A scene from the movie: Ides of March, an american political drama, where an expelled campaign staffer makes a profound statement to a presidential candidate: “You can lie, you can cheat, you can start a war, you can bankrupt the country, but you can’t f**k the interns. They get you for that”. This refers to the fact that in politics, certain offenses over others are a point of no-return. It also refers to the tolerance limit that people have for their political leaders. In case of the US, Bill Clinton, 42nd president, was almost impeached for having an extra-marital affair with an intern where as George W Bush, 43rd president, who started two wars, one especially on incorrect intelligence came no where close to that humiliation. Clinton’s action is certainly immoral and unethical but a misdemeanor when compared to Bush’s ‘oops’ which caused 500,000 lives. Unfortunately, larger public didn’t see it that way.
At least, US and other western democracies have a moral line beyond which a politician is sent to wilderness. They become butt of jokes, caricatures and examples for future politicians on “how-not-to-flush-your-career-down-the-drain”. Unfortunately, that line is woefully missing in India. May be our political system would have been better, if we had one such line. And if we did, we wouldn’t have a prime-ministerial candidate with not one but two grave accusations – condoning or being complicitly involved in a religious riot which claimed over 1000 lives AND ordering an aide to stalk a young woman 24 x 7 for several months . In many other countries, either one of them is enough to kill the career of any top honcho but in our case, a person accused of both is inching closer every day to becoming our nation’s top leader.
How did this happen? Are we so tolerant to accept anyone with such serious allegations? Are we so benign that these things don’t matter to us?
Rise of Mr. Narendra Modi can be solely attributed to popular anger among people against the indifferent successive congress government. Apart from the myriad problems, congress party’s smugness that they will win again, irrespective of their current performance, due to lack of a credible alternative, rubbed large section of people on the wrong side. The arrogance and attitude shown by their leaders, the likes of Khurshids and Sibals, pushed huge section of the youth with no hindutva leaning into the hands of BJP. Realizing this, BJP shifted their overt inflammatory religious politics to covert operations, in the guise of nationalism, pride and security. Congress continued to help them grow stronger by innumerable scams and anti-people policies. Result: BJP is closer than ever to form a government with very little external help. While secularists worry about rise of Modi and his aggressive hindutva politics, many still not see congress’ not so indirect role in this situation.
History shows that growth of fascism can be directly linked to preceding indifferent monarchs or incompetent governments. Congress’ role is exactly the same here. Moreover, they aren’t any different and their history is as violent and bloody as BJPs. So, lets put the blame where it belongs: congress is as much responsible for rise of fascism as BJP is. Actually, Modi has risen on congress’ back and is now smacking his lips at the prospect of sitting on the prime minister’s chair.
In this context, the open letter written by some well-intentioned and respected human rights activists’ asking all secular forces, including congress, to come together as ‘secular united front’ to stop Modi is really saddening. How congress which still has not accepted responsibility nor apologized for 1984 anti-sikh and other riots is counted as a secular force is beyond me. They still have Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar in the party and the recent refusal of Rahul Gandhi to admit the historic injustice speaks volumes of their commitment to secular ideology. Congress is against BJP only in the tussle for power, not in the ideology. Finally, secular credentials alone cannot be used to further the parties like RJD and DMK who have failed the people on many other fronts. Except left front, all these parties will not hesitate to join hands with BJP to save their skins.
Indian election should no longer be seen as a bipolar fight between corruption and communalism and we don’t have to choose the ‘lesser of evil’. Supporting new, smaller fronts who are neither is important. We cannot keep kicking that can down the road for next elections and hope things would be different next time around. Even if these fronts come together now, as hoped in the letter, and manage to stop Modi now, yet another miserable UPA or UPA-supported rule will end up driving more people towards right-wing parties. Modi will come back with full majority in 2019 to much distress and agony of our nation. That is a more dangerous scenario than the current one of stopping Modi with a coalition government. Even if we lose the current battle, we can still win the war but there are no shortcuts in this struggle.
By Somu Kumar
Former ‘IAC’ volunteer, RTI enthusiast and member, Aam Aadmi Party based in Washington DC.