Uttarakhand: Modi could have shown he is better than Nehru

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The BJP wants a Congress-Mukt Bharat for its rise and success have been directly proportional to the grand-old party's downfall. But when the saffron party tried to overthrow the elected Congress government of Uttarakhand in an over-enthusiasm to proclaim an all-saffron empire, the move backfired. [Uttarakhand HC verdict quashing president's rule stayed by SC till Apr 27]

The Congress was always fighting 2013 flood ghosts in Uttarkhand 

The BJP was perhaps emboldened by the outcome in Arunachal Pradesh and tried to snatch the governance in Uttarakhand but it was difficult to understand why the BJP had to do this when the next election in that state is less than a year away? The Congress government in that hilly state had enough anti-incumbency to fight and the horrific memories of the devastating floods of 2013 are still afresh.

harish rawat

The ruling Congress in the state was so cornered in the wake of the floods, thanks to allegations of its slow response that the state even saw a change in its chief minister.

Over-enthusiastic BJP rammed into court 

It wouldn't have been a difficult challenge for the BJP to wrest back the power in the state which it had formed in 2000 when the Vajpayee era was on. But instead of waiting for the right time, the saffron party went ahead with its Congress-Mukt mission and showed so much hurry in forming a government with defectors that eventually the adventurism rammed into the court's wall and halted.

Rawat has virtually won the election before the election

For the Congress, it was blessing in disguise since as soon as the Harish Rawat government was restored, it started working at once to ensure that no more time is lost in the remaining time ahead of the polls. In a nutshell, it was winning an election before the election for Rawat and his party. For the BJP, it was more than an embarrassment which was completely unwanted. The power-hungry party, however, is in mood to give up and is moving the Supreme Court. The wiser step would have been to focus on taking on the government on the Assembly floor but in politics, common sense prevails little.

BJP did what Congress had done nearly 60 years ago in Kerala

The Uttarakhand episode also makes relevant a comparison between the Modi era with that of India's first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru. In 1957, the Indian democracy faced its first litmus test since Independence in Kerala and it failed it, despite the fact that a revered democrat like Nehru was at the helm. That unfortunate political affair involved violence, religion, ideologies, populism etc etc and at the end, it was the first-ever loss of face for India and Nehru.

In 1957, the CPI had won the Assembly polls in Kerala by a slim majority and formed the first communist state government in India. It was a big development in those days of the Cold War as the government in Kerala was one of the first democratically elected communist one. There were also concerns in New Delhi although Nehru, who also won his second national election, did not have any reservation with a communist government in a state.

The new government of Kerala also assured Nehru of working within the limits of the Constituition.

But the problem started when the CPI chief minister of Kerala, EMS Namboodiripad, a highly revered leader introduced an education bill which aimed better wages and working condition for teachers in private educational institutions. The Catholic Church and the Nair community, both of which ran their own educational hubs, objected to this. Particularly the church saw the bill as an interference into its domain and since schools played a big role in their religious agenda, this was perceived as a threat.

The local Congress leadership, which was licking its wounds after losing the election to the communists, saw an opportunity to strike in this. They mobilised all aggrieved sides into a state-wide protest on the matter and even called it a liberation struggle. Mannath Padmanabha Pillai, a Nair leader of great reputation, led the struggle and soon support came pouring in from all direction.

Soon, the protest and agitation turned violent which even caused deaths and injuries. Prime Minister Nehru was deeply disturbed but was in a lot of minds. He was personally in favour of the bill but did not intervene publicly. He tried to calm both sides but failed to do so. The communists saw this as a Congress conspiracy while the local Congress leaders found support from national leaders like Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter.

The crisis reached the peak when a pregnant fisherwoman was accidentally killed by the police and this tragedy symbolised the movement. Nehru came under huge pressure and relented. In fact, he had perhaps lost his sympathy for the communist way of things by seeing the growing differences between the Chinese and the Soviets around this time (India's own war with China was also just five years away).

Nehru saw first communist government in Kerala being dismissed

The Namboodiripad government was dismissed and President's Rule was imposed on the state in July 1959. In the election that followed, the Congress made the full use of the killed fishewoman by campaigning with her posters and returned to power.

Even in the era of Nehru, who is still considered one of the finest democrats India has produced even though his own party has only slided down over the years, we saw a democratically elected state government getting toppled by means of emergency powers.

In the Modi years too, the rules of the game haven't changed

It had not only tarnished Nehru's image but also helped India's opportunist politicians discover a new weapon in 'President's Rule' to dominate the Opposition. While this provision was used only five times between 1947-59, it was used 21 times between 1975-79 and 18 times between 1989-87. And we all know how India's much talked-about democracy was undermined for two years between 1975-77 by Indira Gandhi.

Today, we have come a long way since the times of Nehru but the ground rules haven't changed. They still look for the slightest opportunity to bag power and care little for the means to achieve that.

Modi, as it is often said, is trying to undo whatever Nehru and his successors have done in the past and set up a fresh republic. The intention sounds good but when we see what has happened in Uttarakhand, we feel that things have only changed at the level of political belief. On the ground, actions remain the same.

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