Hemant Soren | Opposition Must Know That This is Unrestricted Political Warfare

In hindsight, Hemant Soren should not have resigned before his arrest and insisted on ruling Jharkhand behind bars.

4 min read
Hindi Female

Public memory is both short and fickle. Yet, the author vividly remembers the events of 3 February 2019 that transpired in Kolkata. A team of CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation) officials arrived at the residence of police commissioner Rajiv Kumar to “interrogate” him on some alleged scam.

Within minutes, Mamata Banerjee rushed there and sat on a dharna against the move. Five CBI officials were also detained by the local cops. Mamata Banerjee not only slammed the central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi but also publicly vowed to protect her “police forces” from being harassed and demoralised by central agencies and their weaponisation.

It was months before the CBI could ask questions to Rajiv Kumar, that too in a “neutral” location fixed by the Supreme Court. Many had criticised the “street” tactics used by Didi.

This piece, however, is about Hemant Soren.


The Rules of the Game Have Completely and Irrevocably Changed

First, ED (Enforcement Directorate) officials "anonymously" led the media to believe that the Jharkhand chief minister was "absconding." Then they said that they were on a lookout for him at Delhi airport after which they finally arrested him from his official residence in Ranchi. The author wonders if Mamata Didi understood the art of dealing with a predatory centre five years ago.

In hindsight, Soren should not have resigned before his arrest and insisted on ruling Jharkhand behind bars. The author doesn’t think there is any law that explicitly bars him from doing that. Of course, folks would talk about propriety and precedent when Lalu Prasad Yadav and Jayalalitha resigned and installed puppets before their arrests. But only the naively idiotic would talk of propriety in this day and age of “take no prisoners” warfare. Besides, Lalu and Jayalalitha operated in a different era.

Since then, the rules of the game have completely and irrevocably changed. Without being critical, and purely as an objective observer, the author has been convinced that the top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) believes in only one thing: unrestricted and relentless warfare till your opponents are completely vanquished and brought down to their knees. Niceties, decorum, and grace can go take a hike.

Unfortunately, for most opposition leaders and parties, they are still acting and behaving as if this is politics being practised in the 20th century.

They need to study the journey of the Indian cricket team to understand what they are up against. The Australians were a dominant force (like the BJP is now) in the 1990s and not only did they want to win, but their captain Steve Waugh publicly stated that he wanted the “mental disintegration” of opponents. Indian players would be bullied ruthlessly. Finally, when Saurav Ganguly became the Indian captain, the Indians decided that enough was enough. Every abuse was paid back with interest. Since everything in this world moves in cycles, the dominance of Australia waned and India started winning matches.

But first, they reinvented their strategies, which is what Hemant Soren too could have done.


The BJP Has Launched a New Era of Unrestricted Political Warfare

Some argue that the Governor of Jharkhand would have used the act of Soren clearing files from inside the jail as a breakdown of the constitutional machinery and requested "the President to dismiss the government." There is no way a dismissal would have stood judicial scrutiny.

The BJP had tried to follow the old Congress playbook in Uttarakhand and Arunachal by trying to dismiss state governments some years ago. The Supreme Court had come down heavily on the centre.

The more important thing would have been the power of the political message from Soren: “I will not play by your rules”.

In any case, despite Champai Soren being duly elected as the next chief minister by all legislators of the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) which has a clear majority, the governor did not bother to invite him to take the oath for more than 24 hours. Compare that with the alacrity with which the Bihar governor first accepted the resignation of Nitish and then re-administered the oath of office to him within hours. It was when citizens and analysts pointed out the absurdity of the situation that the new leader was finally invited late at night on 1 February to take his oath.

Intellectuals, liberals, and assorted civil society will lament the further destruction of democracy. They, no doubt, have every right to. But such noble sentiments are of no use to politicians to must fight and win elections.

When the BJP has launched a new era of unrestricted political warfare, opposition leaders and parties have no choice but to respond in kind.

Only seemingly dramatic gestures can send a message across to voters. Start clearing files from jail if you are arrested. Have your supporters go to town yelling how the BJP is not allowing any opposition politician to work. And let activists preach morality. When politicians, particularly Congress leaders invoke morality and constitutional norms, it doesn’t sit well. Thanks to WhatsApp Forwards, even Indians who are not obsessed with politics know about Indira Gandhi, the Emergency, and how she dismissed duly elected state governments about 50 times.

Finally, what about corruption?

The author has no doubt that the prime minister is personally incorruptible. It is also a fact that no big-ticket scams have surfaced over the last ten years. But it is laughable to suggest that he is committed to having zero tolerance for corruption. A day after he publicly accused Ajit Pawar of massive corruption, the latter joined the NDA.

You decide what message that sends.  

(Sutanu Guru is the Executive Director of the CVoter Foundation. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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