Critics of Deendayal Upadhyaya must remember the BJP ideologue never advocated wholesale amendment or mutilation of the Constitution.
In the last few days, much has been written about how the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), if voted back to power in 2019, will make India a ‘Hindu Pakistan’.
Along with the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) too was dragged into the controversy with some experts quoting the RSS ideologues’ criticism and reservations regarding the Constitution.
Historical evidence, however, will rather point fingers at the Congress party for trying to undermine the authority of the Constitution. Let us examine a few instances of the same:
The first assault on the spirit of the Constitution of India was inflicted by none other than Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in 1951 whereby inter alia, the state was given a carte blanche to make any law to curtail the hitherto untrammeled Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression on the grounds of interests of ‘security of state, friendly relations with foreign countries, public order, decency or morality, in relation to contempt of court, defamation of incitement to an offence’. So much for the Nehruvian commitment to liberal values!
The assault on India’s constitutional values became so pernicious in the subsequent years that a 13-judge bench of the Supreme Court was forced to draw up what is known as the Basic Structure Doctrine, which entailed that certain provisions of the Constitution could not be amended. It was this doctrine which came to the rescue of India’s people when the 39th Amendment Act of 1975, which basically rendered the office of PM immune from the judicial process, was struck down by the apex court.
Then came the 42nd Amendment Act of 1976, which was piloted by Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime.
Inter alia, the said amendment barred the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court when it came to adjudging the validity of constitutional amendments, placed laws meant to curb ‘anti-national’ activities beyond the purview of judicial scrutiny, extended the tenure of Lok Sabha and state assemblies from five to six years, empowered the Centre to employ its armed forces to meet any exigency in relation to law and order, and extended the one-time duration of employment of President’s Rule in a state from five to six years.
This amendment was an attack on federalism, democracy, separation of powers and Freedom of Speech and Expression. Thankfully, some of its damaging aspects were watered down by the 44thAmendment Act of 1978, brought in during the tenure of the Janata Party government.
The last full-majority Congress government was in power from 1984-89, and its record of protecting and preserving the spirit of the Constitution was not stellar either. In 1988, it brought in a Bill whereby inter alia the onus of proving the truth of a statement in relation to a political figure was placed on the person making such a statement. This was at variance with the Common Law jurisprudence and the said Bill was withdrawn in the face of massive protests.
Those who are critical of Deendayal Upadhyaya and his views on placing the Indian nationhood over and above the social contract under the Constitution must remember that the veteran BJP ideologue never advocated wholesale amendment or mutilation of the Constitution.
Even M.S. Golwalkar’s criticism of the Constitution can be attributed to the charged atmosphere in the country during Partition. As a matter of fact, even home minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel was recorded by historian Sarvepalli Gopal as having said that Muslims in India should be held as ‘hostages’ to ensure that Hindus in Pakistan were treated with respect and dignity.
Finally, the debate around the BJP’s commitment to the Constitution was settled when no less than Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Constitution was the only ‘holy book’ for him.
The BJP government’s record over the past four years speaks for itself. Only three amendments to the Constitution have been moved from 2014 to 2018.
The first one was in relation to the National Judicial Appointments Commission (which was struck down by the Supreme Court as being violative of the Basic Structure Doctrine and has not been revived since then). The second one was in relation to the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement while the third amendment was brought in to usher the Goods and Services Tax regime in the country.
The choice between the people of India in 2019 can therefore be reduced to a binary. They can either vote for the BJP – a party that has lived up to its commitment to preserve the Constitution in spite of a few comments here and there by known motormouths. Or, they could vote for the Congress, a party that has a long and disgraceful record of trying to subvert India’s constitutional structure.
Raghav Awasthi is an advocate and an RSS member.
Also read: A ‘Hindu Pakistan’ wouldn’t be Hindu at all, but a Sanghi Hindutva state by Congress MP Shashi Tharoor