Next government whether a BJP-led or a non-BJP led coalition, to be formed after Lok Sabha election results are announced on May 23, will need to restore the credibility of autonomous institutions that have been wrecked, undermined, destroyed and made pliant during last couple of years.
Whether task is at all possible or feasible is the question that needs to be answered at this juncture? It is absolutely imperative to assess the extent of damage caused to institutions both autonomous and otherwise before answering the question.
List of the institutions that have lost credibility is long but to name the few, Election Commission of India (ECI), Armed Forces, Media, Judiciary, Bureaucracy, academic institutions along with universities and Reserve Bank of India (RBI) come to mind immediately.
The ECI comes to mind first possibly because we are in midst of an election and outcome of it is going to decide the direction that country is going to take in coming decades. Electoral battle is being fought for the ideals and goals that were set by the freedom struggle and forces of ‘Hinduatva’ that want to shape the country according on the lines of the RSS ideology.
Precisely because of the nature of the electoral battle, contest is intense and bitter. In a democratic system, role of autonomous institutions is very important. Task of regulation and overseeing of the functioning of democratic processes is a must. If the elections are not free and fair then people’s faith in democracy would be gradually lost and if continued would be totally eroded.
In the ongoing electoral battle, the ECI has been found wanting and the Commission has failed to stand up to people’s expectations. It is strange that the EC has given only clean chits to Prime Minister Narendra Modi who violated model code of conduct several times during the six week long election campaign. New treatise that the Chief Election Commissioner Sunil Arora seems to have propounded is:” PM Narendra Modi has done no wrong rather can do no wrong”.
Role of media is yet another area which will require urgent attention of the new government. New framework both legal and financial would have to put in place so that independent functioning of media could be ensured and flow of fake news could be stopped.
Steel framework of Indian bureaucracy lies dismantled and in ruins. Till sanctity of bureaucracy which in real terms means fair, independent, correct, judicious and possessing an intrinsic strength to stand up to political masters is not established, it would be impossible to put the country’s democratic system back on rails.
The Modi government’s decision to enlist bureaucrats at the joint secretary level from the back doors, though taken in the name of bringing in fresh thinking at the middle levels, is a serious challenge to central services framework. The decision seems to have been taken to create two kinds of categories of officials-one that is dear and near to the ruling dispensation and other one ordinary who would not be given postings of their choice. Ideological objectives would be achieved through the committed officials who have been picked up by the ruling party. The decision has opened flood gates of ideological subterfuge. Similarly, RSS oriented and owing loyalties to Hinduatva were smuggled into media institutions between 1977-80 by the then Minister for Information and Broadcasting L K Advani. These Advani-backed media persons pushed Hinduatva thought into media platforms and gave a degree of acceptability and recognition to Sangh and its ideology. False account of Sangh’s social service was highlighted.
Another area where Sangh ideologues have been overactive is the field of academics where Hinduatva narrative is being smuggled into with conviction like rewriting of history. The way the Modi regime has ruined universities like the prestigious Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Central University of Hyderabad and Varanasi is typical of the RSS approach of destroying academic institutions of excellence without creating new ones.
The country’s economy is in real bad shape because the Prime Minister along with his incompetent Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have refused to listen to sane counsel of experts and have acted more on their whims and fancies than sound economic logic. Shabby treatment of two RBI governors by ruling over their advice and decisions is a tragic tale of the ruination of the Indian economy. In the process, RBI’s autonomy was wrecked.
Dragging of the country’s Armed and security forces to achieved political ends by the Prime Minister and his ministers has caused irreparable long-term damage to an institution that was kept away from politics of the country by framers of the Constitution. Both polity and government have become a victim of the process. Attempt to politicise the Armed forces is fraught with dangerous consequences to the democracy and Constitution itself.
Last but not of the least significance is the country’s judiciary where attempts of the Modi government to influence judicial appointments process resulted in a clash between the Executive and Judiciary. It was one of the most unfortunate development. Though the judiciary is also in some way responsible to bring the confrontation to the present level but the government should have acted with restraint and responsibility.
The newly elected government would need to deliberate seriously to restore the autonomy of these institutions and build such safeguards so that no future government could think of wrecking foundations of the Indian Constitution that has been lighting the path of development and progress. It is, undoubtedly, a huge task but it can be achieved if the new government has both the will and determination to stabilize country’s destiny.