There is little doubt, therefore, that the opportunism of Indian politicians is a reason for the BJP’s success, writes Amulya Ganguli for South Asia Monitor
Some of the reasons, why India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is running way ahead of the pack in the political field are obvious, despite its misgovernance on the domestic and foreign policy fronts in recent months. These include a dysfunctional Congress, the country's principal opposition party, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s strategic communication skills and the party’s organizational clout and never-say-die attitude. But there are several other factors as well.
Among them is not only the BJP’s ability to sustain the unity of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) led by it (when the Congress cannot maintain its own unity !), but also the knack of winning over several non-NDA parties such as the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in Odisha and the YSR Congress in Andhra Pradesh. The BJP achieves this feat by, first, being in power at the Centre which enables it to dispense with official largesse and, secondly, by keeping investigative agencies like the Enforcement Directorate and the Income-tax Department off the backs of the politicians of these regional parties. It is the Damocles sword of these agencies hanging over their heads which persuade outfits like the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) to sail close to the BJP’s ocean liner.
The effect of this expansion of the BJP’s sphere of influence is to enable the party push its pro-Hindu agenda through parliament with the help of these satellites even though they may not subscribe to the BJP’s pro-Hindu line. It is obvious that behind the support of these parties to their powerful friend at the Centre is their self-serving instincts which make them focus only on their political survival in their respective states and ignore the fallout of the BJP’s policies on the country as a whole.
There is little doubt, therefore, that the opportunism of Indian politicians is a reason for the BJP’s success. Nothing demonstrates this unscrupulous expediency of the political class than the ease with which the BJP is able to convince many of them belonging to the opposition to switch their loyalties to it. Clearly, the ideological fragility of the BJP’s rivals is a potent element in the party’s favour. This feebleness of some of the non-BJP parties explains why the Communists are not susceptible to the BJP’s wooing.
But it isn’t only the doctrinal frailty of the opposition which helps the BJP to expand its footprint across the land. Another crucial factor is the erosion of professionalism in government services. Although the process of diluting any commitment to the constitutional system started when the non-BJP parties were in power, the BJP can be said to have accelerated the transition to an arrangement where the loyalty of the officials in the police and the bureaucracy is to the ruling party and not to the rule of law.
Since all the parties are guilty of subverting the allegiance of the officials to the legal system, they can be said to have unofficially joined hands to ignore the Supreme court’s 2006 directive to insulate the police from politicians to ensure a free and fair dispensation of justice. It cannot be gainsaid that any such initiative will be a boon for the democratic system by making the police adhere to the letter and spirit of the law rather than abide by the partisan directives of their political masters.
But it is precisely the fear of losing control over the police which has made all the state governments of various hues to persist with the old feudal/colonial system under which the police act as lackeys of the powers that be and follow their self-serving diktats. Much of the maladies which have been undermining the system such as custodial deaths and extrajudicial killings are the result of the misuse of the police for partisan and even illegal purposes.
Factors in BJP's favour
It is not only the police whose autonomy is watered down by the ruling parties, but all the other departments such as the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the Enforcement Directorate. It is for this reason that the Supreme Court had once called the CBI a “caged parrot” which mimics the voice of the ruling dispensation. Although the charge was made when the Congress was in power at the Centre, its successors have made no attempt to release the “bird” presumably because it can be told to do what the rulers of the day want, such as harassing pesky opposition politicians or keeping activists in jail on the plea of being "anti-nationals".
Although the Congress cannot deny its guilty past in this regard, it still has a point today when it accuses the BJP of using the investigative agencies in its political offensive against adversaries. There are others, too, who play this dubious role on the BJP’s behalf. They include the subservient media comprising newsmen (and women) who have been accused of sitting on the government’s lap while presenting its version of the news, and also saffron trolls who saturate the social media with their biased diatribes against the BJP’s opponents.
The BJP can be said, therefore, to have a lot going for it – servile non-NDA parties, meek and deferential officialdom, an obsequious media and venomous netizens. Taken together with a weak opposition, the BJP seemingly faces hardly any challenge. But if it still appears to be on edge, the reason is, first, an economy in dire straits; and, secondly, foreign policy miscalculations which have ensured that India is surrounded by unfriendly - and not so friendly anymore - neighbours – China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh.
(The writer is a current affairs analyst. The views expressed are personal)