The battle for Gujarat is a battle for the future of India

The BJP’s battle for Gujarat has entered a new and decisive phase. Stung to the quick by the Election Commission’s strong indictment, the government has referred the whole matter to the President and as we go to press, the President has already sought three clarifications from the Supreme Court under Article 143. The Government hopes to get the Supreme Court’s direction by September 10. The blueprint for a veritable institutional tug-of-war is now almost complete.

The very fact that the Election Commission chose to undertake two successive tours - first by a 9-member team and next by the three commissioners themselves - to make a first-hand assessment of the situation prevailing in Gujarat instead of accepting the Gujarat Government’s plea for premature elections itself amounted to an indictment of the murderous Modi regime that passes for an elected state government. The widely televised image of CEC Lyngdoh reprimanding a senior Gujarat official with a stern “Aren’t you ashamed of yourself?” added insult to injury. And now the 40-page indictment issued by the EC to the press instead of what the BJP wanted — election dates — has clearly left the Advani-Modi gang fuming.

The EC’s report has nailed several loud lies being churned out regularly by the RSS propaganda machine. The report has specifically refuted the Government’s claim that the impact of the ‘riots’ has been confined to just a few areas. Based on the Gujarat government’s own admissions and submissions made by senior police officials, the EC has observed that 24 out of 25 districts of Gujarat were affected. In terms of Assembly constituencies that means a staggering 154 seats in a house of 182. The BJP leaders who claim that the Commission is authorised to defer elections only in specific constituencies and not in an entire state conveniently gloss over this simple truth.

The Commission has candidly acknowledged the prevailing undercurrent of fear and tension that will make an absolute mockery of the notion of free, fair, fearless and impartial elections if premature elections are forced on the state. More importantly, apart from calling for expediting relief and rehabilitation measures and ensuring comprehensive revision of electoral roll in view of large-scale displacement of the electors in the aftermath of the communal holocaust, the Commission has highlighted the need for urgent confidence-building measures. “Foremost among these,” in the Commission’s own words, “would be to arrest and punish the guilty, irrespective of their status and rank, for their crimes.” The EC has also emphasised steps like removing forthwith all physical obstructions and barriers erected to deny access by the riot-affected people to their destroyed homes and restoring to their original postings the officers who performed their duties fearlessly and forthrightly to contain the riots.

The EC report also examines the contention that elections should be held immediately to uphold Article 174 that requires that not more than six months should elapse between two successive sessions of an Assembly. According to the EC in the interest of democracy, Article 174 must yield to Article 324 that empowers the EC, and the EC alone, as the final arbiter to decide when and whether free and fair elections can be held. The report also contains a clear hint that the apparent conflict between the two Articles can and should be resolved by bringing Gujarat under President’s Rule.

Such advice of the EC is of course not for the BJP to accept without a fight. The call for early elections in Gujarat is, after all, the BJP’s latest battle cry in its drive for a fascist Hindu Rashtra. And Modi, the murderer, the second most ‘popular’ Chief Minister according to the latest India Today-MARG opinion poll, is the BJP’s latest mascot. While on the one hand the BJP has launched a missile from the Rashtrapati Bhavan which has taken the Election Commission to the Supreme Court, come September 3 and the trishul will be brandished again in Gujarat as Modi and Co. take out their ‘Gaurav Yatra’.

The battle for Gujarat is indeed shaping up to be a major battle for the future of India. Bharat, that is India, must prepare in real earnest for handing out a fitting rebuff to these soldiers of saffron subversion. A rebuff that will not need any reinterpretation by any President or any Court.