Stick it out

Politicians share a curious relationship with semantics. That is because the meaning of words and phrases uttered by a politician can be given a foggy edge. A shadow thus falls between the spirit of a phrase and its hidden meaning. Take, for instance, the prime minister's recent lamentation over the plight of disciplinarians. 

  • Published 5.09.18
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Politicians share a curious relationship with semantics. That is because the meaning of words and phrases uttered by a politician can be given a foggy edge. A shadow thus falls between the spirit of a phrase and its hidden meaning. Take, for instance, the prime minister's recent lamentation over the plight of disciplinarians. At a public function, Narendra Modi stated that things have come to such a pass that it is becoming notoriously easy to blur the line between discipline and authoritarianism. The logical inference that can be drawn from Mr Modi's exasperation is that in New India, those who are a stickler for rules - the prime minister, presumably, had himself in mind - are being branded as autocrats. Discipline is, indeed, a virtue, especially in a nation that takes its inspiration to dodge the rules from its slippery leaders. There is no harm in instilling discipline - through education, awareness programmes and debates. The problem with the prime minister and the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party is that they believe that 'discipline' can only be enforced by implementing authoritarian measures. That is perhaps why dissenters have no place in an India led by Mr Modi. The heretical act of questioning the government's ideas, practices and flimsy accomplishments inevitably leads to the disciplining of opponents the BJP way - intimidation, incarceration, or, even worse, violence. The BJP's opponents have for long accused it of ruling with an iron hand. Is that why, in a sort of a Freudian slip, a public prosecutor let it know that a fascist Establishment is in power in the country?

Of course, under Mr Modi's watch, the stick is being wielded selectively. Citizens accused of serious financial irregularities as well as vigilantes preying on minority groups remain outside the reach of this feared weapon. The BJP's love for the stick has ideological underpinnings. There is credible evidence to suggest that the party's allergy to the principle of plurality makes it venerate all things muscular. But plurality remains the bedrock of democracy. It is the diversity of opinion and beliefs that enriches the democratic experience of a polity. By seeking to impose its views unilaterally, the BJP threatens to upend India's inclusive, democratic tradition.

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