March 10, 2024

Democracy in Peril! Defeat BJP!

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THE last ten years of the Modi government have seen an unprecedented attack on democracy and democratic rights in the country.  If this trend continues, India will remain only a formal democracy and become a full-fledged authoritarian State. 


The constitution provides for a parliamentary democratic system.  Under this system, the executive (the government) is answerable to parliament. It is parliament legislations which become the law. 

However, under the BJP rule, parliament has been systematically downgraded. In the first Lok Sabha, the average annual sitting days was 135; in the current 17th Lok Sabha, which concluded in February 2024, the average annual sitting days was only 55. 

The committees of parliament played a key role in scrutinising legislations which are proposed to be adopted by parliament.  In the last term of parliament since 2019, only 13 per cent of the legislative bills were sent to the committee for scrutiny while in the 2009-2014 parliament, before Modi came to power, 71 per cent of the bills were sent to the committees for scrutiny.

In parliament, an important role is played by the opposition. However, under the Modi regime, there have been systematic efforts to suppress the opposition. This reached an unprecedented level when 146 opposition MPs were suspended in the winter session of parliament in 2023.

Between 2019 and 2023, on an average, about 80 per cent budget was voted upon without discussion. In 2023, the entire budget was passed without discussion. 


Article 19 of the Constitution provides for the freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of movement etc to citizens.  All these fundamental rights have now been undermined or negated. 

A glaring example is the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), which was amended in 2019 to make it more stringent. Between 2015 and 2019, there was a 72 per cent increase in arrests under the UAPA, with 98 per cent arrested remaining in jail without bail.  In 2021, 814 cases were registered under UAPA.  This increased to 1,005 in 2022.  8,947 people were arrested and 6,503 were named in charge-sheets.  Among those arrested are political and social activists, academics, journalists and those who have expressed dissent.  Under the provisions of the UAPA, arrested persons finds it practically impossible to get bail. 

The other weapon has been the sedition clause in the Indian Penal Code.  There were 701 cases of sedition from 2018 to 2022. Of the sedition cases filed against citizens for criticising the government, 96 per cent were filed after Modi came to power in 2014.  After that, sedition cases were not registered as the Supreme Court ordered the suspension of this clause till further review. In the criminal code adopted in parliament, the sedition clause has been brought back in a new form with more stringent punishment.


The mainstream television and print media is being tamed and controlled by threatening the corporate owners of the media.  The recently-adopted Telecommunications Act, IT Amendment Rules and the Broadcasting Bill will all lead to government control and regulation.  Independent media and journalists have been threatened with the use of the sedition clause and even the UAPA, as it happened with the Newsclick founder.  The concentration and control of media by favoured big business houses has led to Mukesh Ambani owning 72 television channels having a viewership of 800 million.  Adani group has also begun expanding its ownership of the media.

According to the World Press Freedom Index prepared by Reporters without Borders, India has fallen to 161st rank out of 180 countries.


The aim of the Modi and the BJP is to establish a one-party dictatorship by suppressing the entire opposition.  For this, central agencies like the Enforcement Directorate (ED), CBI and Income Tax Department are being used to target leaders of the opposition and the opposition parties.  At present, there are ED/CBI investigations and cases against scores of leaders belonging to various opposition parties.  The chief minister of Jharkhand was arrested by the ED and put behind bars; the deputy chief minister of Delhi has been in jail for over a year.  Many opposition politicians have switched over to the BJP due to the threat of investigation and arrests by the central agencies. Parties like the Shiv Sena and NCP have been split by such tactics.


The exposure of how the Pegasus spyware has been planted in the phones of opposition leaders, journalists and activists exposed the degree of State surveillance, which has now become all-pervasive. 

A number of law enforcement agencies have access to the digital data of citizens through the existing digital surveillance infrastructure like the Central Monitoring System for telecom surveillance, the Network Traffic Analysis (NETRA) for analysis of the internet and the NATGRID, a national grid of surveillance data bases and integrated criminal justice system (ICJS).

The Digital Personal Data Protection Act takes violation of privacy to the extreme as it provides for people having to part with their personal details from birth to death.  The government can share all these personal information with surveillance agencies.  The recently-passed Post Office Act empowers any official to open a parcel if he thinks it is suspicious and send it to customs or any other agency for further investigation.  The use of Aadhaar, which is mandatorily linked to various government programmes and schemes, enables the government to collect all personal data.

India not only leads the world in government-directed internet shutdowns, with 84 government-directed shutdowns in 2022.  These blackouts are typically imposed before and during protests to impede effective public coordination, often without clear criteria for suspension.


A vital aspect of the democratic system is the principle of federalism inherent in it. India is a union of states.  But the BJP-RSS regime wants to create a centralised  unitary system depriving the states of their legitimate rights and resources.  The parliamentary democratic system is built around federalism, which accommodates all the diversity in the country. 

The centre has launched a savage assault on the rights of the states and the elected opposition state governments.  The worst attack on states’ rights was the way the state of Jammu and Kashmir was dismantled and converted into two union territories.  The misuse of governors to interfere in the matters of the state, the denial of adequate resources and the right to borrow funds and imposition of central directives on state subject – all these constitute an attack on democracy and the federal system.


Various international organisations have noted the serious erosion of democracy in India.  In 2021, Freedom House dropped India’s rating from Free to Partly Free (the only remaining category is Not Free).  That same year, the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) project relegated India to the status of “electoral autocracy” on its scale of closed autocracy, electoral autocracy, electoral democracy, or liberal democracy. And the Economist Intelligence Unit moved India into the

“flawed democracy” category on its scale of full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regime and authoritarian regime. 

The assault and curbing of democracy stems from the Hindutva-corporate alliance. Both the necessity to push through neo-liberal policies and impose Hindutva values on society requires a high degree of authoritarianism.  The existence of the Hindutva authoritarian regime exemplified by the Modi government is a constant and portends threat to democracy and the democratic rights of the people. 

Hence, the struggle to defend democracy and democratic rights has become a central issue in the forthcoming Lok Sabha election. 



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