The Platform

Photo illustration by John Lyman

India’s democracy, or what is left of it, is being seriously eroded the longer the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) remains in power.

Amidst the tumultuous milieu of Indian politics, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) stands at the epicenter of an intensifying storm over how it finances its electoral campaigns, drawing particular scrutiny to the 2017 electoral bonds scheme. The scheme, marred by opacity, has been met with strident criticism, the detractors contending it is ripe for reciprocal back-scratching deals. Amassing over $700 million through this venture, the BJP has laid claim to more than half of the bonds issued, a fact made more salient by the Supreme Court’s ruling against the scheme and its ensuing demand for transparency through the disclosure of donors.

In a serpentine twist, the identification of these benefactors has coincided with several facing the rigors of tax probes, raising alarm bells over a veiled pseudo-democracy and the hallowed ground of political finance—prompting the citizenry to ponder the golden mean of democratic accountability against the backdrop of fiscal transparency and the exigencies of political finance.

The BJP’s unabashed engineering of India’s political ethos to reflect a Hindutva-centric narrative, through a series of legislative maneuvers, is undeniable. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) of 2019, for instance, stands as a stark exemplar, with detractors decrying its implications on India’s secular fabric by selectively granting citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from proximate lands. This narrative arc extends to the revocation of Article 370, which nullified the distinctive status of Jammu and Kashmir, the Muslim-majority region, further highlighting the BJP’s robust Hindutva narrative.

The promulgation of the Bharatiya Nyaya Sanhita in 2023, ushering in 356 amendments with a pronounced focus on state-related crimes and syndicated criminality, suggests a pivot in jurisprudence resonating with the party’s assertive nationalist discourse. Such legislative activism has ignited a passionate debate on the enduring tenets of Indian democracy, with a faction arguing that these developments pander predominantly to the sensibilities of the Hindu elites.

India, heralded for its grand mosaic of cultural, linguistic, and religious plurality, now confronts an existential challenge as this rich diversity stands imperiled by a series of policies that seem to disproportionately favor Hindus, notably those with deep ties to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS). The anxiety brims over the potential sidelining and marginalization of other communities in light of the BJP’s professed zeal for Hindu unity, simultaneously downplaying caste distinctions in a bid to consolidate Hindu voter support. This trajectory, to some, represents a seismic shift from the foundational ethos of Indian inclusivity and pluralism towards a homogenized national identity that is singularly Hindu.

Furthermore, the BJP’s strategic interplay with the judiciary in furtherance of its vision has elicited a chorus of critique. The judicial disavowal of the electoral bonds scheme, a lifeline to the BJP’s coffers, underscores the conundrum posed by anonymous political donations. Concurrently, the Ram Mandir construction, a monumental landmark yet a source of societal fissure, and the Rafale fighter jet deal, now clouded by allegations of corruption inviting French judicial intervention, lay bare the complex entanglement of the BJP’s policy decisions, judicial edicts, and the broader implications for India’s democracy.

The institution of policies that adversely affect minorities carries the potential to sow seeds of discord, depreciating India’s democratic veneer and impairing its portrayal as a haven of multiculturalism. Should such measures persist unaddressed, the resultant social rifts could corrode the public’s confidence in governance and jeopardize national unity. The burgeoning alienation and disenfranchisement of minority cohorts loom large, menacing the societal fabric and putting the nation’s foundational principles of secularism and inclusivity in jeopardy. For India to uphold its democratic ethos, it is imperative that governance is inclusive, honoring the imperatives of equality and justice across its diverse spectrum of people.

Lastly, the BJP’s suite of policies, often depicted as a byproduct of self-interest serving the powerful elite, are marshaled as exemplars of the party’s ambivalence towards graft. The electoral bonds debate has particularly been brandished to underscore what is seen as the party’s duplicity. Accusations mount that the BJP’s legislative amendments and agenda serve a select few, potentially eroding the bedrock of transparency and accountability within the governance framework.

Continuing down this trajectory, India stands at a precipice, risking a departure from its democratic and pluralistic ethos towards the mirage of an oligarchy. It is of paramount importance to the health of India’s democracy that the multitude of voices constituting its rich demographic is harmoniously interwoven into the policy-making tapestry, ensuring a polity that mirrors the nation’s composite and vibrant societal fabric.

Abdul Mussawer Safi is an author at various platforms such as Modern Diplomacy, Kashmir Watch, and Eurasia Review. He is pursuing a Bachelor's degree in International Relations from National Defense University. He has a profound interest in world politics, especially in the regional dynamics of South Asia. His academic strengths are critical and SWOT analysis.