The Supreme Court’s decision on August 4 in the criminal defamation case against Narendra Modi, alias Modi, popularly known by that nickname, is a noteworthy development.
With this decision, the court ended the protracted legal dispute over accusations made against Rahul Gandhi, the head of the Congress party. Rahul Gandhi was sentenced to two years in prison, the termination of his term as a member of parliament, and an eight-year prohibition on running for office again.
This decision holds significant implications and raises pertinent concerns about the ways Prime Minister Narendra Modi pursues his political objectives.
The reinstatement of Rahul Gandhi’s membership in the Lok Sabha by the highest court has stirred criticism and disappointment among Prime Minister Modi’s opponents. This ruling has left Modi and his supporters displeased. Looking ahead, it could potentially pose challenges and formidable hurdles for Modi, not only from his adversaries but also from within his own political and ideological realm, should circumstances shift against his favor.
This event brings to light a heightened awareness that, in addition to confrontational political tactics, now characterizes Prime Minister Modi’s critics (both internal and external) with a more aggressive stance than the established norms of political criticism. This transformation is a result of his evolving approach throughout his political journey—first in his home state of Gujarat and then on the national stage.
Rarely does a day pass without him attempting to launch provocative verbal attacks, despite the context, against India. Even a group of opposition parties, including the Congress, seems to have descended to an immature level in this process.
For instance, last Saturday, while inaugurating the modernization of 506 railway stations, Modi addressed his audience with a slogan reminiscent of ‘Quit India’—a historic anti-colonial movement that began on August 9, 1942. The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), the parent organization of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), categorically dissociated from the event, as it was inextricably linked with the British sympathizer politics of that era, which severely undermined India’s struggle for independence.
Why does Narendra Modi get angry? What makes Narendra Modi frustrated? The answer is quite evident: Upon entering politics, Modi encountered a formidable, intellectually robust adversary, who couldn’t be silenced or appeased through intimidation or bribes. This challenger openly presents Modi with the truth about himself. Governance, as he sees it, is achieved through a rare combination of courage and enthusiasm, instilling unease in powerful individuals that his third term as Prime Minister, which he covets greatly, might not be as secure as he believes.
Gandhi’s ideological philosophy, which contests the RSS-BJP’s objectives, especially as articulated by Modi, has introduced various interpretations, traditions, and paths that have transformed the country’s landscape into a vast arena of clashing religious and supremacist ideologies, fostering simmering conflicts and inflicting suffering on marginalized and disadvantaged sections of society. More than anything else, these discoveries have been a pain in Modi’s side.
Apart from employing legal and technical arguments to challenge the conviction in the criminal defamation case, Gandhi’s lawyers asserted his right, as an opposition leader, to criticize the Prime Minister and his government. This is a fundamental facet of his political discourse. Despite the Supreme Court’s stay on the appeal, this message reverberates, emphasizing that criticizing government leaders in a democracy is not only valid but essential.
This challenges the notion constructed by the robust establishment that authoritarian rule is natural in countries like India, where people desire a strong government. This result, once an anomaly in the prolonged era of ousted feudalism, has now taken on a derogatory connotation, in addition to undermining the principles of democracy.
According to news reports, Gandhi is expected to participate in the debate over the no-confidence motion in the Lok Sabha. The nation will watch, and moments of concern will arise for the ruling party. No doubt, Modi is pondering how to tackle this unexpected turn of events. Will the censor’s red pencil once again be wielded against Gandhi’s speech, as it was when he denounced Prime Minister for his alleged association with Gautam Adani following the release of the Hiren Bhagat report?
If so, political turmoil might ensue, further fueling the ongoing undercurrent of dissent. In his new avatar, Gandhi has emerged as a unifier of disagreements in the country, a proponent of peaceful political resistance, unafraid of the ferocity of suppression or political adversaries. Creating a new force among the people that doesn’t fear arbitrariness, Gandhi has deepened the essence of democracy.
The announcement of the Lok Sabha session on August 7, which marks the conclusion of Rahul Gandhi’s reinstated membership in the House, leaves an ominous air. It states that the previous Lok Sabha order on March 24 (which had expelled Gandhi from the House) “shall cease to operate under further judicial declarations.” If this signifies a hidden threat, then we might be facing a storm. It is in the interest of justice to safeguard against covert means of oppression and political opposition.