May a good source be with you.

From TINA to AAWD: Any Alternative Will Do

The role of BJP leaders in obstructing the course of justice in rape and murder cases is low even by depraved standards of Indian politics.

Two recent horrific instances of rape, from different parts of the country, have shown the BJP and a section of its supporters in monstrous light. The rape and murder of an eight-year-old child in Jammu in January was terrible enough as a crime. The subsequent obstruction of justice by a group called the Hindu Ekta Manch of which BJP state secretary Vijay Sharma is the president has made it even worse. Mr Sharma is a lawyer and people from his fraternity and his community have been busy agitating against arrests in the case and preventing the police from filing charges.

In Uttar Pradesh, where a woman alleged she had been raped by BJP MLA Kuldeep Singh and his gang a year ago, the police did not file an FIR for a whole year despite her best efforts. She attempted to immolate herself outside Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath’s house in protest but was stopped from doing so. A day later, her father, who had been attacked, allegedly by the MLA’s brother and his goons, died.

The culture of criminals in politics is old in India, but even by the depraved standards of today, openly obstructing justice in such cases is extreme. The best, most generous thing that can be said of the BJP at the moment is that it has shown itself to be no better than its rivals. It had however claimed to be a party with values, a party with a difference. That lie has been thoroughly exposed. The BJP has proved quite amenable to supporting and admitting not only alleged rapists and murderers but even militants who waged war against the state. For a party whose supporters scream nationalism at the top of their lungs, the silent approval of this hypocrisy is stunning.

It is clear by now to all except the wilfully blind that the BJP is characterless as a party. Its ethics are those of the worst kind of trader who will scam the gullible buyer any way he can in order to make a quick buck. Just as traders of that sort see the pursuit of wealth as their primary dharma, the dharma of the BJP is the pursuit of power. It sees winning elections by any means as its reason for existing.

Last time, it won the Lok Sabha elections by selling dreams of “sabka saath, sabka vikas”, meaning “with everyone, development for all”. The promise was of a strong government under a man of action who would get things done. Very little of the sort seems to have actually happened. The memorable events of the past few years are the lynching of people in various states by Hindu Right-wing goons on suspicions of transporting cows for slaughter, the poorly-executed demonetisation, and the unmistakable agenda of evangelising vegetarianism and Hindi which can be seen quite easily in Northeast India where the party has recently won some victories. There, the swearing-in ceremonies were largely vegetarian affairs and the use of Hindi in the Meghalaya and Nagaland state legislatures sparked controversy.

All this has been accompanied right through by a rejection of science and principles of scientific enquiry by powerful members of the BJP including union ministers. We have had the embarrassing spectacle of a former Mumbai police commissioner and current minister of Human Resources Development saying Charles Darwin was wrong on evolution because no one has seen an ape turn into a man. There was a veritable procession of MPs and ministers claiming cow urine cures everything including cancer. The country’s science minister Harsh Vardhan made an ass of himself while inaugurating the Indian Science Congress by falsely claiming that physicist Stephen Hawking had said the Vedas had a theory superior to Einstein’s equation of mass and energy.

The shout-y claims of past and current greatness were belied in most fields that had anything to do with the government. Foreign policy is a prime example. India is now practically surrounded by China, and has lost influence with almost all countries in its near-abroad in recent years. The territorial dispute between India and China is in my view more serious than the one between India and Pakistan, and India’s relative position is the weaker. China is now strong enough to worry the USA. India meanwhile seems to no longer worry even the Maldives. Screaming at people in television studios and trolling them on Twitter is not going to Make India Great Again.

The BJP won in 2014 because of two factors above all: TINA and hope. TINA, meaning “There Is No Alternative”, was the conclusion that emerged from the absence of any serious, credible alternative to Narendra Modi as Prime Minister. This combined with the hope of various kinds that different sections reposed in Mr Modi and the BJP. The opportunists, who, unencumbered by shame, support whichever party is winning, also leapt on to the bandwagon, and a huge majority for the National Democratic Alliance was the result.

Many if not most of those hopes have been belied in the intervening years. The mood I sense at the moment is increasingly one of “Any Alternative Will Do”. Selling the same dreams twice is a difficult task even for the most silver-tongued of salesmen. A year is a long time in politics, but as matters stand, the BJP will need a great deal of luck to win anywhere near as many seats as it did in 2014.

The writer is an author and journalist

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