One may agree with the spirit of Prime Minster Narendra Modi’s explanation on why he calls for a Congress-mukt Bharat?
But there is a catch, rather two. Firstly, his laboured explanation has come a bit late - more than three and half years after he coined the slogan that was adopted by the BJP as a core agenda.
Secondly, if what he said in the interview to a news channel is the leitmotif in his Congress-free India slogan, then one need to ask him a counter question.
What about BJP-mukt Bharat? For, what ails the Congress afflicts the BJP too if the two parties are adjudged on Modi’s own parametres.
In fact, the BJP is stymied by many more ills of which it’s the sole patent holder.
Modi said to the channel, “When I say Congress-mukt India, it’s not related to election outcomes. Congress-free means becoming free of a culture that promotes casteism, corruption, treachery, exploitation and keeping complete control over power.”
During freedom struggle, he said, the Congress had a culture that inspired the youth to sacrifice their lives. The Congress culture after Independence has become synonymous with casteism, corruption and dynasty. Other parties too have copied the Congress culture. For a healthy democracy, the Congress itself should become Congress-mukt, Modi delineated.
It’s true that corruption and dynasty have emanated from the Congress rule. That’s because the Congress held complete sway over instruments of power and patronage for long ending up controlling the very source of corruption.
The first two major corruption scandals, major by standards back then, to hit the headlines happened during Nehru’s government. The Jeep scandal of 1948 and Mundhra scandal of 1957 echoed the state of things to come. Unfortunately, Nehru as prime minister, like his successors, attempted to keep the scandals under wraps. He was also guilty of shielding his trusted friend VK Krishna Menon who went on to become the defence minister despite his alleged involvement in the Jeep scandal. The Mundhra case had a fall out in the resignation of the then finance minister TT Krishnamachari, who was found to be complicit. Nehru reinstated him later again as finance minister in 1964.
After that it has been a free fall. Corruption has seeped in the body polity and no political party or government can claim to be free of the malaise. A former BJP president, Bangaru Laxman, was caught on camera accepting Rs 1 lakh in bribe in a string operation. A CBI court convicted him.
Like corruption, the phenomena of promoting sons and daughters have become endemic among all parties including the BJP.
It’s the issue of casteism on which the Modi’s claim falls flat. Casteism is central to Hindu society from which Modi and his party derive sustenance.
The most basic tool of political mobilisation is caste. When BJP realised that its own caste vote base couldn’t bring it to power against formidable middle caste-oriented parties in the Hindi hinterland, the party under LK Advani pushed a more sinister agenda of religion and sectarian brinkmanship to achieve its goal. The party managed to break the ceiling of power that had appeared unreachable. But the outcome of BJP’s politics left a deep schism in the society even as caste and casteist leaders prospered and continue to prosper.
Modi’s claim of Congress having influenced the culture of other parties is true. But the claim sounds hollow at a time when the BJP is the most dominant party with NDA governments in as many as 19 states as against just four of the Congress. It can be nobody’s case that 19 states under NDA are run by squeaky-clean governments, while four Congress-ruled states are mired in corruption.
The fact is that Modi’s call for Congress-mukt Bharat is a simple number game. His explanation that it’s meant to rid the nation and polity of Congress culture is fake and an afterthought.
In reality, the BJP today is more Congress-like than the Congress itself.
A more relevant question for Modi to ponder and answer is when will India become free from fear? How long it will take the people to be free from xenophobic and ultra-nationalists who are in power today and from "gau rakshaks" who are roaming the streets and lynching people?
Are they under influence of Congress culture or they are products of the BJP’s culture that is moored in RSS’s worldview?
When will the country get deliverance from a PhD-in- chemistry minister of education who suggests that Darwin’s theory of evolution be taken out of school textbooks?
When will the people stop being subjected to harangues from so-called historians who claim how planes flew during Vedic period and that people in ancient India travelled to Mars?
The prime minister himself spoke about glories of ancient India at a function in October 2014. He said, “We can feel proud of what our country achieved in medical science at one point of time. We all read about Karna in Mahabharata. If we think a little more, we realise that Mahabharata says Karna was not born from his mother’s womb. This means that genetic science was present at that time. That is why Karna could be born outside his mother’s womb.
Further he said, “We worship lord Ganesha. There must have been some plastic surgeon at that time who got an elephant’s head on the body of a human being and began the practice of plastic surgery.”
Do we care about what school-going children of science classes think about invention of genetic science and plastic surgery claims in ancient India?
When will India stop being a laughing stock of the world for its obscurantist ministers and historians?
When will the polity become BJP-mukt?