Within days of the drone attack on the Saudi oil facilities, diesel and petrol prices in India went up by Rs 2 to 2.50 per litre. Since prices are now revised on a daily basis, consumers did not feel the pinch all at once. It affected people like slow poison does. So there was no protest at petrol stations or elsewhere. Even the political parties in opposition let it pass without protest.
Gone are the days when increase by even a rupee in petroleum product prices used to lead to 'morchas' on the streets against the government. The media is replete with stories of attacks on people, even in the national capital, by anti-social elements, leading to loss of money and even life. We hear or read about them but let it pass.
The government of India is directly responsible for law and order in the capital. We have witnessed how even the policemen in Delhi are feeling insecure and have come out on the streets to protest. It is a virtual revolt by an armed force but forget Prime Minister Narendra Modi, even Home Minister Amit Shah has not uttered a word to reassure people on the issue.
The economy is in a mess; people are losing their jobs; prices of essentials are soaring; purchasing power in the hands of the people is dwindling but we take it in our stride.
A new study conducted by reputable economists shows that in the aftermath of demonetization in November 2016, economic growth declined not by 2.50 per cent as former PM Manmohan Singh had predicted but by 3%. The PM, who had offered to be tried publicly if demonetization failed, does not talk about it anymore.
We also keep quiet.
An attack takes place on a convoy of security personnel in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir, scores of them are killed, months pass, there are glaring security lapses, yet the matter is allowed to subside; we shoot down an F-16 aircraft of Pakistan in an air battle, complain to the Americans about its misuse by Pakistan, nothing happens and we keep quiet.
Freedom of expression and freedom itself is threatened; we accept it as normal. The fundamental rights of our citizens in Kashmir are severely compromised for days on end; we are unaffected; no, we go ahead and celebrate it in the rest of the country. The government makes it its main election issue in state elections; we stand up and applaud.
The minorities are targeted; we are silent. There is a clamour for NRC in every state ruled by the BJP, the Home Minister thunders that all infiltrators would be thrown out of the country by 2024 while at the same time the prime minister assures the prime minister of Bangladesh not to worry as it is our internal matter.
Where will the non-citizens go? To detention camps as are being planned in Assam? The government dishes out pure untruths on a daily basis; we accept them as gospel truth. Institutions of democracy are being compromised, yet we are unmoved. The private 'sarkari' channels praise each and every action of the government and are out to destroy whatever feeble opposition is left; independent-minded media persons lose their jobs yet we are not bothered. The list goes on endlessly. Our silence is deafening. Fear stalks the land.
In my travels across the country, when I point these out to my audiences, the pet question is, 'Yes, what you are saying is true but how are they winning election after election', or 'what or who is the alternative?' First of all, winning elections is no certificate of constitutional morality. We have seen in this country and elsewhere that leaders often claim innocence on the ground that they have won their election. Popular mandate does not mean obliteration of all illegalities committed by them. So it is not difficult to challenge this argument.
The question of an alternative however is a serious one. Joseph de Maestre, a French thinker of the 18th century said 'every nation gets the government it deserves'. 'It also gets the Opposition it deserves;' I may add. More than the shenanigans of the government of the day, it is the opposition parties which are failing the people. They are in complete disarray after their loss in the Lok Sabha elections. They are a dispirited, demoralised lot with no will to fight the government either in parliament or on the streets. They consider their duty done by tweeting or commenting on Facebook or other social media platforms. They no longer go out to the people. Their leaders have lost their élan.
Even the surprising results of the Maharashtra and Haryana assembly elections have failed to raise their spirits. This lot will not do. We need action, not meditation in foreign lands. We urgently need a young leader who is prepared to go out there and fight the forces of evil.
But most of all, the people need to wake up to the dangers which are facing the country.
Marx had said that religion is the opium of the masses. If the opium of religion is so potent, imagine how potent is the combination of pseudo-religion and hyper nationalism, however distorted it may be. It is this opium which is being fed to the people on a daily basis. So, they are continuously in a trance.
The Kargil conflict lasted three months. It occupied national attention completely for those three months as the coffins came home and our brave Jawans captured peak after peak in that inhospitable terrain. Ultimately we won an outstanding victory. Elections to the Lok Sabha were held soon thereafter. The BJP had 182 seats in Lok Sabha in the 1998 elections; it had the same number in 1999. Not one more seat was added to its tally. Why? Because we did not make 'national security' an election issue. And you conduct one aerial strike, make it your most important election plank and just look at the results of the 2019 elections? I was visiting my village in Hazaribagh during the elections. A family came to visit me along with their child. After settling down, they told me, "Sir, see what the child has to say about elections." Then they asked the child to tell me whom he was going to vote for in the elections. The child said without hesitation that he would vote for Modi. When asked why he would do so the child said, "Because he defeated Pakistan." I was flabbergasted. I asked the parents how old the child was. 'Four years,' was their reply. Need I say more about how the rulers have captured the minds of the people?
This is the blunt truth.
Their narrative, supported by all the means of communication, has succeeded in capturing the minds of the people. They are intoxicated by the 'opium' of religion and nationalism. The moment they come out of it they are fed a fresh dose of this 'opium'.
There are no red lines today. Everything is fair in love and elections. So abolition of Article 370 and 35A were the most important issues for the BJP in the recently held assembly elections of Maharashtra and Haryana. Elections must be won at any cost. The fight, no doubt, appears impossible to win at this time. But somebody has to light a candle, even single-handedly.
The time to do so is now.
Yashwant Sinha, former BJP leader, was Minister of Finance (1998-2002) and Minister of External Affairs (2002-2004)
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