India Is Often Touted As The World's Biggest Democracy; Let's Be Real--Modi Has No Democratic Values
Gandhi Was Expelled From Parliament Yesterday
A couple of days ago, when I was writing about the real-time disintegration of Israeli democracy, I asked Hal, my AI buddy, if he knew of any successful democracies that had religious extremist parties in power. With no sense of irony, Hal suggested 3: Israel, India and the U.S. “There are several successful democracies around the world that include religious fanatics as part of their political landscape. One example is Israel, which is a democratic country with a diverse range of religious and political beliefs represented in its government. The country has a significant population of Orthodox Jews who hold conservative religious views, and there are political parties that represent these views in the Israeli Knesset.” As I explained yesterday, the Haredi politics is not conservative; it is fascist and exterminational.
“The United States is another example of a successful democracy that has had religious fanatics in positions of power throughout its history. Some examples include the Puritan settlers who founded the country, the religious right movement that emerged in the 1970s, and the current Republican Party, which has been criticized for its close ties to conservative Christian groups.” The U.S. is teetering as well and I would go out on a limb and place 100% of the blame on evangelicals.
Finally, Hal suggested that “another example is India, which is the world's largest democracy and has a Hindu nationalist party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in power. The BJP has been accused of promoting a Hindu nationalist agenda and has faced criticism for its treatment of religious minorities, but the country remains a functioning democracy.” Promoting a Hindu nationalist agenda? How about murdering masses of Muslims?
Hal claimed that it’s “worth noting that while these democracies have successfully incorporated religious fanatics into their political systems, there are also concerns about the potential for religious extremism and intolerance to threaten democratic values such as pluralism and freedom of religion.” No shit, Sherlock! When I pushed back against his assertions, his response that to thank me for bringing updated situations in Israel and India to his attention, claiming he does “not have the ability to track events or changes in real-time. It is true that both Israel and India have faced criticisms and challenges to their democratic systems, including issues related to the treatment of religious minorities and the erosion of democratic institutions. It is important to note that the examples I provided were not intended to suggest that these countries have perfect or flawless democracies, but rather to acknowledge that they are examples of countries where religious fanatics have been part of the political landscape, and the countries have managed to maintain functioning democracies despite these challenges. Nevertheless, it is true that both countries have faced significant challenges to their democratic institutions and the protection of minority rights, and it is important to continue to monitor and address these issues.”
The Associated Press did some of that monitoring Friday— from New Delhi. On Thursday, a far right state court found Rahul Gandhi, leader of the opposition Congress Party, guilty of making fun of extreme right wing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s name (defamation) in 2019, which was followed a few hours later with Parliament expelling him from that body. Gandhi, the grandson of assassinated former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and son of, was sentenced to 2 years in prison.
The charges are trumped up nonsense and Gandhi announced an appeal immediately. But, there is now a question of whether or not he will be allowed to run for reelection next year. There’s no question that the case is part of a pattern in which Modi’s far right government is using law enforcement to target and silence critics and political opponents. Gandhi is being widely supported by other political leaders outside Modi’s party, who are concerned that what Modi has been doing is eliminating political opposition and silencing dissent.
The Associated Press points out that “the case against Gandhi dates to an election rally in 2019 where he said, ‘Why do all thieves have Modi as their surname?’ In his speech, he then went on to name fugitive Indian diamond tycoon Nirav Modi, banned Indian Premier League boss Lalit Modi, and Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi is not related to either of the other two. The defamation case against Gandhi was filed by a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the western state of Gujarat. The complainant, Purnesh Modi, said Gandhi’s comments had ‘defamed the entire Modi community.’ Modi is a common last name in Gujarat.”
The Guardian reported that “Asim Ali, a political researcher, said he was puzzled by the BJP’s focus on Gandhi. ‘I can’t work out what the strategy is because this may benefit Rahul and the Congress,’ Ali said. ‘They [Congress] will say it shows the BJP is insecure about Rahul and that it merely validates what he has been saying about how this government will not allow any criticism of Modi or itself.’
Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, a Delhi-based writer and analyst, told Agence France-Presse that the verdict showed the BJP “does not want Rahul Gandhi in parliament.”
He said the disqualification followed a “big storm” of disruptions to parliamentary proceedings by Congress politicians demanding an inquiry into Modi’s relationship with tycoon Gautam Adani.
The two men have been close associates for decades but Adani’s business empire has been subject to renewed scrutiny this year after a US investment firm accused it of “brazen” corporate fraud. Adani has repeatedly denied that his longstanding connection with the prime minister has led to preferential treatment, as has the Indian government.
Until recently Gandhi, a member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that has given India three prime ministers, had been lampooned by BJP figures as a “kid” who was “wet behind the ears” but a 2,200-mile march across the country last year appears to have lent some credibility and gravitas to his image.
Outside the party, many Indians will be bewildered to find that Gandhi has been disqualified given that 233 of the 539 MPs elected in the 2019 general election have criminal charges against them– many of them more serious than defamation.
Gandhi’s disqualification has served, at least temporarily, to unite a usually fractious opposition that has been appalled by the news. “The BJP is desperate to silence the voice of the opposition. This is the lowest of the low in the history of parliamentary democracy. Shame on them,” said Derek O’Brien, of the Trinamool Congress party.
Is Modi a fascist? You be the judge.