executive of the republic ought to be worrying about more than those listed in the Old Testament. After all, what are priests, pundits, and mullahs for?
If enlightened opinion at home and abroad is anything to go by, the ruling party and government may have much to answer for in relation to the avoidance of these sins.
What use are elections if the constitution loses its sacred soul, and if republican principles are rendered mere shells?
In short, our list of sins must remain appropriate to the holy injunctions of the constitution.
Badri Raina taught at Delhi University.