Political action group Rashtra Manch, an outfit floated by the former union minister and senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha in January, hauled over the coals by the Narendra Modi-led government at the Centre with its outreach debut event in Mumbai on Friday which was titled as ‘Save Democracy, Save Constitution’.
Founded with a commitment to protect, preserve and safeguard the institutions of democracy in India, the Rashtra Manch or National Forum gathering saw a diverse panel of speakers including a few former Union Cabinet ministers who thundered the central government over issues ranging from Rafale fighter jet deal, ‘concentration of power in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO)’ while Yashwant Sinha claimed that ministerial decisions were being taken “single-handedly” in the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government. The panel further highlighted the dangerous situation that the country is facing due to a systematic attempt to muzzle all forms of dissent by the Modi government and the brazen politics of polarisation and vendetta. The panel also focused on the deep state that is operating, which must be fought against tooth and nail, as the very idea of India is at stake.
Maharashtra Congress VP Dr Ratnakar Mahajan asserted, “Shatrughan Sinha along with a few more members of BJP is unsatisfied with the Modi government’s way of functioning right from its inception. There are many who are scared to talk openly about it. The central government is run by PM Modi and Shah. Rashtra Manch will play as a considerable factor in the upcoming elections.”
In the discussion about the major challenges confronting the nation and the citizens, another former union minister Arun Shourie and aggrieved Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Shatrughan Sinha too launched a scathing attack on the incumbent rulers. “I won’t leave BJP but if the party’s decision-makers want me to resign, I will obey it like a disciplined soldier. My first responsibility is to the ‘Bharatiya’ people and not the Bharatiya Janata Party and I will do whatever it takes to protect people’s interest, which is paramount in a democracy,” censured BJP’s rebel Parliamentarian Shatrughan Sinha who earlier stressed that his decision to back Rashtra Manch ‘should not be seen as an anti-party activity as it is in the national interest’.
Samajwadi Party leader Abu Azmi appreciated Shatrughan Sinha for coming forward and being open about the issues harming the democracy. He went on saying with a sarcastic note, “PM Modi is writing a new Constitution for India. Whoever opposing Modi is becoming anti-national. PM Modi is only favouring the corporates and the elite people.”
It’s been quite some time (since Bihar elections in 2015) that disgruntled BJP lawmaker Sinha’s diatribes against the Modi-led government for their wrongdoings started and he even accused them of treating him ‘unfairly’ since its inception in 2014. “I have offers from other parties,” said the Bollywood-actor-turned politician often referred as ‘Shotgun’ early this year giving hints of contesting upcoming Lok Sabha polls on a different party ticket. He slammed his party for becoming a ‘two men-show’ that lacks internal democracy, took a dig at Prime Minister’s monthly radio programme ‘Mann Ki Baat’ calling it as ‘Dil Ki Baat’ and was also seen regretting ‘friend, philosopher and ultimate guru Lal Krishna Advani’s’ political inactiveness in today’s time. Sinha’s critics inside the party mentions his disheartenment behind his verbal onslaught — as he was neither chosen as a Union minister nor projected by the BJP as its chief ministerial candidate for the 2015 Bihar Assembly elections, all which he wished for. A sort of battle of nerves that’s going on between Sinha and the BJP is very obvious and now, it would be interesting to see the future course of this sweet and sour story.
BJP Spokesperson Avadhut Wagh stated, “All ministers are working independently and giving a good performance. Whatever Shatrughan Sinha is claiming is wrong. He is venting his frustration as he is out of the power. He wants to continue his nuisance to keep his Lok Sabha seat secure in 2019 polls. Despite Yashwant Sinha’s stand on BJP, we inducted his son as a minister. We believe in democracy — he is a leader of our party and we let him say whatever he wants to. People will take the final call, whether Shatrughan Sinha is right or the Prime Minister!”
BJP spokesperson Shirish Boralkar expressed, “Nation first, then Party and later Self is our party’s agenda and we are bringing policies that can comfort the National interest. Some people have self-interest, ego and aspirations and we should not take them seriously.”
A well-supportive economy and good administration are the two basic requirements for the citizens of any nation. It’s more than 70 years that India is independent and the government could not provide any of the two things satisfactorily.
BJP spokesperson Shivray Kulkarni said, “The Opposition, pseudo-seculars and the so-called intellectuals don’t have any concrete point to oppose the BJP government; they are deliberately trying to create BJP’s anti-Constitutional image. BJP respects the Constitution and it’s the party that had taught Shatrughan Sinha the political morality. The Opposition should talk about development rather than focusing on imaginary issues.”
Echoing Yashwant Sinha, BJP veteran Arun Shourie too took a jibe at the functioning of Modi’s Cabinet. He criticised Media for being ‘greedy’, accused the BJP government to be desperate to retain power by hook or crook and welcomed ‘like-minded political forces’ to oppose the central government.
Congress Spokesperson Dr. Raju Waghmare expressed, “Shatrughan Sinha has opened up very late about BJP’s flaws. Congress had already organised the ‘Save Constitution Campaign’ where Rahul Gandhi was the Chief Guest. Last week, some people gathered and burned a Constitution in Delhi — if such furious crimes happen in our nation and the mainstream media is not showing them, we can understand the situation from the last four years. PM Modi doesn’t have any moral right to remain at that position. Modi’s charisma has faded and the party will not get the majority in 2019.”
AAP Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh, senior Maharashtra AAP leader Preeti Sharma Menon, social activist and lawyer Abha Singh, Samajwadi Janata Party leader Ravinder Manchanda too attended the event and took part in the discussion.
“PM Modi might have a 56-inch-chest, but it is also important to have a large heart, which beats for all citizens, beyond political myopia,” former Railway Minister and TMC leader Dinesh Trivedi taunted. “India’s democracy and the Constitution are in danger. The Judges of the High Courts and Supreme Court are scared to take decisions despite having a clear evidence — such is the terror of this government”, Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Majeed Memon lashed out.
Democracy is the idea of opposition, freedom, press, transparency and a free flow of opinions! However, it is a time when our country, the world’s largest democracy, is scarred with rural distress where farmers are committing suicides in larger numbers than ever before, education is poorly managed, the judiciary is being prevented from performing their duties, people are getting lynched over rumours and in the name of religion and caste, bank NPAs are deteriorating, freedom of speech is struggling to survive and unemployment rate is increasing. Moreover, the country’s internal security situation has deteriorated and we see a continuous bloodbath in Jammu and Kashmir, both within and along the Line of Control. Though the government expresses their efforts to come up to a military solution, but the lives of civilians and martyrs are yet to get the justice.
Satyen Paranjape, a private bank employee from Nashik spoke to AV and said, “Shatrughan Sinha is talking against the Centre for his own interest. I don’t think there is an Emergency-like situation in the country. Statements made by the speakers in the Rashtra Manch event are exaggerated.”
“I believe that voters should not vote considering only Modi as the face of the election. Voters should consider the ground-level workers who are working for the welfare of the people. Indians are more inclined to favour prominent faces than the work done by them,” Vikrant Jog, a Kalyan resident stated.
By Mohit Soman & Twinkle Mehta