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Is Modi government fighting corruption or playing vindictive politics?

Attempt to 'criminalise opponents' is the main weapon of the NDA.

 |  5-minute read |   03-03-2018
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In the four years of NDA rule, its major weapon has been to harass the Opposition, while covering up its own sins of omission and commission.

Going as far back as February 2016, three outspoken JNU student leaders Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya were peremptorily jailed for sedition even though all they had done was to raise issues of the rights of Kashmiris and problems affecting university students.

Although the students were released with Kanhaiya roughed up near the Patiala House, the harassment continues.

No chargesheet has been finalised in two years.

To move to another instance, Opposition leaders and their kins ranging from Lalu Prasad Yadav, Virbhadra Singh, Captain  Amarinder Singh to Karti Chidambaram, are being charged with a litany of offences. The main instrument in the NDA armoury is the sustained attempt to criminalise opponents.

A jailed murder accused Indrani Mukerjea is being used to charge Karti Chidambaram with fraud. For a person of her notorious reputation and record, this CBI case seems to be a brazen act of vendetta. She would be willing to do anything to save her skin. No wonder the Supreme Court had in the past called the CBI “a caged parrot”.

Strangely, financial irregularities are not traced to the government. The Nirav Modi scam, which cost the exchequer more than Rs 12,700 crore in the Punjab National Bank fraud, has received little self-criticism by the NDA government.

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Why weren’t sufficient checks and controls instituted by the Modi regime in the premier public sector bank? After all, there were a sizeable number of public servants manning key sectors of the bank.

The Modi sarkar’s teflon image was cultivated very carefully with a continuous media message. In the early days, when Lalit Modi fled the Indian justice system he sought succour from Sushma Swaraj and Vasundhara Raje Scindia.

CM Vasundhara Raje even went into a collaboration with the foreign clinic in which Lalit Modi’s wife was treated for cancer. All this was pushed under the carpet on humanitarian grounds. Now it has been forgotten.

But Nirav Modi was apparently in Davos where PM Modi was a star speaker. So he not only looted thousands of crores of public money, but also fled with his family even though banking officials and the Enforcement Directorate should have been much more alert.

As far as the Opposition is concerned, there has been inadequate criticism and exposure on the Punjab National Bank, and the earlier Kingfisher crisis.

The Modi team moves from scam to scam, leaving each exposed scam out of its political discourse.

Arguably, the most terrible scam is demonetisation. To briefly sum up, demonetisation was a political stunt, economically disastrous. As economists like Amartya Sen and Angus Deaton, besides The Economist and others, pointed out, writing off 86 per cent of total currency was a complete run on what currency was left. With only 14 per cent of currency left, it had massive repercussions on the poor and middle strata, as foreign scholars pointed out at the time.

Further, the Right to Property in Article 300A it is clearly stated that, “No person shall be deprived of his property save by authority of law.” But there was no “authority of law”.

Further, currency notes state, “I promise to pay the bearer the sum of of one hundred rupees… (or any other denomination).” This is a promise made by the governor of the Reserve Bank of India. Yet apart from notable senior advocates, the secular parties in Opposition failed to criticise the Modi government severely for this economic fiasco. As a result, the Indian economy is still paying the price.

What has happened to the democratic institutions?

For example, the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs. The pecuniary advantage that the AAP MLAs allegedly got is questionable, but the then CEC AK Joti, just days before his retirement, recommended that the MLAs, who were appointed as parliamentary secretaries by AAP, be disqualified for holding office of profit.
Surely, this is not the manner in which a Constitutional decision is decided. The President’s ratification of the 20 AAP MLAs then just become a matter of course.

It is important to mention that when Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat, AK Joti was his chief secretary.

Curiously, suspicions over the EC’s impartiality has been raised by many as recently as two months ago over the timing of the Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh elections.

Ahead of the Assembly elections in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat, the current CEC and his colleagues apparently buckled under pressure and digressed from the time-honoured convention that elections due within six months of each other are held simultaneously. Former chief election commissioners TS Krishnamurthy and S Quraishi openly disapproved of the Election Commission's move.

Obviously, the deviation from EC norms favoured the NDA in Gujarat elections where they had more time to campaign.

To sum up, the ruling coalition is using all measures at its disposal, Constitutional or otherwise, especially as the general elections draw closer.

The Opposition must pull up its socks. It will need broad alliances to counter the bullying by the NDA. Only if they do that their struggle will be less menacing than the media will have us believe.

Also read: Who is responsible for Sridevi’s death?

Writer

Kamal Mitra Chenoy Kamal Mitra Chenoy @kamaichenoy

The writer is an academic and activist.

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