ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846
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After Four Years

We need to assess the Bharatiya Janata Party’s rule through the lens of human and institutional dignity.

Assessing the rule of a government led by any party has to be done on normative grounds that entail values of human dignity as well as institutional dignity. On the other hand, the assessment of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) rule or that of any other ruling party on pragmatic grounds has to be left to the concerned parties, a process that is a ­routine in the final year of their reign. Hence, the value-based normative assessment of the present government’s performance should not be confined just to five years, but arguably for a longer ­period as long as we need the institution of the state to stabilise the value of human dignity as well as the very dignity of the state. We cannot, of course, take an anarchist position that says no state or its institutions can achieve the moral well-being or dignity of the people.

Why has it become a historical necessity to raise the question of the dignity of the state, particularly in the specific context of a government’s term in office? This is because during the last four years of the BJP’s rule at the centre, the very dignity of the government has come under the scanner on account of it being seriously threatened by the parallel authority that gau rakshaks, trolls on social media, and the moral and cultural police have been exercising over certain sections of Indian society.

The dignity of the state depends on its credibility to exercise its monopoly over power in favour of the moral well-being or dignity of people. This can be done by mobilising institutional power to tame those social forces that pose a serious threat to the realisation of these values. Therefore, we do need to question the spokesperson of the BJP government about the unprecedented growth, in the last four years, of parallel power centres. This question becomes all the more important when the BJP’s activists, by their own admission, have considered their leader as the strongest Prime Minister that India has ever produced.

These parallel centres have been active in publicly humiliating Dalits, for instance in Una in Gujarat. They have made some people feel inferior for exercising not just their cultural freedom, but also their existential right to eat the food that is available and ­affordable. The lack of existential freedom is the loss of dignity that results from the “vegelantism” imposed by these self-proclaimed promoters of vegetarianism. Is the BJP government feeling helpless in taming these forces? If that is so, then is it not losing its own dignity that is provided to it by the Indian Constitution? It will not be an exaggeration to argue that during the last four years, the morally offensive activism of lynching, trolling and stalling criminal cases, as by the advocates of Jammu in the Kathua rape case, has reinforced the belief that there exist extra-constitutional social authorities that the state cannot control.

The institutions of liberal democracy are expected to uphold people’s self-esteem. Members from marginalised groups can acquire self-esteem by participating in knowledge making. However, during the last four years, educational institutions seem to have deviated from such a noble goal and have become centres that generate contempt for the concepts of equality and social justice. Rohith Vemula is one tragic example that shows the moral degeneration of institutions of higher learning.

Finally, the dignity of the government lies in its moral capacity to perceive and confront the lived truth, such as the widespread despair, frustration, and irreparable loss of dignity leading to farmers’ suicides. The BJP has chosen not to confront this truth. Instead, it seeks to transform this reality by making ­extravagant promises that create an illusion that it is addressing the problems. The BJP’s language of hope, through slogans like ­“acche din,” contains only transcendental and, hence, unrealisable truths. Thus, for example, what was immanent in demonetisation was the tragic truth that it swallowed the life of over 100 people and left the life of millions materially devastated.

As the continuous defeat of the BJP in recent by-elections shows, the power of illusion, which is internal to extravagant promises that it has been in the habit of making, seems to be losing its hold over the political sensibility of the Indian voter. In view of this grim scenario, the BJP has been trying to use the narrative of the personal sacrifice of its leader. Narratives of personal sacrifice can be and indeed are an invaluable resource and can become morally significant inasmuch as such narratives can mobilise people towards a humanitarian project. But, if the narratives of personal sacrifice feed into an anti-humane agenda of a party, then such a narrative has to be taken with a big pinch of salt.

Updated On : 12th Jun, 2018

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