July 26, 2020

The Rajasthan Tussle

THE political drama in Rajasthan, consequent to the revolt of Sachin Pilot who was the deputy chief minister and PCC president, is still unfolding.  But the essential contours have become clear.  The inner tussle in the Congress cannot be separated from the BJP’s drive to destabilise non-BJP state governments, in particular Congress ones. 

Since the Modi government came back to power in May 2019, first the Congress-JD(S) government in Karnataka was toppled in July 2019 followed by the Congress government in Madhya Pradesh in March this year.

The BJP has been using hybrid tactics for destabilising the government it targets. In Karnataka, it had perfected the method of getting defecting legislators to resign their seats to circumvent the anti-defection law. 15 Congress and JD(S) MLAs resigned as legislators leading to the government becoming a minority in the assembly. Those who resigned were later put up in the by-elections as BJP candidates and many of them were rewarded with ministerships in the Yeddyurappa ministry. 

In Madhya Pradesh, 22 Congress MLAs owing allegiance to Jyotiraditya Scindia resigned and reduced the Kamal Nath government to a minority in the assembly.  Many of them have been rewarded with ministerships and perks like chairpersons of corporations even before they have contested by-elections. 

In the case of Rajasthan, this route was not feasible as the 19 MLAs led by Pilot, with the support of the BJP MLAs, is not sufficient to overturn the Gehlot government.  Thus the protracted fight which is now awaiting the next turn after the High Court verdict on July 24 on the speaker’s notice for disqualification of the 19 MLAs.

The BJP and the central government have worked out an array of tactics to destabilise governments. Firstly, use of large-scale money to lure MLAs, such huge sums can only be illegal money; for others, they dangle ministerships and plum positions as a reward.  Further, to pressurise reluctant or recalcitrant legislators, the Income Tax and Enforcement Directorate are used to raid them, or, their relatives to make them fall in line. These agencies are also used to neutralise any counter-measures being taken by the incumbents in office. Finally, there is a pliable governor, who can intercede to favour the BJP camp whenever an opportunity presents itself.

It is such tactics which helped the BJP earlier in Goa and Manipur to form governments. In Rajasthan, these tactics have not fully succeeded, thus the prolonged fight. While the main feature of the present crisis in Rajasthan is the BJP’s destabilisation game, it is necessary to see the other side of the picture too, which is the debilitated state of the Congress, the main opposition party in the country. It is riven by faction fights, and dynastic politics which have thrown up leaders who are self-centered and power hungry. The Rajasthan crisis was precipitated by the inner-wrangling of the Congress.

Ever since the Congress government was formed in 2018, Chief Minister Gehlot and Deputy Chief Minister Pilot were at loggerheads.  The conflict between them became a no-holds barred struggle when Sachin Pilot got a notice from the special operations group of the police for questioning in a case of plotting to destabilise the government. It is this tussle which has facilitated the BJP’s efforts to topple the government. 

The Gehlot ministry will probably survive this confrontation, but the Congress party in its present state is unable to meet the BJP’s challenge politically, ideologically and organisationally. 

The present degeneration of electoral politics and elected representatives is directly connected to the invasion of big money and the all-pervasive influence of neoliberal capitalism on the political system. For a new breed of elected representatives in the assemblies and parliament, politics and business are intertwined. It is such elected representatives that the BJP preys upon. 

The attack on democracy, on states’ rights and the drive to enforce one-party rule throughout the country are all manifestations of the Hindutva authoritarian regime.  They cannot be fought back by imitating its tactics. 

(July 22, 2020)