Conspiracy to Kill PM? Why BJP CMs' Attack on Channi is a New Low for Democracy
The BJP is back to its old game of polarisation by invoking Khalistan & trying to spook Hindus in poll-bound states.
The BJP touched a new low when it lined up its chief ministers to point an accusing finger at fellow chief minister Charanjit Singh Channi of Punjab for the security breach which led to Prime Minister Narendra Modi being stranded on a highway for 20 minutes during his recent visit to the state.
Not only did they use unprecedented harsh language against an equal in a constitutional post, they blamed Channi for deliberately conspiring to expose the PM to danger. And Assam CM Himanta Biswa Sarma crossed all limits of propriety to demand that Channi be arrested.
Why Not Let Supreme Court Reign Supreme
All this happened after the Supreme Court had already intervened in an effort to stop the unseemly politicking that has been going on ever since the incident occurred on 5 January. The apex court had ordered the central and state governments to halt the inquiries they had started, saying that it would appoint an independent four-member team to investigate. It had also pulled up the Centre for prejudging the issue with a show cause notice to Punjab Police officials under the SPG Act. "The impression you’re giving the court is that you’ve already made up your mind," said Justice Hima Kohli.
Clearly, the BJP was restrained neither by the SC’s pronouncements nor by constitutional requirements.
Once again, it has thrown conventions of democracy out of the window in its eagerness to squeeze every drop of political capital from the PM’s plight for questionable electoral benefits.
While no-one is undermining the seriousness of the danger to which Modi was exposed that fateful day in Punjab, the BJP has trivialised the issue with Pulwama 2.0 hypernationalism. Apart from the unseemly spectacle of getting its CMs to fire at a constitutional colleague, virtually all union ministers and party leaders of substance have lowered the dignity of their offices to shoot off unsubstantiated allegations at Channi and his party, the Congress.
Raising the Khalistan Bogey for Banal Politics
What should have been a matter of grave concern, which could even be turned into an opportunity to correct gaps in the PM’s security setup, has become a Punch and Judy show of banal politics.
It doesn’t require blinding political insights to figure out the BJP’s motives for the unseemly spectacle that is unfolding over an issue that should be handled with gravitas and sensitivity. There are important elections coming up in Punjab, UP and Uttarakhand in February-March. And the BJP is back to its old game of polarisation.
By invoking the spectre of Khalistan, it’s obvious that the party is trying to spook Hindus in all three states into a spiral of anxiety and security fears. The BJP has not discarded its anti-Muslim plank. It’s just added another fear factor to bolster its majoritarian appeal.
To understand why the BJP has resurrected the Khalistan card, it’s important to look at the political landscape of the battlefield where the upcoming elections will be fought.
BJP's Sikh Trouble in Punjab and UP
Punjab is a Sikh majority state and still scarred by the separatist movement that bathed its soil in blood.
The BJP is desperate to regain its lost toehold in the state after its Hindu voters deserted it in the last election and supported the Congress. Stoking security fears that are never far from the surface is a cynical ploy to try and win back the Hindu voter.
This, even at the cost of ripping the social fabric and destroying the tenuous communal peace that the state won after decades of terrorism and violence.
In UP, the BJP is embroiled in a protracted feud with the Sikh farmers of the Terai region after union minister of state for home Ajay Mishra’s son was arrested for mowing down four of them with his vehicle. The Sikhs are on a protracted agitation demanding the removal of the minister. The BJP has so far rejected the demand as it tries to cling on to its upper caste Hindu vote bank in the area.
Good Diversionary Tactic for BJP
Even in Uttarakhand, with its tiny 2.3 % Sikh population, polarisation may be the last resort to hold on to its fast slipping Hindu vote. The BJP has already had to change its chief minister in the state three times in the past six months. There’s no clearer evidence than this that all’s not well in the state unit of the party.
There’s a possible additional benefit. A plot to assassinate the PM helps to divert national attention from the recent troubles in the Yogi government in UP which has lost three OBC ministers and several OBC MLAs to the Samajwadi Party recently.
It is unfortunate that the PM’s security has been reduced to spectator sport. Hopefully, the SC-appointed inquiry team will fix responsibility for the lapse and maybe even prompt a much-needed review the measures that keep the PM safe.
This may be poll season. But the sanctity of the PM’s security must be maintained at all costs.
(Arati R Jerath is a Delhi-based senior journalist. She tweets @AratiJ. 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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