Whenever caught doing a wrong, BJP leaders are used to pointing out that the Congress had done it too. Such a mimicry of the Congress is now on, without anyone asking them to perform. The Congress-Janata Dal (Secular) coalition in Karnataka, the BJP holds, day in and day out, will not hold! The party is also now campaigning that the opposition may come together across the country but will not hold for long after the elections; and hence the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) must be given another chance.
Well. It is the right of each party, including parties sans followers – there are at least 2,044 such parties as on April 13, 2018, going by the list of registered parties – to consider itself as a better alternative and also to promise a stable government if elected. And the people of this nation have also taken some seriously and given them a chance to rule. But, for long, the Congress party, particularly since the 1980s, had made a virtue of its ability to provide stability and ridiculed all others for not having been able to do that.
The coalitions that emerged across the states in 1967, the Janata Morcha in Gujarat in 1975, the Janata Party (a coalition of parties, groups and leaders) that won a majority in March 1977 in Parliament and several state assemblies in June that year, the National Front in 1989 that ran a government for 11 months, the United Front government between in 1996 and 1998, are all examples of such ‘unstable’ coalitions that the Congress party used to hold as evidence that stable governments are possible without itself.
Well. It’s the BJP’s turn now to talk the way the Congress did. It does not occur to the BJP that the birth of the Janata party, on January 30, 1977, was a knee-jerk response by its own stalwarts – A.B.Vajpayee, L.K.Advani and Nanaji Deshmukh – to swallow all the insults that Charan Singh and his colleagues had heaped on them whenever there was talk of unity of all in the opposition against the Congress. Charan Singh’s objections, however, did not hold when Indira Gandhi, on January 18, 1977, announced elections and gave the opposition less than six weeks to gear up. And, by June 1980, they left the sinking Janata boat to float the BJP.
Again, in 1989, the BJP offered to support the National Front, from outside, but decided to withdraw support to the government because Advani was not allowed to ride his rath, that left behind a trail of blood and violence, into Bihar. The historian’s craft and its use will tell us that Advani set out on his rath a few days after the government he supported decided to implement recommendations of the Mandal Commission and reserve a certain percentage of central government jobs to members of the OBCs (other backward classes). In other words, the National Front government was rendered unstable by the BJP.
The BJP’s own government at the Centre, headed by Vajpayee, fell in February 1999 when one of its allies, J. Jayalalithaa pulled out of the coalition. It may be recalled, for whatever it is worth, that one man who claimed then to first convince Jayalalithaa to team up with Vajpayee, thereafter to pull the plug and even having firmed up formation of another government in 1999, is very much around and in the BJP now. He has not changed a bit and keeps claiming to have done and doing many things. That is Subramanian Swamy! The point is that instability was part of the BJP’s own past too. And the goings on in Gujarat in the years between 1995 and 2001, when chief ministers walked in and out through revolving doors is very much a part of our recent memory.
While the BJP now, as did the Congress in the past, may be granted all the right to claim the prowess to provide stability, it is another matter that those in the media and the intelligentsia keep raising the spectre of instability if the BJP is voted out in 2019. Although one part of this fear-mongering by the media can possibly be understood if one takes the recent expose by Cobrapost, even with a lot of salt (and not just a pinch), the scare that the intelligentsia is mongering is indeed cause for concern; it is, indeed, a campaign to destabilise the nation.
Let me explain why it is so. Stability, one must stress, ought to be seen in the polity and not merely with the government. A polity where members belonging to a community (as in the religious denomination of the term) could be lynched to death merely on suspicion of eating cow-meat cannot, by any stretch of imagination, be described as stable. A people, who were reduced to stand in serpentine queues for days on end to deposit their money in banks and wait longer to get some money out of the banks, cannot be called a stable society. A society, where the Reserve Bank of India keeps sending text messages that the Rs 10 coin is indeed legal tender and to report against those who refuse to accept it, is not a stable society. A people who end up paying more to buy petrol when crude prices are falling does not qualify to being stable.
Indira Gandhi’s regime, since 1974, was guilty of such instability, and when the people rallied behind whoever opposed her – the Janata’s womb – she accused them of playing into the hands of forces inimical to the nation and its unity. She declared a national Emergency, put a whole lot of leaders in jail, some young men were killed in torture camps, the press was put in place and the higher judiciary reduced to singing her praise. In the name of stability, she rendered a serious sense of instability in the polity. She did have her supporters, among the intelligentsia, who celebrated her and the regime. They, too, saw stability in the wrong sense. They wanted order and it was fine even at the cost of lives lost and liberty curtailed.
The followers of this regime, the middle classes and the salariat in large numbers, are fine with the lynch mobs, the cow vigilantes and the manufacturers of such tales that India has, at long last, been blessed with a Prime Minister who does not sleep, who does not allow cronies to surround him and that he alone can save India from all others in the political arena. They are willing to believe all such tales that jauhar is an act of valour and bravery, that the Muslims are the cause behind India’s problems and do not even pretend to hold secularism as a façade.
They are, unlike their parents, hooked on to the cyber-world, cannot live without shopping malls around and have either lived in the US or want to live there. They did not stand in long lines in November 2016 because they had stored all their wealth in either plastic currency or in e-wallets. They make a lot of money but grudge when their housemaids ask for more. It does not matter to them that Rafale fighter jets were bought at prices higher than it could have been; they will celebrate, throwing a dinner, laced with racy songs and dance, if we have a battle with Pakistan; or even China!
And it is this brand of stability that has raised its head, as it did during the Emergency. The sad part of the story for them, however, is that there are a larger number of people in the country who are not like them. The majority of our people are alive because they work hard, have very little money to stave off in e-wallets and hence stood in long lines expecting that the wrong-doers will be put to bigger trouble than them. They, then, saw Nirav Modi leave the country. Unlike the bent and the beautiful, the majority in India do follow such news that the banks have been looted and that petrol is costing more.
Their life, day after day, is turning unstable even while they are ruled by a stable government. And it is this instability that will matter when they go to vote. It did matter to them in March 1967, in March 1977, in November 1989, in May 1996, in May 2004 and also in May 2014. Hence, I find my colleagues disturbed at the sight of a Congress-JD(S) coalition happening in a few minutes; they are disturbed over the prospects of a Mamata Bannerjee playing centre-stage; they are disturbed when Akhilesh Yadav and Mayawati decide to gather around and hold hands with the Congress party. All these are happening because everyone wants to survive. But then, survival is not a right restricted to the BJP and its followers among the bent and the beautiful.
The people belonging to the minority community, the Dalits, the economically deprived and the farmers, too, have the right to survive and that is what makes us a democracy.
V. Krishna Ananth is Professor of History, SRM University AP, Amaravati.