The political parties in Meghalaya have been on the upbeat lately, be it contemplating to jump the fence of the parent party for greener pastures, or sitting on the fence waiting for right opportunities. The fight for party tickets has already begun where candidates aspiring to get tickets from the Ruling Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party were hitting the headlines, even as the Regional Parties are seemingly taking on a wait and watch policy. Strangely, this term neither the Ruling nor the Opposition was rushing to implement the MLA schemes, reportedly due to lack of funding from the central government.
In the past, when the assembly term comes to the last two years before the election, schemes and projects are implemented, knowing that the electorate has a short memory. If legislators begin the work from the first year itself, the people will forget the contribution when the representatives seek re-election, hence, most legislators adopt such practice to execute their schemes just before the General Election.
In general, Indian political parties seem to have lost the ability to garner votes purely based on manifestoes in recent times. The money power and vote bank based on propaganda are the key factors determining the winning-ability of individual candidates and the political party. This is a threat to the democratic system as the parties simply raise religious issues to lure votes, violating the Fundamental Rights of Secularism- Right to freedom of religion, which has fragmented the nation.
The Supreme Court of India, in the first week of January 2017, through a landmark judgment, ruled that the political parties cannot seek votes in the name of religion. The court said that the parties have to abide by the tenets of the constitution.
The Court stated that an appeal to voters on the grounds of Caste, Creed and Religion is Impermissible. The judgment delivered by a bench of 7 judges, headed by former Chief Justice of India TS Thakur, and Justice Sharad Bobde, Justice Madan Lokur and Justice Rao, agreed with him that votes cannot be sought in the name of caste or religion. Three judges – Justice UU Lalit, Justice Adarsh Goel and Justice DY Chandrachud – struck a dissenting note.
The Supreme Court also observed that the relation between an individual and God is an independent choice, adding that the state is forbidden to have allegiance to such an activity, meaning any attempt to canvas on religious grounds – either the candidate’s or his opponents – will invite provisions of the Representation of People’s Act.
The bench revisited a 20-year-old judgment that called Hinduism – a way of life.
Meanwhile, BJP’s Meghalaya unit is contemplating to lodge a Police Complaint against particular vested interest groups for labeling the political party on social media as an Anti-Christian party. State BJP Vice President John Antonious Lyngdoh, who is an active church leader, stressed that such false propaganda will not be allowed. Hence, the party will submit complaints to the state police department and Central Intelligence Agencies and demand action against the vested interest groups.
Again, on April 19, 2017 the Supreme Court revived the conspiracy charge in the Babri Masjid demolition case against BJP and VHP leaders including L.K. Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, triggering calls for the resignation of Kalyan Singh and Uma Bharti. This case is going on since 1993. It may be mentioned that senior BJP leaders Advani and Joshi were among the top contenders for the post of President after Pranab Mukherjee retires in July. Uma Bharti is a union minister and Kalyan Singh is the Rajasthan Governor.
Yet another angle of religious conflict was ripped up by Sonu Nigam, who shaved his head on April 19, 2017 in response to a call given by a Kolkata-based cleric, Syed Sha Atef Ali Al Quaderi, the vice-president of West Bengal United Minority Council, who announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh to anybody who can garland the Bollywood singer with old shoes, after his complaint on Twitter about being woken up by azaans.
Earlier in the day, Nigam said in a press conference that he raised a social topic and not a religious one when he tweeted about being woken up by the sound of azaan, the Muslim call to prayers, and apologized “if someone thought otherwise”.
Religious fanaticism hitting the headlines is not confined to Christianity or Islam, lately if one is a Sikh, his patriotism will be questioned if he or she does not toe the line of the Hindutva brigade. Even if one happens to be a decorated officer of the Indian Army.
Lieutenant General (retired) Harcharanjit Singh Panag is one of India’s most distinguished army officers. A recipient of the Param Vishisht Seva Medal and the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, he has served as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Northern Command as well as the Central Command. But in the past few days, Right-wing trolls have crossed all limits in insulting this veteran of the 1971 War. They hurled unspeakable abuses at him and called for him to be thrashed, lynched and humiliated. Even worse, they called him a traitor, a terrorist sympathizer and of course, “Khalistani”.
All this because Lt Gen Panag tweeted that the image of a Kashmiri, tied in front of a military jeep will “haunt the army forever”. He was talking about the Image of a ‘stone pelter’ tied in front of a jeep as a ‘human shield’.
It seems both the National and Regional Political Parties in the contemporary Indian Politics are only toeing the line of religion; one doesn’t hear about developmental issues, integration or drafting public friendly legislations for the competitive world.
One can imagine the development of 70 year-old Independent India, where the election to the Civic Bodies in the National Capital still talks about supply of drinking water, civic duties of cleaning up Delhi and regulating Housing tax. Besides this, the rival political parties will only engage in mud-slashing against the Opposition parties. The Common Minimum Programme is left to the Ruling party or parties to announce and no mandates are ever sought from the masses. This has turned elected representatives into Kings or Queens, who will immediately demand security after being elected. The concept of voicing the grievances of the masses in the August House or serving the respective constituency has become a favour and no longer a duty.
It is time for every individual to wake up and decide how we want to steer India towards the future, or simply allow the political parties to seek votes in the name of religion. It is time for the citizens to realize their Right to Franchise and use it to elect representatives who listen and perform, and not those who act as Demi-Gods or Kings and Queens who the masses need to seek appointment before meeting.