The Congress on Friday contended that a government event to celebrate Constitution Day meant nothing if the government deliberately undermined democracy and constitutional values.
The Congress had earlier led an array of Opposition parties in boycotting a Constitution Day event at Parliament’s Central Hall, prompting an angry Prime Minister to lambast parties “run for generations by a family”.
Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma defended the boycott: “It is important today to remind the government that mere observance of this day as a government function and disrespecting the spirit and essence of the Constitution is a very poor reflection on the state of affairs.”
Sharma alleged that the Narendra Modi government had violated every norm and aspect of constitutional rule.
Rahul Gandhi too implied that constitutional principles were not being respected under the current government.
He tweeted: “Justice and rights for every citizen should be equal and the same. It is the responsibility of all of us to ensure Constitution is not reduced to a piece of paper.”
Congress members, as well as activists and students across India and in some foreign countries, publicly read out the Preamble to the Constitution in protest against the Modi government’s 2019 citizenship amendment law.
The Congress, which has announced a rally in Delhi on December 12 to highlight the savage rise in the prices of essentials, ran a social media campaign through the day alleging reckless subversion of the constitutional spirit under Modi’s rule.
It alleged that freedom of speech was being systematically attacked, criticism of the government was being treated as sedition, democratic protests were being curbed and the participants punished, secularism and equality were being eroded, and the people’s mandate was being sabotaged through money power and coercion.
Among the several messages the party posted, one said: “Our Constitution promises ‘liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith and worship’. However, in the last seven years the Modi government has decimated this integral right. We must fight back.”
Another said: “When the secular fabric of our nation begins to rip, the very DNA of India begins to fall part.”
Sharma said: “Our protest is also about the manner in which the government is conducting the state of affairs, enacting laws, taking decisions. Every single constitutional institution has been subverted….
“Lawmaking has become most undemocratic and the government has now firmed up a dangerous trend to make laws through ordinance. Ordinances are brought in matters of critical importance to vast sections of our citizenship.”
Sharma cited the example of the contentious farm laws that the Opposition says were passed with hardly any discussion.
“These are flawed bills pushed through using the (government’s) brute majority in brazen disregard of established parliamentary principles and practices, which demand stakeholder consultation and parliamentary scrutiny,” he said.
“We had warned the government when they came up with these farm laws. India saw a yearlong agitation, tension and conflict; 700 farmers died. We have protested to remind our country that the Constitution and parliamentary democracy are being undermined.”
Sharma sought to answer Modi’s attack on dynastic parties, suggesting obliquely that authoritarianism posed the real threat to democracy while the bogey of dynasty was being raised to divert people’s attention.
“The Prime Minister has raised certain points. He should do some introspection instead of lecturing other parties. They have been talking about dynasty for decades. But I want to remind Modi that democracy got strengthened (between) 1947 and 2014,” he said.
“If dynasty posed such a threat to democracy, and the Congress didn’t uphold constitutional and democratic principles, Modi would not have become Prime Minister in 2014. He came to power because the Congress nurtured and strengthened democracy.”
Sharma also highlighted the Congress’s pantheon of freedom fighters to disparage the BJP.
“The RSS-BJP want to change history. They don’t remember the freedom fighters who made supreme sacrifices,” he said.
“There is a reason for that. All the stalwarts — Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, Rajendra Prasad, Lala Lajpat Rai — were from the Congress. Those who were in the RSS don’t have any contribution.”
Sharma said the forebears of today’s BJP leaders had no role in the freedom struggle. “They aligned with the British and contributed to the attempts to crush the freedom movement.”