Then it was the bogey of intolerance, now it is the prevalence of fear

Nobody had then explained how an ‘intolerant’ Modi government was tolerating the venom being spewed on it.

Nobody had then explained how an ‘intolerant’ Modi government was tolerating the venom being spewed on it.
Nobody had then explained how an ‘intolerant’ Modi government was tolerating the venom being spewed on it.

Those who claim that an atmosphere of fear reigns in the Modi government needs to present incontrovertible evidence.

An atmosphere of fear exists under the Modi government. Its dark and ominous clouds have covered a wide section of society, from the political class to rights activists to film celebrities to the media to the business community. Who says so? Public personalities of importance. Where did you hear them say it? In the open, and at times before senior members of the government and the ruling party. What happened to these dissenting voices? They were listened to with respect and ministers sought to assure them to the contrary and encouraged them to continue offering constructive criticism.

This then is a strange atmosphere of fear, where dissenters vent their feelings in the public domain without being acted against. At the most, some ruling party spokesperson seeks to rubbish the criticism by questioning the credentials of the dissenter. But that can hardly qualify as stifling of dissent. Fear silences people; it does not make them to speak out and get away with it. In the past, certain film personalities spoke of it, and months later they were interacting with Prime Minister Modi and praising him. But even when they talked of fear under the Modi dispensation, neither their films nor they were targeted by supporters of the ruling party.

A few rights activists have been acted against, but not because they were critical of the government.

The latest to join the bandwagon is eminent industrialist Rahul Bajaj. He lamented that industrialists were fearful of criticizing the government. He added that the corporate world had abused the Congress-led regime but nothing happened to them. Well, Bajaj has just criticized the government, and nothing is going to happen to him for sure. If his instigation works, other business houses can follow suit without a threat of vendetta.

Bajaj’s problem is that industrialists are not speaking out on issues that dog the economy and are not holding the government responsible for it. Surely we must leave it to the wisdom of corporate bigwigs to do so. They are free, they live in a democracy, they have the courts to approach in case they are unfairly targeted. Bajaj spoke of tax terrorism, but where is the evidence of that? Sweeping allegations serve no purpose. The GST regime has addressed the issue to a large extent. But it cannot be the argument that sections of the corporate world should not be acted against in case the tax authorities find something amiss. By no stretch of imagination can the business world accuse the government of crackdowns. Only recently it was offered a significant reduction in taxes. Lakhs of crores of rupees have been pumped into core sectors of the economy by the government in recent months.

Nobody in the government is denying that the economy faces challenges and is going through troubled times. The government’s measures can be questioned if they fail to work. There is admittedly much that can be said with regard to the management of the economy in the past few years. A number of commentators and newspaper columnists who were strong votaries of the Modi government when it first took charge in May 2014 are today its critics for a variety of reasons. How is it that they are speaking up? Either there is no fear factor or they are the truly brave ones who don’t mind being packed off to whatever Indian version of concentration camps exists.

Interestingly, while opposition leaders are busy lauding Bajaj for showing ‘courage’, they have conveniently glossed over his statement that the Modi government was doing a lot of good work. It is something that some overzealous ruling party spokespersons who have condemned his remarks, have also missed. No purpose is served by raking up Bajaj’s connections with the Nehru-Gandhi family or the soft corner he may have for Rahul Gandhi. The corporate world has to work with every party and every government. For instance, in the past, Dhirubhai Ambani was considered close to the Congress, and that became one of the reasons for VP Singh to launch a drive against his business empire. Today, his son Mukesh Ambani has an excellent rapport with the Modi government — but also with the Shiv Sena which is presently opposed to Modi and his regime. A certain level of maturity is required in dealing with criticism, and it was demonstrated by Union Ministers Amit Shah and Piyush Goyal, who took Bajaj’s remarks in stride and reassured the veteran industrialist of the government’s intent.

Those who claim that an atmosphere of fear reigns in the Modi government needs to present incontrovertible evidence.

A few rights activists have been acted against, but not because they were critical of the government. They have a lot of explaining to do with regard to following the law of the land. Other activists were arrested and they face charges of a serious nature, including that of colluding with the violent Maoists. Some are out on bail, others protected from arrest by the courts.

If an atmosphere of fear ever existed, it was during the Emergency imposed by Indira Gandhi. Not only those who had opposed her but even those who had the potential to criticize her were rounded up and put behind bars. Fundamental rights were suspended, courts were barred from questioning government legislations and the media was censored. Pliant judges were promoted and the inconvenient ones shunted out.

We are seeing a repeat of the ‘intolerant’ diatribe. Nobody had then explained how an ‘intolerant’ Modi government was tolerating the venom being spewed on it. In hindsight, the condemnation worked in the Prime Minister’s favour. The more his rivals spread malice the stronger he became. The results of the 2019 elections are a pointer to this fact. It is possible that the accusation of spreading fear may end up as disastrously for the accusers.

Let’s understand one basic fact. An allegation works (in a court of law) if it has credibility or is perceived by the people (during elections) to have credibility. Those who claim that an atmosphere of fear reigns in the Modi government needs to present incontrovertible evidence.

Note:
1. The views expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of PGurus.

 

Rajesh Singh

Rajesh Singh is a Delhi-based senior political commentator and public affairs analyst
Rajesh Singh

5 COMMENTS

  1. Once I had great respect for this guy named Rahul Bajaj. Of course, I didn’t know his Nehru Gandhi connection. I only knew that he is the grandson of Jamunalal Bajaj, the supporter, and financer of Gandhiji. After his recent statement, this guy has lost my respect. He has proven himself to be selfish, biased and supporter of corruption and anti Nationalism.

  2. This is a pre-planning by Rahul Bajaj. In an interview, he openly expresses that the businessmen are fearful of a vendetta by the government and the very next day the report comes out that Mr. Bajaj’s sugar mills owe Crores of Rupees to the sugar farmers. Now if the government takes action on Mr. Bajaj, he will shout from the rooftop Vendetta…vendetta.

    How these Leftist Liberal media want us to forget harsh measures taken by the UPA/Delhi government against the peaceful Dharna by Baba Ramdev and his supporters.

    • Yes. The Bajaj Family Thieves are no better than the Nehru Family Looters or the Mahapapi Gandhi.
      The Bajaj thieves have defaluted in making payments of 10000 crores to various Cane Farmers.
      Bajaj Family thieves own 3 of the largest Sugar Mills in the Asia. They make huge profits selling Sugar while depriving the Farmers of their right dues. UP Government has just now started recovery but with the intensity required to be shown to such criminals like Bajaj. Center & UP Governments should attach the properties of Bajaj first & settle the Farmers’ Accounts first.

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