India’s opposition parties appear to be united against the Bhartiya Janata Party’s existential danger to democracy for the first time since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took office nine years ago (BJP).
As a Gujarat lower court convicted Rahul Gandhi in a three-year-old defamation case, he was expelled from parliament, creating a feeling of urgency. He got two years in prison.
Several jurists criticized the hearing, conviction, and sentencing. The opposition’s unity also stems from its realization that Gandhi’s exclusion from parliament is an audacious signal by the government that it can do anything to undermine democratic political forces. The opposition must organize now.
It has unified India’s opposition since Modi took office. Gandhi must unify the nation.
In India’s multi-party democracy, several opposition politicians and organizations that have nearly unanimously criticized Gandhi’s actions are competitors in separate states. Their reunion is monumental. People can understand that Gandhi’s arrest is the climax of the Modi government’s efforts to humiliate and destroy opposition leaders by presenting them as criminals using the judiciary and investigative institutions.
Before Gandhi, several leaders from his party and others were charged with crimes and imprisoned. They were interrogated for days. The judiciary’s complicity in the government’s crackdown has hampered the opposition and Indian democracy.
This is the end of civility and bipartisanship in legislative politics. After losing state elections, Modi’s BJP has taken power by overthrowing governments or fracturing political parties. It has grabbed a huge portion of election finance through an opaque electoral bonds program that hides contributors and recipients.
Democracy goes beyond ruling and opposition parties. Institutional balance limits state authority. The BJP controls this institution in India. The government controls the electoral commission, judiciary, and other ostensibly independent institutions.
Business backs BJP. Laws have shattered other civil society organizations that monitored the state.
Against this context, Modi’s administration still had no answers to Gandhi’s queries about its alleged support of Gautam Adani, whose wealth increased from $7bn in 2014 to nearly $100bn at the start of this year.
A January study by US short-seller Hindenburg accused Adani of questionable and fraudulent tactics, labeling it one of the largest con acts in recent history, supporting Gandhi’s claim that Modi and Adani had a unique bond. Adani has refuted the report’s charges, but the markets have spoken: his company shares and fortune have collapsed.
Gandhi now claims Modi favors Adani. He criticized the administration in parliament. Parliament stalled as the administration rejected the opposition’s call for a parliamentary inquiry into the Adani scandal.
Gandhi lectured in the UK, painting a bleak image of India’s political situation. He added that losing Indian democracy would be a worldwide loss.
The BJP and compliant Indian media characterized these statements as an insult to India abroad. Gandhi requested permission to react to these claims in parliament, but the presiding officer refused. Conviction and exile followed.
The opposition can show voters the threat to Indian democracy by uniting. Their biggest challenge is India’s large media, which has been the governing party’s mouthpiece and spreads disinformation, defames opposing parties, and incites Hindu hate of Muslims, Christians, and intellectuals. The opposition must enlighten the public, dispel major media lies, and unite India’s many populations.
Thugs with government ties have targeted Muslims throughout Ramadan, disrupting religious ceremonies.
Not easy. Government-affiliated thugs have attacked Muslim religious rites throughout Ramadan. Christian homes and churches are targeted and prayers disturbed. In the last three months, Maharashtra has seen many gatherings asking for Muslim violence. Fragmentation in India is unparalleled.
While challenging, uniting Indians is possible. Democracy is pointless without honest opposition party leaders investing in politics of togetherness. Rahul Gandhi has the moral power to do this after his Bharat Jodo Yatra, which covered approximately 4,000km (2,485 miles) with this message of togetherness.
His removal from parliament may liberate him from legislative duties and allow him to talk about the country’s plight on the streets. Gandhi’s unflinching criticism of Modi demonstrates the government’s fear of him.
Yet, this moment should not be about Gandhi. Gandhi’s next challenge will be to focus on the threat to Indian democracy.