Democracy and dictatorship are two different forms of political systems that are poles apart. Yet, in the recent times, our lawmakers have found a space where both can coexist together. They are elected by the people but at the same time can exercise absolute power and deny accountability. In the case of an intervention by the Supreme Court, they walk away by tampering with evidence, threatening the witnesses, silencing or defaming the voices of dissent, witch-hunting of activists and whistleblowers. This list goes on and on.
This goes back to 1977 when Janta Party assumed office in centre and sacked Congress appointed governors. Later in 2004, when UPA came to power, they removed four NDA-appointed governors. Very recently, when NDA came to power in 2014, it was accused of pressurising Congress appointed governors to resign. Eight UPA-appointed Governors resigned after this. A Supreme Court ruling in 2010 had stated that the governors can only be removed if there exists a “compelling” reason for it. Aziz Qureshi, the former Uttarakhand Governor went on to accuse the NDA government of forcing him out of his office by adopting illegal means.
In March 2016, nine congress MLAs revolted against the party in Uttarakhand and the Centre intervened by imposing President’s rule in the state just a day before the vote of confidence was due in the state’s Assembly.
In December 2015, the Congress accused the Centre of toppling the government in the state by misusing the office of the Governor. President’s rule was imposed even though the Supreme Court had not given its verdict on it then.
Voices of dissent and questions rising from JNU have always haunted governments in our country. The former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar was accused of raising anti-national slogans in February 2016. Charges of sedition were slapped against him by the Delhi police. A twenty odd minute long video of him was uploaded on YouTube. He was not raising any ‘anti-national’ slogans in that video. Kanhaiya, his supporters and media persons were attacked within the premises of the Patiala High Court. Not only this. O.P. Sharma, a BJP MLA was caught thrashing a CPI worker within the premises of the Court.
The attempt to put a one day ban on NDTV, jail of journalists in Bastar, registration of a FIR against a Zee News reporter in Bengal under a non-bailable offence, a three-month ban on Kashmir Reader, rejection of a request by the UNHCR to send a fact-finding mission to the state of Kashmir, witch hunt of activists by successive governments, transfer of IAS officers who choose to raise their voice against the government and the reluctance to setup a SIT to probe on the corruption allegations against The Prime Minister points towards the fact that in our country, the government can enjoy absolute power and deny accountability while being inside the boundaries of democracy.