It is sad news that Gauri Lankesh got murdered in Bangalore city at her own house. Her father P. Lankesh started the Lankesh Patrika. I remember clearly even in the 1980s, though not a prominent paper, but we always looked at it with respect for its objectivity. We were running the Janata Party and in fact in the early 1980s we had Ramkrishna Hegde as the Chief Minister of Karnataka. We were still worried of what Lankesh used to write in Lankesh Patrika. It was a respectable paper and Lankesh’s was a respectable family. Gauri carried forward that tradition in her own way. She brought a different magazine. Her views, to put in very mild words, were totally as per the constitution. Be it related to polity, society, law or fair justice she was not rabid in any sense. But the tenor and times are such that even fair and reasonable people have become unacceptable to society.
The normal conjecture is that right-wing has got her eliminated, though the police enquiry will show who the culprits are. In fact she at that time was investigating corruption charges against Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, even his government in Karnataka was uncomfortable with her. We will have to wait for few weeks for the findings of the enquiry to come in order to find out who really did this dastardly deed. The overall picture is that the country is passing through such sad times that our intolerance level has become so great that we are not able to tolerate the views we are not in agreement with. Let’s try to stick to the book of constitution, and whichever government may be in power – BJP today, it may be some other party tomorrow – it is in their own interest to see that these tendencies are curbed, because if they remain unchallenged and uncontrolled it will go against all parties and against the system itself. I am sure the courts will also pass some comments on this.
The Supreme Court has recently talked on two subjects. First, on the Hindu cow lynching, lynching for carrying cows or eating beef or whatever, though not very early in the day, but I am glad that the Supreme Court has asked all the chief secretaries of the states to set up special mechanism to see this kind of lawlessness and violence stops immediately. In fact the surprising part is that the RSS, VHP and various organizations connected with them should realize themselves that this is not what the Hindus want. No Hindu wants people to be killed in the name of cow, except maybe a handful of people who are activists of the Sangh. A normal Hindu mind will go against the BJP on such things. They should be careful. If they want to rule long-term in this country they must control this tendency.
The second thing the Supreme Court has said is that the politicians’ assets are showing increase, doubling in five years, etc, but here lies the problem. The format to declare the assets while fighting an election in itself is flawed. It says the market value of a particular asset need to be declared. If somebody has bought a plot of land 30 years ago or had family property, it is but normal to observe increase in the value of those properties. In every three to five years the value is increased. You cannot say the increase is because he is a neta or politician. One should distinguish between money he has made after he has become a neta and the money accrued because of increase in the value of his property.
Better late than never I am glad that the Supreme Court has taken cognizance of this and the government has to apply its mind. The political class in India, to put it very mildly, has eroded its credibility to a very high degree in the last 20-25 years, and if it goes unchecked, it is no good for the democratic system. In fact in other countries – in African countries and even in some of our neighboring ones, the army gets tempted to step in because they see that the public is losing faith in the same people whom they have elected. That is how a country comes under military rule.
Now the responsibility lies with the BJP as it is in power. If Mr. Modi with all his chest thumping and talking big about progress really wants to rule for a long time, he must moderate his people. The chest-thumping should give way to practical policies which indeed is for everybody’s good. Their core constituencies were small traders and small and medium industries. Today we see that they are all under stress – first because of demonetization and now because of GST. I am not one of those who say the GST is bad, not at all! But the way these two things have coupled, it has thrown small traders, small businessmen and small industrialists into serious strain. I will give one example. I was in Jaipur last week. Sanganer is a place near Jaipur, where one lakh people were employed in Sanganer paintings, blocks etc., now their number has been reduced to ten thousand because most of that business is done in cash – white or black is not the issue – demonetization has directly hit their business. This is one place and every city has a different story. So suddenly you cannot change the rules that from cash go cashless or go with less cash. All these jumlas look good and they are good at jumlas, but they have to find a solution. Since the BJP’s figure is going down rapidly, and there is only year and half after that election mode sets in, the earlier they act the better it is.