India's losing battle with democracy
"If I find the constitution being misused, I shall be the first to burn it" said Dr. B. R. Ambedkar upon the drafting of the Constitution of India in 1950. As chairman of the drafting committee, he was tasked with the impossible job of drafting an infallible constitution that would give India a new identity. India being a country of massive diversities and complex social systems, has led to a raft of social, political and geographical differences in the sanctity of the constitution which has in turn, led to a misuse of the constitution itself. With the country in turmoil, what does the situation render for democracy in India while it celebrates its 70th Republic day?
Sculpting a tale of authority
Recently Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Statue of Unity in Gujarat. The ruling party was slandered mercilessly about it considering the magnitude of its structure, cost and location. Hindol Sengupta, author of The Man Who Saved India - a Patel biography, laid emphasis on how the statue would add to India's ambitions to become a global superpower." When Modi says he wants India to take its rightful place as "vishwa guru," or world teacher, is this a stepping stone to that end? In Modi's worldview, this statue is a crucial milestone signalling the rise of India and projecting that rise to the world visually.
The near-600 feet statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel has also created a wave of controversial reviews suggesting it is not only a tourist site but also a pro-Hindu imagery in the state of Gujarat, host to a number of Hindu-Muslim riots of 2002. The cost of the statue has been approximated at 408 million dollars which is theoretically the price paid to establish a pro-Hindu identity in the state. Is it a democracy where the head of the state belittles another religious group for idolising a pro-Hindu nation?
The Shiv Smarak or the Chhatrapati Shivaji Memorial is another structure under construction which lends greater magnitude to the statue politics in India. Different opinions have been raised regarding the statue in value of its cultural and historical importance. Shivaji was a 17th century Indian king, also founder of the Maratha empire, who defeated the Muslims to establish Hindavi Swarajya or Hindu self-rule.
Maharashtrians hold Shivaji in very high regard, crediting him with being the founder of the Maratha identity. He is also recognized as the leader through the golden ages of the Maratha empire during the 17th and 18th centuries. It is fair to say that the Marathis comprise of the majority of the voting population in Maharashtra and for the BJP to win them over they need to create a pro-Shiv identity as part of their propaganda. So even after approximately 339 years after his rule, Shivaji is dominating politics in Maharashtra.
Another block of stone
In the flurry of this recent controversy, Mayawati too took a barb at BJP for ridiculing the self-glorifying statues she instituted when she was in power. Mayawati Das, president of the Bahujan Samaj Party(BSP), was involved in a Rs 40000-crore scam for the construction of various statues depicting herself, her mentor Kanshi Ram, and elephants, which was the symbol of the party itself.Statue politics ignited by the recent inauguration of the Statue of Unity is reminiscent of the wasteful affairs of our political parties and classic irreverence for polarity.