Narendra Modi and Amit Shah’s refusal to adjourn Parliament, despite the massive coronavirus threat, to suit their political objectives is a telling reflection of the cynical, ruthless and alarming politics the Bharatiya Janata Party has stood for and believed in. A brand of politics where self-interest and the quest for power overrules everything — be it an epidemic or social harmony, safety of citizens or even basic democratic tenets.
For Modi-Shah, and for the BJP as a whole, the lines between governance and politics, propriety and hunger for power, as well as brazen ambition and care for Indian citizens often get blurred beyond recognition.
Prime Minister Modi, in his address to the nation last week, emphasised the need for social distancing, even calling for a ‘janata curfew‘, and yet, didn’t think it important enough to halt the Parliamentary proceedings. How could he, especially considering that the BJP was resisting the postponement of the assembly session in Madhya Pradesh on grounds of the coronavirus outbreak. The BJP desperately wanted to topple the Kamal Nath government through an immediate floor test.
It was only on Monday that the Modi government finally adjourned Parliament sine die, after passing the Finance Bill. But not before enough panic was spread over MP Dushyant Singh’s presence at a Lucknow party, also attended by singer Kanika Kapoor, who later tested positive for COVID-19. Considering Dushyant attended Parliament after that party, several MPs went into self-quarantine, causing a wave of panic and fear.
The opportunism, the hypocrisy
As per the latest numbers, India has 415 active cases of coronavirus, with seven deaths reported so far. This is a global crisis, a pandemic generations haven’t witnessed.
The Modi government is vigilant and rightfully worried as well as cautious — a near-nationwide lockdown is unprecedented in India. But a lockdown in Parliament wasn’t considered imperative — a space where MPs, the media and Parliament staff are in close proximity to each other. In short, a happy space for the coronavirus to spread and multiply.
The prime minister, who addressed the nation in his usual ‘family elder’ mode, advising caution and mentioning social distancing, chose to keep Parliament running because how do you shut one house down when you are fighting to keep another running?
BJP’s sole mission is to enjoy power, and with Jyotiraditya Scindia’s exit from the Congress, Madhya Pradesh was a low-hanging fruit the BJP wouldn’t let go of at any cost. Even if that meant the frightening prospect of the virus entering Parliament premises and threatening to infect a horde of people.
And thus continued Parliament, at least till mission Madhya Pradesh was complete.
The bedrock of cynicism
Such is the BJP’s hunger for power that it overwhelms everything, washing away whatever might come its way. This is a party whose rise has been built on an exclusionary, majoritarian brand of politics. The bloody and divisive Ram Janmabhoomi movement of the 1990s formed the bedrock of its steep upward political and electoral curve.
This is a party not averse to presiding over a riot, or over a polarised discourse, as long as it serves its purpose.
One needn’t even go too long back into its past to see examples. Look at how both Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have dealt with recent sensitive issues — from the National Register of Citizens (NRC) to the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the Shaheen Bagh protests in Delhi.
Who cares that Assam’s NRC was a Supreme Court-monitored exercise, and with zero communal context? It certainly didn’t stop then BJP president Amit Shah from rabble-rousing on the issue, calling infiltrators ‘termites’ who need to be thrown into the Bay of Bengal and giving speeches the BJP knew would be provocative enough to not just threaten the fragile social fabric of Assam, but of the entire country. Since the ‘infiltrator’ in this case is the Muslim, underlining his ‘undesirable presence’ helps BJP play its favourite game — polarisation.
When Delhi elections were around the corner, and the BJP was desperate to at least put up a half-decent show, Home Minister Amit Shah did not shy away from inciting voters to teach Shaheen Bagh protesters a lesson that resulted in a law and order situation.
When it comes to polarising rhetoric, can Modi be far behind? From claiming that those engaging in anti-CAA riots can be identified by their clothes to bringing up a shamshan-kabrisatan reference ahead of the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly polls, Modi stops at nothing.
The blatant disregard for the coronavirus threat to Parliamentarians and everybody who might interact with them shows how the BJP will stop at nothing to get what it wants.
The disregard for the coronavirus threat to Parliamentarians and everybody who interacted with them shows how the BJP will stop at nothing to get what it wants.
Views are personal.