President Ram Nath Kovind had an opportunity to rise above humdrum politics and act as a statesman but he failed to grab it. His Republic Day eve address to the nation sounded like a rehash of the BJP leaders’ everyday speeches. He conspicuously avoided touching upon the burning issues which are agitating the entire nation. If he had only taken a cue from former President Pranab Mukherjee and hinted to the government to put on hold the issues that are threatening to put asunder the nation, he would have stood out as a statesman and saviour of the nation.
Delivering the first Sukumar Sen memorial lecture organised by the Election Commission on January 23, Mukherjee said: “The last few months have witnessed people come out on the streets in large numbers, particularly the young, to voice their views on issues, which in their opinion, are important. Their assertion and belief in the Constitution of India is particularly heartening to see… democracy thrives on listening, deliberating, discussing, arguing and even dissent. I believe the present wave of largely peaceful protests that have gripped the country shall once again enable further deepening of our democratic roots.”
Thousands of men and women, mostly youth, have for over a month been on the streets all over India in protest against ill-conceived CAA, suffering bitter cold and police atrocities. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Ajay Singh Bhist has particularly behaving like a barbarian ruler of medieval times, letting loose his uncivilised police on them. For this gangster-turned-Chief Minister, the dissent is sedition. Instead of reaching out to such a vast number of people to listen to their points of view, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah have not only adopted an obstinate attitude against them but are deepening the crisis by their provocative utterances.
Having whipped frenzy among his supporters against dissenters by branding them Pakistanis and anti-nationals, Modi may not find it easy to be seen as buckling under the pressure of domestic or foreign opposition to his actions; that is, if he does want to restore normalcy in the country. However, an advice by the President, who was chosen by him for the top post, would have provided him a way out.
If the President had hinted at the need for replacing the police danda with dialogue to evolve consensus on the ticklish issues, the government leaders were bound to listen to him. Besides, it would have opened an honourable route for the Prime Minister and the Home Minister to give up their obstinacy.
Because of their arrogance, they would not acknowledge opposition leaders views while the bitter criticism of CAA in foreign media seems to have only hardened their attitude. The things have come to such a pass that the ruling clique is not only fast alienating the vast majority of people within the country, but also losing goodwill abroad. Several politicians in the friendly countries and top ranking business tycoons have already expressed their disapproval of the citizenship legislation in varying degrees.
Having whipped frenzy among his supporters against dissenters by branding them Pakistanis and anti-nationals, Modi may not find it easy to be seen as buckling under the pressure of domestic or foreign opposition to his actions; that is, if he does want to restore normalcy in the country. However, an advice by the President, who was chosen by him for the top post, would have provided him a way out. This would have enhanced the prestige not only of the office of President but of Modi also as he would have been seen giving up his obstinacy in deference to the wishes of the country’s highest Constitutional authority.
The views expressed here, are the author’s personal opinion.