Dark times lie ahead

Coalition politics is politics of corruption. It takes a lot to come to power and the bills have to be paid when you are in power, either in cash or kind. Coalition governments are most susceptible to corruption because the accountability is distributed. While in UPA it assumed gigantic proportions, even NDA-I had to deal with this devil when prime minister Vajpayee had to compulsively get rid of Suresh Prabhu because he was not making money for his party at the time.

Therefore, I was not a bit surprised when Shiv Sena started having a fallout with BJP so early on. What exactly is their problem with BJP, the closest ideological ally they can possibly hope for? Uddhav Thackrey has decided to fight the next election solo and if you look for a reason for doing so you will find nothing but a litany of lame excuses. Even if you look hard you will not find even one reason articulated to justify such a risky move that puts their political future at stake. Then why are they doing it?

While Shiv Sena started grumbling quite early on, one can see that the resentment is picking up fever pitch now. From major partners like TDP to lesser-known allies like OP Rajbhar of Suheldev Bharatiya Samaj Party, all are throwing a fit. On the opposite side from Farook Abdullah in the north to Stalin in the south, everybody is gunning for this government. When Raj Thackrey begins to talk about “Modi-mukt” Bharat one must wonder what exactly has sent a chill down the spine of the entire political establishment that none can stand this man.

In my view, such reactions can only be attributed to a perception of an existential threat. The risk of opposition’s coffers drying up is becoming too great as it is being pulverized and pushed into oblivion in every state by the BJP. The allies, like the Shiv Sena of NDA-I, need to keep their political machinery rolling. However, as long as Modi is in total command of the government with no fear of instability, their desire to take a big chunk from the political pie to serve their own compulsion cannot be met.

The opposition parties try to explain their death rattle as the sound of secularism dying in the country and the allies are masking the fear of their corruption laden nutrition supply drying as Modi’s “disregard for allies”. As long as the political players within NDA, including BJP, owe their position to Modi he can call the shots, and indeed has, which is very disconcerting to the entire establishment. Despite what Rahul Gandhi says in his deliberately misleading speech in the plenary session, the fact is Modi has stuck to “na khaunga na khane dunga” and ended the corrupt reign of her mother, for now.

This brings me to the real problem. While most Modi supporters are concerned about re-election, what concerns me most is what happens if Modi gets re-elected. Remember this is not just about politics or ideology, it is about survival now. While political parties continue to destroy and undermine every institution in the current Modi term, whether it is the election commission or the parliament itself, there is no telling what their desperation will make them do if he gets re-elected. The fabric of Indian democracy will come under a strain that it has never experienced before.

I was not around during the emergency but at least then the democratic institutions were suspended. Now something much more nefarious will happen – they will be eroded with frightening pace. With nothing to lose the opposition will follow a scorched earth policy. With all their deficiencies, politicians have made sure the political institutions function because their livelihoods depend on them. When that livelihood is threatened they will no longer have an incentive to uphold the sanctity of the system. The period that follows the re-election of Modi in 2019 (if it happens) could be the most significant period of India’s politics because it will determine the trajectory of our nation.

Most people in the US are beginning to realize that democracy is a culture. A man like Donald Trump can come along and chose not to follow the norms of that culture and can get away with it. The constitution is the holiest book of Americans and they are beginning to see that it holds value because everyone has decided to value it, and other than that it is nothing more than words written on a piece of paper. If prime minister Modi doesn’t initiate political and governance reforms that would be necessary to run the country when he steps down then we will be staring at a political wasteland at a time when the entire world will be dealing with disruptive technological, political and economic changes. I am afraid the cohesive institutional forces would not survive the opposition onslaught of Modi’s second term. If Modi becomes the prime minister of India in 2019 then it will mark the next era of Indian democracy. How that era shapes up depends entirely on him.

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