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Will Modi be able to tackle saffron fundamentalism and usher in ‘achhey din’?

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By Amulya Ganguli

To most supporters of Narendra Modi, including those outside the saffron fold who welcomed his economic agenda, the prime minister’s tenure so far has been disappointing. That he has sensed the uneasy public mood is evident from his directive for action against non-performing bureaucrats.

But, apart from disciplining the officials, what is expected of him is the kind of sternness which he showed as the Gujarat chief minister. As a result, he was able to marginalize his predecessors like Keshubhai Patel and silence rabble-rousers like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Pravin Togadiya.

In Delhi, he has taken similar effective action against incorrigible troublemakers like Yogi Adityanath and seems to have persuaded Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) chief Mohan Bhagwat to refrain from saying that all Indians are Hindus.

But his task remains incomplete as the hooliganism of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) activists recently showed in Allahabad University, where they held a senior journalist hostage in the vice chancellor’s office to prevent him from speaking at a seminar. Their charge against the journalist was that he was “anti-national”, a label which they also used to defame the Dalit student, Rohith Vemula, who recently committed suicide in the Hyderabad Central University.

It is patent enough that Modi’s call for upholding constitutional governance, under which anti-nationals are to be identified only by the state and not vigilante groups, is not being heeded by some of his party members and associates.

There is little doubt that their words and deeds are reflexive in nature. Having been tutored in the RSS shakhas (schools) to regard themselves as the epitomes of patriotism, the saffron-tinted activists have routinely dubbed those not adhering to their creed as enemies of the nation.

Their pursuit of the same line, despite Modi’s restraining efforts, is the main reason why sections of the intelligentsia have expressed misgivings about the prevailing intolerance in their view. Had the prime minister, followed up his general advice with firm admonitions on specific occasions, the sense of despondency might have been dissipated.

But perhaps because he feels that it is below his dignity to react to the various incidents which can appear to be minor in the larger perspective, he prefers either to say nothing or leave it to the party president Amit Shah and others to speak to those who step out of line.

However, his “dangerous silence”, as the New York Times once called it, has begun to hurt the party as mavericks like Subramanian Swamy continue their campaign for building the Ram temple and suggestions are made by the RSS chief to regulate the media “to ensure that no ill-effects prevails in society” as a result of their writings.

Although the temple is unlikely to be built in the near future – if at all – or Mohan Bhagwat’s veiled plea for censorship implemented, it is a familiar tactic of fascistic outfits to keep on harping on their provocative projects to sustain communal tension.

It is not surprising, therefore, that an opinion poll has shown Modi’s ratings to be higher than the BJP’s. There is little doubt that at the national level, the people across the board continue to repose considerable faith in his pro-development program even if it is yet to reach the take-off point.

But what the BJP has to be wary of is, first, the significance of the party’s lower approval rating and, second, the fact of its inconsequence in states like West Bengal, Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Puduchery which will go to the polls this year. Only in Assam, which will also go to the polls, can it expect to fare reasonably well, but it is still a touch-and-go affair.

In Uttar Pradesh, too, the BJP may face a hard time next year because of the alienation of sizable sections of Muslims and Dalits in the aftermath of the targeting of so called beef-eaters and the suicide of Rohith Vemula.

Amit Shah is right in saying that just as the political polarization at one time pitted Indira Gandhi against the rest, it is now Modi vs the rest. But there is a slight difference – the middle class today is much larger and more politically active than it was in Indira Gandhi’s time. Modi’s high approval rating comes from this segment of society, which was also largely responsible for his victory in 2014.

But it is also a group which will not take kindly to the antics of the ABVP, the Shiv Sena and other Hindu militants. It is also possible that they are siding with Modi at present because there is no alternative at the all-India level. But this isn’t the case in the states, which is why the BJP is unlikely to have an easy run in the assembly elections.

To give the party a nationwide edge, the prime minister will have to crack the whip much harder where the saffron fundamentalists are concerned, for even an eight percent growth rate will not help him to usher in the missing achhey din if the extremists continue to rave and rant against the “anti-nationals”. (IANS)

Amulya Ganguli is a political analyst. The views expressed are personal.

