The failure of the Centre to take timely steps or to transparently educate the people on the science of the new coronavirus and the commonsense steps to be taken to deal with it, and the pall of fear consequently created nationally along with the tightest restrictions on movement seen anywhere in the world, have permitted the ruling party a rare latitude to play its brand of politics unhindered.
This has occurred primarily because any attempt to play ameliorative politics by sections of Opposition politicians — in the context of the human rights crisis witnessed in the case of the millions of migrant workers who fled cities to escape to their village homes — led to their arrest on account of the restrictive regulations flowing from the Epidemiology Act and the National Disaster Management Act.
A Samajwadi Party politician in UP was arrested for offering food to scores of migrants walking back home. The more striking was the case of the UP state Congress president who was arrested after the UP government refused to grant permission to his party to send busloads of migrants to their homes. The unleashing of restrictive rules selectively against Opposition politicians has left the ruling BJP a virtual monopoly of the political space.
In the run-up to the election to 55 Rajya Sabha seats spread across several states later this month, pandemic-induced circumstances appear to be giving the rulers extraordinary elbow-room to enlarge on their narratives based on “alternative reality”, and to play the brand of morbid politics they have made commonplace. Its chief characteristic is the overturning of electoral verdicts through energetically executed defections, using the legendary resources at their command.
An audio clip allegedly of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan that has surfaced in Madhya Pradesh spells out step-by-step how the Congress government of Kamal Nath was toppled last March under the instruction of top BJP leaders, through the aegis of Jyotiraditya Scindia.
Including the recent case of MP, in the past four years the BJP has successfully torpedoed poll verdicts in four states, using its clout at the Centre. The democracy-soiling “Operation Kamal” was executed in Karnataka in February, 2019. Five months later, in July, Congress MLAs were subverted in bulk in Goa in a virtual replay of events in Manipur in 2017.
Seeing that the country’s fight against the pandemic has not induced a cooperative outlook in the BJP toward political opponents, Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot is taking protective action by sending off his party MLAs to a resort to prevent them from falling prey to blandishments or intimidation as a means to induce defection aimed at repeating the Madhya Pradesh story.
In Gujarat, eight Congress MLAs have already succumbed to pressure mounted by the BJP. The state unit of the saffron party appears a house divided, leading to the surmise that much of the defection game is being directed from on high. These tawdry games have placed a question mark even on the procedural aspects of democracy practised in India of late, which is about all that remains of the democratic spirit.