It’s amusing to see how Modi-Shah’s BJP is so obsessed with the question of leadership and power centers in political parties opposed to them. BJP diehards – often egged on by a fawning media – pontificate on the key players in the opposition. Instead of sharing plans to resolve issues like price rise or unemployment, the so-called gyan gurus from team Modi-Shah pass judgement on how the election for a new Congress president is a farce or whether KCR’s son deserves, at any point, to take over the party his father founded. Or why Stalin got a free hand-me-down to run the DMK or how Abhishek Banerjee, the national general secretary and two-term TMC MP, is still only “Mamata’s nephew”. Or why there is no internal democracy in the parties founded by the late Mulayam Singh Yadav or Lalu Prasad Yadav. Or is the Thackerays’ Shiv Sena…the list is endless.
It’s rich when Messrs Narendra Modi and Amit Shah raise questions about the state of internal democracy in opposition parties. After all, they preside over the world’s largest diarchy. Yes, a diarchy – a form of government in which power is vested in TWO rulers or authorities.
There are dozens of reasons why the BJP’s power twins qualify as a true diarchy. Let me give you five examples, in no particular order, to drive the point home.
1. Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha
After Arun Jaitley passed away in 2019, the quietly efficient Thawarchand Gehlot was appointed Leader of the House in Rajya Sabha. But in two years, one of the BJP’s senior most leaders, a Parliamentarian since 1996 (a Dalit who was once also a member of the party’s board) was sent into ‘early retirement’ as the Governor of Karnataka. The diarchy ordered the change. Done. Silence.
2. BJP’s Parliamentary Board and Central Election Committee
Recently, the BJP’s Parliamentary board and Central Election Committee was reconstituted. One of the big surprises was Nitin Gadkari, former BJP president and Union Minister, being dropped.
There was one more notable removal – Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh.
Dropped. Why? What? Did the media ask? Did the BJP ever need to answer the hard questions? Did Modi-Shah spell out the rationale behind dropping Gadkari-Chouhan?
3. BJP president
Even partisan supporters of the right-wing sheepishly admit that the affable JP Nadda is all set to get an extension as BJP chief after his three-year tenure ends in January 2023. Rubber stamps are prized possessions of duos who run diarchies.
You will recall that Amit Shah’s tenure as BJP president was also extended by a year in 2019. The jodi from Gujarat, now ensconced in Lutyens, call all the shots in the party that receives 85 per cent of all electoral bonds. No one in the BJP dares to question it. Were members of the party consulted before terms were/are extended? Were elections held? Or was it just an edict issued from M&S (Modi and Shah)?
4. For the BJP, RS stands not for Rajya Sabha – but Royal Shunting.
The pair at the helm of the diarchy have scant respect for parliament (the subject of a forthcoming column). For now, let’s share some brazen superannuation packages worked out in the House of Elders.
i) In 2020, Sushil Modi was ejected from Bihar and elected to Rajya Sabha. His proximity to Nitish Kumar got him a bungalow in Delhi but weakened him in his home state. From Deputy Chief Minister to a back bencher, or thereabouts, in the Upper House.
ii) In 2021, Sarbananda Sonowal moved to Rajya Sabha, making way for Himanta Biswa Sarma to take over as Chief Minister of Assam. Stamp of the diarchy.
iii) This year, Biplab Deb was given a one-way ticket from Agartala to Delhi. You guessed it – a Rajya Sabha seat. These kinds of ploys have become the trademark of the diarchy. From Chief Minister of Tripura to back bencher in Parliament. Slayed.
But no one questions these moves because the world’s most dictatorial (diarchy, to be more correct) party always seems to get a free pass from the godi media.
5. Policy and legislation versus failed stunts
The diabolical diarchy has made a habit of taking decisions without consulting anyone, be it other political parties or domain experts.
Think back to 2016, when over 80% of the country’s currency was demonetised at only four hours’ notice. This hare-brained scheme broke the back of India’s informal economy, led to an estimated loss of 15 lakh jobs and caused many deaths.
ii) Farm Bills
The proceedings in Parliament are well documented. You all saw how opposition MPs were denied their right to ask for a division of votes (electronic voting) and the Farm Bills were ‘passed’ by a voice vote, breaking every rule in the book.
A year later, only after sustained protests by farmers, the twins running the diarchy had to backtrack.
Allies have split with the BJP. Agencies have been reduced to being slaves of the two most powerful gents in the cabinet. The country’s key institutions are being weakened. We really do not know how much worse the situation can get. But what we do know is that Messrs Modi-Shah have effectively turned India into the world’s biggest diarchy.
[This article appeared on NDTV.com | Wednesday, October 12, 2022]