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Saw AAP MLAs Assaulting Chief Secretary, CM’s Advisor Tells Police

The AAP defended by stating that Jain had initially told police that he did not witness any assault and police has threatened Jain to change his statement

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The AAP had denied the charges of assault and said that the Chief Secretary was making allegations at the behest of the BJP. Wikimedia Commons

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s adviser V. K. Jain on Thursday told police that he saw AAP MLAs Amanatullah Khan and Prakash Jarwal “physically assaulting” Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash, according to Jain’s statement recorded by the Delhi Police.

The AAP defended by stating that Jain had initially told police that he did not witness any assault and police has threatened Jain to change his statement.

On Tuesday, the Chief Secretary had alleged that he was beaten up by the two AAP MLAs in the presence of Kejriwal at the Chief Minister’s residence on Monday night, where he had been called for an emergency meeting.

ALSO READ: The assault on Chief Secretary exposes the double standards of AAP government

Police later arrested Khan and Jarwal and they were sent to judicial custody till Thursday.

According to the Chief Secretary, the Chief Minister’s adviser had called him over the phone and asked him to come to the Chief Minister’s residence for the meeting and Jain was also present there.

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According to the statement, Jain also saw that the Chief Secretary’s spectacles had fallen to the ground and the Chief Secretary picked them up and left the room. Wikimedia Commons

On Thursday, the Delhi Police submitted Jain’s statement at a city court, which said that Jain had gone to the washroom during the meeting and as he came out he saw the two AAP MLAs “physically assaulting” the Chief Secretary.

The statement was recorded under Section 161 of the CrPC, which means that it was recorded in front of the police and not a magistrate.

Sources told IANS that Jain later recorded his statement in front of a magistrate under section 164 of the CrPC.

“The statement under section 164 was later recorded with the magistrate in front a camera, without the presence of police. In that statement also he (Jain) has said that he saw the two MLAs physically assaulting the Chief Secretary,” a police officer privy to the case told IANS.

The officer said that the statement under section 164 has also been submitted to the court.

Jain was first questioned on Wednesday morning and then again on Thursday and his statement was recorded on Thursday.

The change in Jain’s statement that the AAP was referring to was from a “question and answer” with Jain recorded by police after questioning him on Wednesday.

According to a copy of Wednesday’s “question and answer” recorded by police, when asked whether Jain saw the Chief Secretary being manhandled, he replied that he had gone to the washroom in between the meeting and he could not say what happened during that time.

“By putting pressure on him (Jain) throughout the day (Thursday) and by threatening him, police has forced him to change his statement,” AAP MP Sanjay Singh told the media here on Thursday.

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Singh said that the whole issue was a conspiracy to “bring down the Delhi government” and to “defame the AAP”. Wikimedia Commons

 

“How is it that the same Jain who emphatically said yesterday that he witnessed no assault during the entire time that he was present there has now claimed otherwise?” he asked.

Singh said that AAP MLAs were being arrested over an alleged assault of which there was no proof.

“But on the other hand, despite there being video footage of officials assaulting Delhi Cabinet Minister Imran Hussain, there is no action taken against the guilty by the Delhi Police,” the AAP MP said.

The court on Thursday sent the two AAP MLAs, arrested on charges of assaulting the Chief Secretary, to judicial custody for 14 days.

ALSO READ: Delhi Chief Secretary row: AAP MLA arrested

Orders on the bail pleas of the two AAP MLAs and also on their police custody will be pronounced on Friday.

Meanwhile, scores of Delhi government employees across the city observed a five-minute silence outside their respective offices as a protest against the alleged assault on the Chief Secretary.

The IAS Association said that officers would continue the protest every day, till steps are taken to “ensure safety and dignity” of government staff in the city.

The AAP also hit out at Lt Governor Anil Baijal by stating that he was “working as a BJP agent” and demanded action against those involved in “manhandling and beating up” Hussain and his aide at the Delhi Secretariat on Tuesday. (IANS)