Politicians abusing or intimidating government officials is not uncommon in India. In fact, it’s quite rampant in the Hindi heartland where netas do not think twice before physically abusing government officials. The public too has gotten so used to see it happening that the element of surprise has gone missing.
This trait is present in politicians cutting across all political lines, any politician from any party can get physical with government employees. Normally, in any democracy, politicians behaving in such a way would lose all credibility, but in India it works differently. On the contrary, such cheap exposition of muscle-flexing has even boosted electoral prospects.
Like I said, one can find a number of such examples across almost all political parties, but at present the BJP takes the lead. This week itself, within a span of 24 hours, two videos went viral on social media. In both the videos, BJP leaders were seen physically assaulting government officials.
In the first video, BJP leader Rajdhani Yadav, in Jharkhand's Latehar, was caught on camera assaulting F Barla, a district transport officer, over the removal of a nameplate from his personal car. The BJP leader who is the vice-chairman of the 20-point programme implementation committee in Latehar district was seen landing several blows on the government officer. When the transport officer asked him why he was acting so violently, Yadav is heard saying: “Marenge nahin? Tumhaara maalik hum hain re (shall I not hit you? I am your master)."
In the video, the government official can be seen pushing Yadav, in apparent self-defence, during the scuffle. The "rowdy" leader was later arrested after a complaint was filed against him.
#WATCH Latehar: BJP leader Rajdhani Yadav slaps and argues with District transport officer over removal of a nameplate from his personal car. Yadav was later arrested. #Jharkhand pic.twitter.com/TPOBmqwUWv— ANI (@ANI) January 17, 2018
In the second video, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was seen slapping a person, reportedly his bodyguard. The chief minister was doing a roadshow at Sardarpur in Dhar district as part of the BJP's campaign for civic polls in the state. Thrashing of an official by Chouhan was quite unexpected as he usually appears to be very calm. When contacted by the PTI, the chief minister's PRO did not offer any comments.
In both the videos, the ruling BJP’s leaders were seen beating government officials. While in the first case the errant leader has been arrested, Chouhan, so far, hasn't come under the scanner. No arrest, no FIR, no complaint. Yes, leaders from Opposition parties have demanded action against the Madhya Pradesh CM, but so far no action has been taken.
Section 353 of the Indian Penal Code clearly says that “assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty” is a criminal offence. If someone does that and it is proven in the court, the guilty person will be punished with imprisonment up to two years. Rajdhani Yadav has been booked under this section. If one goes by the video, the nature of Chouhan's offence is not very different from that of Yadav. Then why has he not been booked under a similar section of the IPC?
Article 14 of the Indian Constitution says that all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. But here it seems two people have been treated differently because of their political status.
The only explanation could be that while Rajdhani Yadav occupies a low rung on the BJP leadership ladder, Chouhan is the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. And even the victims belong to different categories - Yadav assaulted a relatively senior officer while Chouhan hit a "lower-level" bodyguard.
So while the intent and extent of humiliation and intimidation may be the same, it seems that the BJP believes in "hierarchy" when it comes to letting the law take its own course. Yadav can take hope that one day when he becomes a bigger cog in the wheel, he too will go scot-free just as the Madhya Pradesh CM. Perks of being a "tall" leader?