Except that Narendra Modi told us he was different. After all, he was a strong leader with political will and a 56-inch chest. We were told he was an outsider to Lutyens’ Delhi, was not beholden to its charms, not a slave to its habits, not victim to its lethargy and stasis.
He blackened his Twitter profile to protest against UPA2-era internet censorship and promised us good days. Yet when he became prime minister, he chose to defend the same draconian internet laws before the Supreme Court of India. Why dirty his hands when the Supreme Court can decide whatever it likes? He took the same Kapil Sibal-like position in court, adopted the same scaremongering about cyber-security, chanted the same apologies over the misuse of a law so bad there's no real difference between its use and misuse. Modi saw no need to spend political capital on such small things as people being arrested overnight without warrants for causing annoyance through the internet. Such petty matters weren't why the people of India gave him the first full majority since 1984.
Alas, Modi became a Lutyens' insider. In going by the conventional Lutyens’ Delhi ways, what Modi missed was a great political opportunity. He could have been a real leader and repealed Section 66A and shown that he can walk the talk. That he isn't like the Congress. That he really will change how the wind blows through the roundabouts of Lutyens’ Delhi. That he means business. That he does the right thing at the right time. That he cares for us.
Instead, his counsel told the court that those seeking to strike 66A and other problematic provisions of the IT Act are simply playing into the hands of internet companies that have "commercial interests". So much for Digital India.
Arun Jaitley and others had compared UPA-2’s internet censorship to the censorship imposed by Indira Gandhi during the Emergency in 1975. In defending the same internet laws, the BJP showed that it is a happy child of that Emergency. When in power, the BJP is as happy as the Congress to have at its disposal laws that can muzzle voices of dissent. The threat of 66A was greater than its use or misuse. It resulted in chilling effects, in making people wary of expressing themselves online.
The Supreme Court of India had let Indians down during the Emergency. Today it has done us proud.
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