The Centre has asked all departments to deploy officers to showcase its achievements across the country down to the village level, through a roadshow titled Viksit Bharat Sankalp Yatra, which will run from November 20 to January 25, 2024. To be sure, the outreach is only about achievements of the last nine years that corresponds to the two terms of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that began in 2014. The campaign is conveniently timed for the Lok Sabha election which is expected in April-May 2024. Joint Secretaries, Directors, and Deputy Secretaries will be appointed Rath Prabharis (chariots in-charge) for the roadshow. Separately, the Ministry of Defence is setting up 822 ‘selfie points’ where citizens can click themselves with a picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Guidelines issued by the Ministry go into great details on how to promote the work of the last nine years. It has been directed that these selfie points “should be set up at prominent locations, which have maximum footfall and the potential of attracting public attention”. War memorials, defence museums, railway and metro stations, bus stations, airports, malls and market places, schools and colleges, tourist destinations and festival gatherings are places where these points are coming up. Opposition parties led by Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge have called out the government for this brazen politicisation of the bureaucracy and the military.
India’s constitutional scheme of governance envisages the separation of power among the three arms of the state — the executive, the judiciary and the legislature — and also a line of separation between the bureaucracy and the military from the political executive. While both the bureaucracy and the military are strictly under the control of the political executive, they are insulated from partisan politics. In fact, the extensive election process in India has largely retained its credibility because of the bureaucratic impartiality demanded by the system. The military’s involvement in any kind of domestic politics is considered anathema. Civil and military officials are expected to remain loyal to the government elected by the citizens, regardless of their personal ideological inclination. Instant directives force them into partisan roles in furtherance of the interests of the ruling party. The BJP’s strategy of disregarding norms in pursuit of electoral gains has been successful, but the trail of damage it leaves behind will fester. If institutions are undermined, the damage may well be irreversible. It is time the ruling party kept the interests of the nation before itself, and practised what it preaches.