The foundation stone-laying function of the Noida International Airport at Jewar in Uttar Pradesh on November 25 will be remembered for many reasons. The Prime Minister and the Chief Minister of UP, specially the latter, were in full form and used the occasion to the hilt for politicking. I was told right at the beginning of my official career that the ruling party and the government are two separate entities and the former should not encroach upon jurisdictions that solely belong to the latter. In other words, politicians for partisan ends should not use official functions organised at official cost.
It was on November 26, 1949, a day we celebrate every year as Constitution Day, that the Constitution of India was formally adopted by the Constituent Assembly. On that momentous occasion, the President of the Assembly, Dr Rajendra Prasad said by way of admonition, "We have prepared a democratic Constitution. But successful working of democratic institutions requires in those who have to work them willingness to respect the viewpoints of others, capacity for compromise and accommodation. Many things which cannot be written in a constitution are done by conventions. Let me hope that we shall show those capacities and develop those conventions."
One of the conventions that developed over time is that monies from the government's exchequer will not be used or, more aptly, misused to promote personal or party agenda. There is a 'Lakshman Rekha' dividing the government and the ruling party. But does anyone even remember this distinction today? Why talk of lower functionaries when the highest in the land are determined to ignore this well-established convention? Or why bother about the violation of a convention when the provisions of the written Constitution themselves are being ignored with impunity? Those who violate the Constitution are the ones who pay the highest obeisance to it, bow before it and swear by the provisions enshrined in it. The tragedy is that most of us are impressed by these theatrics and do not bother about the violations taking place, like the one at Jewar.
The occasion was organised no doubt with the forthcoming UP elections in mind. The question of constructing an airport at Jewar has been in the works for a long time. This government and its Prime Minister have been in office for over seven years. Why was the foundation stone-laying function not organised earlier? Why did it take this government almost eight years to remember the airport at Jewar? Quite clearly, the occasion was reserved for a date and time when it would have maximum impact on the elections. Government machinery was freely used to assemble a massive crowd to show the people how popular the Prime Minister and Chief Minister are. In any case, such misuse of official machinery and resources has become so routine that it does not raise eyebrows any more. Since it was more an election rally in the garb of an official function, all norms were thrown to the winds and Prime Minister lost no time in hauling his political opponents over the coals for imagined acts of omission and commission.
The Chief Minister of UP was downright abusive about his opponents. And he believes that the more he talks of Jinnah, the better will be his prospects in the forthcoming elections. The Election Commission has put together a code of conduct for the election period. The rest of the time, the ordinary laws of the land operate. There is a law in place against spreading communal hatred and violence. Chief Minister Adityanath has been violating this law freely and frequently with his clearly communal speeches like when he talks about 'Abba jaan' and Jinnah. But who will take him to a court of law? And the Supreme Court is already over burdened with so many cases where it has taken cognizance suo moto. So the communal virus is being spread by exactly those people who are charged with the responsibility of maintaining communal peace and harmony under the Constitution. The state government of UP is the biggest culprit in this matter and it is being done with the fullest blessing of the Prime Minister of India. All this is happening because elections in UP are approaching and creating a communal divide is BJP's formula for winning them.
Prime Minister Modi is very fond of saying how he is doing things for people which no government has done in the past. He forgets that when he levels such charges, they apply equally to the Vajpayee Government which ruled the country for six years before him. Since I was a part of that government, I consider it my duty to defend that government even if I am no more a member of the BJP. But it is shameful that the party of which Vajpayee was a member all his life is putting up with this nonsense and even those who were members of his Cabinet and are part of this government choose to ignore such remarks.
A clever strategist weighs his strength and the challenges before him and prepares his strategy accordingly. The Prime Minister is no exception. He strikes when he is sure of his success. In his seven-year tenure, he has often gotten away with unimaginable excesses. He has failed only twice: with the Land Acquisition Bill and now with the farm laws. But his mistakes and faux pas have been countless. Any other ruler in any other democratic country would have been hauled over the coals for such mistakes. It will not happen in India, not yet, for the simple reason that his control over all forms of media is total and people have no means of being informed of such mistakes and faux pas. So the drama goes on unabated. But for how long? Ultimately, the people will find out and hopefully bring this sordid theatre to an end. Until then fasten your seat belts, hold tight and pray for the best.
Yashwant Sinha, former BJP leader, was Minister of Finance (1998-2002) and Minister of External Affairs (2002-2004). He is currently vice-president, Trinamool Congress.
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