Impeachment ‘Ghost’ Haunts BJP & Congress’s Sinking Ship of Trust

What’s scary is that BJP didn’t even try to quell the opposition’s fears when it saw impeachment gaining momentum.

4 min read
Hindi Female

The impeachment motion against Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra was doomed from the start. All 71 opposition leaders who signed it knew this even as they were appending their signatures to the motion. Consequently, none were surprised when Rajya Sabha Chairman Venkaiah Naidu rejected it.

So why did the opposition, at least a section of it, press ahead with a mission that was bound to end in failure?

The answer lies in the deeply divisive nature of today’s politics. With the next general election less than a year away, battle lines are so sharply drawn that the fight to lead the next government has plumbed new depths of bitterness, hate and rivalry.


Indira Gandhi’s Post-Emergency Days Were Better than Today’s Situation

In the process, the delicate balance between the legislature, executive and judiciary has started to look alarmingly fragile. This balance is the cornerstone of our parliamentary democracy and any erosion of the equilibrium should be a major cause of concern.

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The seven opposition parties that signed the impeachment motion decided to do so because today, there is complete breakdown of communication between the ruling BJP and the rest of the parties. Suspicion levels are dangerously high. The old camaraderie and understanding between the rulers and their opponents has vanished.

Even in the post-Emergency phase of politics, when the ruling Janata Party threw Indira Gandhi into prison and launched a milder version of the Nuremberg trials against her, a communication channel was always open between the victor and the vanquished so that competitive politics would not shake the foundations of the three pillars of our democracy.

Today, the bitterness that separates the ruling dispensation from the opposition is so thick that it is impossible to open a window for talks.

The politics behind the impeachment motion is clear. Opposition leaders candidly admit that it’s a pressure tactic with a two-fold purpose. One is to try and prevent Chief Justice Dipak Misra from delivering a judgment before he retires in October this year on the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute that he is currently hearing.

More importantly, they say, the opposition wants to stop the government from appointing him as Lokpal after he retires. The Modi government has so far desisted from appointing a Lokpal although the Act was cleared by Parliament in the dying moments of the UPA’s tenure. Most opposition leaders believe that Misra is tipped for the post. They believe that this will give the Modi government another tool in addition to the CBI, ED and Income Tax Department, to come after them.


A Black Day for Democracy

It is surprising and disturbing that the government did not bother to reach out to the opposition to quell their concerns even when it saw the motion for impeachment gain momentum. Government leaders, including senior ministers, lost no time in denouncing the opposition move as dangerous for democracy.

Yet, they let it happen, seemingly unconcerned about its implications for both the judiciary as well as the legislature. After all, the motion has pitted the office of CJI against Parliament, creating an unprecedented judiciary versus legislature situation.

The balance between the three pillars will be further rattled when the opposition moves the Supreme Court against Venkaiah Naidu’s ruling. Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal has already announced that he intends to do so without further delay. This will see an unprecedented situation in which the Supreme Court will be asked to pass judgment on one of its own. Nothing can be more unfortunate than this.

Eminent jurist Fali Nariman called the impeachment motion a ‘black day’ for democracy. Indeed it is, because both the Modi government and the opposition were complicit in allowing matters to reach this pass.

Playing the ‘Victim Card’ to Perfection

As the 2019 election draws closer, the bitterness and rivalry between the BJP and the rest of the parties will only increase. Opposition leaders are unanimous that although they were divided on the issue of moving the impeachment motion, they are united on the need to join hands to fight Modi.

Ironically, Modi seems to be encouraging a battle that makes him the focal point. A glimmer of his possible campaign pitch for next year’s election was available in his interaction with the Indian diaspora during his recent visit to London.

Playing the victim to perfection, he said he had gotten used to ‘swallowing two kilos of insults daily’. He added that although he had grand plans for India’s development, he was not being allowed to work.

Victimhood is a popular political ploy. Indira Gandhi used it successfully in 1971. Modi used it well in the 2007 Gujarat elections when Sonia Gandhi dubbed him ‘maut ka saudagar’. And in 2015, Arvind Kejriwal played ‘David’ to Modi’s ‘Goliath’ with fantastic results. AAP swept 67 of Delhi’s 70 assembly seats.

All said and done, it is indeed unfortunate that politics has taken precedence over everything else, at the cost of democratic institutions.

(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)

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