Several leaders holding high office have betrayed their saffron mindset of late. Many are somewhat new to working in a democratic polity, and hence may find it hard to understand the need to be inclusive while holding public office. They seem to consign the values they profess on the path to power to the backburner. How else is Puducherry lieutenant-governor Kiran Bedi’s mindset to be explained? She issued an edict that the free rice distribution scheme for villagers would be conditional to certification that the village was free of “open defecation and strewn garbage and plastics”. In the face of public outrage, she withdrew the order hastily. She can’t punish people for what really is a failure of the government to ensure adequate toilets are built, and of the local authorities to ensure cleanliness. It’s no laughing matter to deny people food in her Marie Antoinette-style authoritarianism. State benefits like food and pensions for the elderly can’t be denied on the whims and fancies of rulers. The Supreme Court has specifically directed that benefits can’t be denied just because someone doesn’t have an Aadhaar card, for instance.
Madhya Pradesh governor Anandiben Patel, who’s no stranger to administration being a former Gujarat CM, seems to have forgotten she’s now a ceremonial head of a state, like an umpire or referee. She has no business instructing ruling party members on how to win elections. Her expertise on this isn’t meant to be passed on in this partisan way. Political appointees to gubernatorial roles may face some difficulty in understanding bipartisan values, but there were some like Pranab Mukherjee who showed as President how those values can be sustained. However, once again, the BJP’s inability to inculcate the highest traditions of democracy in its followers and supporters may be ascribed to its relative inexperience as a ruling party.
Constant reminders, including a stricture from Prime Minister Narendra Modi, don’t seem to have worked with BJP leaders like Biplab Deb, Tripura’s chief minister, turning into a serial motormouth. He may have triggered much mirth with his comment that the Internet had existed at the time of the Mahabharat, the epic whose origins are thought to be at a time around 3,000 years ago. What the CM’s comments brought out was the BJP-RSS thinking that ancient India was good only because it was a “Hindu India”. While the virtues of such a halcyon era will never cease to be wondrous, the BJP’s leaders would do well to keep their thoughts to themselves rather than try to impose them on the nation. The same probably applies to the HRD minister’s views on the failure of modern education and his espousal of the ancient gurukul systems. It’s not just a matter of keeping mum with their views on everything, but about not betraying their mindset in public.