The BJP, a threat to India’s Democracy

  • Adv. Rajiv Sharma

The people of India have come alive to an unpleasant fact in the last few years that the Bharatiya Janta Party steals mandate of the people by manipulating the electoral process in its favour. But the BJP always denied this bitter truth, in absence of concrete evidence in public domain, which could stand the scrutiny of the Courts. All this has changed now and the ugly face of the BJP stand exposed before the world. After the reprehensible happenings during Chandigarh Mayoral elections, the people of the country can now say on the basis of cogent and incontrovertible evidence that the BJP cannot win a major election without committing electoral frauds and without swindling the process of counting of votes in their favour.

On 20.02.2024, while setting aside the election of the BJP candidate, the Honourable Supreme Court appointed Kuldeep Kumar, a joint candidate of Congress – Aam Aadmi Party as the Mayor of Chandigarh. The Apex court had stated during the hearing that what happened in Chandigarh during Mayoral elections was a mockery of Democracy, it was a murder of Democracy and the court would not allow this.

On 30.01.2024, the returning officer Anil Masih, who conducted the election, acted in connivance with the BJP to steal the votes. He illegally and immorally defaced 8 ballot papers to deny clear victory of Congress alliance candidate and declared the BJP candidate as winner even when he had got lesser number of votes. But in the process, the shameful act of forgery and tampering of the votes done at the behest of the BJP got recorded permanently in the cameras for the whole world to see. The whole of India was flabbergasted. The 3-judge bench of the Supreme Court expressed their deep anguish and pain at the condemnable conduct of the returning officer and ordered initiation of criminal proceedings against him in their landmark judgment delivered on 20.02.2024. The people of India hung their head in shame when they saw their cherished democracy being dishonoured and disrobed by the BJP and the whole world was stunned into silence at the ugly attempts of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party to cripple India’s Democracy.

It needs to be emphasized here that the Chandigarh administration works under the direct control of Union Home Ministry headed by Shri Amit Shah. This is the precise reason that the BJP chose Chandigarh to test waters to apprise itself of the limits to which it can trample and throttle the electoral process to subvert the popular mandate of the people and perpetuate its divisive rule in the country.

The current Municipal Corporation in Chandigarh was elected in December 2021, wherein the Congress Party got the highest number of votes collectively in all 35 constituencies of the city, but could win only 8 seats. The Aam Aadmi party and the BJP won 14 and 12 seats respectively, even though both parties, individually, got lesser votes than the Congress party. In first two Mayoral elections, which are held every year in January, the Congress abstained from the voting as it did not want to support the Aam Aadmi Party. On both the occasions, the BJP manipulated to win three Mayoral posts by engineering defections and cross voting. This year Congress Party was forced to form a limited alliance with the AAP for the purpose of defeating the BJP, as the city was suffering due to their corruption and mismanagement. As a result, the electoral arithmetic changed completely. The Congress Alliance had 20 councillors as compared to 14 of the BJP, besides one vote of the BJP MP and another vote of a lone Akali Dal. Staring at certain defeat, the BJP began its new experiments in electoral malpractices, the like of which, were never seen in the past. Firstly, the election scheduled for 18.01.2024 was postponed to 06.02.2024 on a ridiculous ground that the returning officer was not well. Later, they added another untenable ground that the Law-and-order situation in Chandigarh was too bad to hold election. Punjab and Haryana High Court termed these two grounds as absurd and frivolous and advanced the date of election to 30.01.2024. The Court also directed the entire election process to be video-graphed. Secondly, before the scheduled polling to elect the Mayor began, the returning officer at the behest of the BJP had already hatched a conspiracy to steal victory, which was not theirs. They made a sinister plan to deface some ballot papers, to cancel the votes polled by the Congress alliance. For the first time in the history of elections in Chandigarh, the entire media was denied permission to witness the polling and counting process from their designated area. The Counting agents of the contesting candidates were also not permitted to witness the counting of votes. This allowed the returning officer to put some ‘marks’ on eight votes polled to the Congress alliance. It was ensured by the Officers of the Administration and Municipal Corporation, who were conducting the election that no independent witness including the media was there to watch the illegal actions of the presiding officer. But fortunately for the country and its democratic institutions, a video camera installed there escaped their attention. It caught the returning officer Anil Masih in the act of defacing the ballot papers. Congress leader Shri Rahul Gandhi expressed his pain and agony at the open hijacking of the democratic process by the BJP. Blaming Prime Minster Narendra Modi directly for such unfortunate state of affairs in India, the Congress leader stated “in the BJP’s conspiracy to murder democracy, (Retuning officer) Masih is just a Pawn, behind it is face of Modi”. Shri Rahul Gandhi went on to express his deep sense of anguish at the BJP’s relentless attempts at destroying democracy in the country by stating, “years ago, on this day, Godse had assassinated Gandhi ji and today Godse-wadis sacrificed his ideals and constitutional values.” Smt. Priyanka Gandhi wrote on her Twitter handle, “The way democracy has been crushed in the Chandigarh Mayor elections is in front of the entire country. Rules, law, democracy, its dignity and the Constitution were kept aside for the sake of power. The people of the country are seeing that even in the system of one city, the voice of the opposition and the public is being openly suppressed.”Congress Party’s General Secretary Shri KC Venugopal launched an attack on the Bharatiya Janata Party and called its action a “brazen, shameless capture” of the democratic system.

It is true that on this occasion, the Honourable Supreme Court has saved the country. But the malice created by the BJP is deep and gravely ominous for the country. Therefore, each and every citizen needs to be vigilant to save the democracy. As the Congress President Shri Mallikarjun Kharge has aptly remarked, “Institutional sabotage in the Chandigarh Mayoral poll is only the tip of the iceberg in Modi-Shah’s devious conspiracy to trample democracy”.

The shameful episode of Chandigarh Mayor Election has substantiated the fact beyond any iota of doubt that the BJP can cheat, play fraud on the system and go to any extent to manipulate any constitutional process to retain power. In the past, the BJP used to hide their crimes against Democracy either by dishing out blatant denials or by justifying such acts by camouflaging them under their ideological moorings, aimed at dividing the Indian polity. But on this occasion, it was done openly. The worrying sign for the people of the country is that the BJP has now developed the audacity and brazenness to commit forgery right in front of the video cameras, without any fear. India is aghast at such contemptuous acts of the BJP aimed at trampling our democracy. The world is aghast at the destruction of democratic institutions in a country, which is a home to every fifth living person on the planet.

Undoubtedly, the BJP led government has brought the country to a pass, where the Democracy faces ominous threat to its very survival. The onus is, therefore, on the people of India to protect their voting and other constitutional rights by showing the BJP the place it deserves, before it is too late.

The Author is a Delegate and Spokesperson of Chandigarh Territorial Congress Committee.