Dear Amit Shah ji,

I commend your commitment to the values which our ancient rishis valued and which my friends and I also do. I commend also your felicity with language as was noted in your article published in The Times of India of June 26, the anniversary of the Emergency.

I confess I had a different opinion about you based on the accounts of your actions as home minister in Gujarat where you doubled as the chief minister’s alter ego. The chief minister, of course was our very own Modiji who is prime minister today and is slated to remain as our country’s undisputed leader for another term or even two.

My negative view has turned to positive since that date. A day earlier, on June 25 and all the days leading to the anniversary, I was being regaled by media stories of opposition leaders crossing over to the Bharatiya Janata Party. Some were seeking greener pastures perhaps, but many wanted to avoid the “slings and arrows of outraged fortune”.

The latest to yearn for an escape from your party’s bear hug was Pratap Sarnaik, a Shiv Sena legislator from my state of Maharashtra, who wrote an open letter to his party chief, Uddhav Thackeray, who also doubles as chief minister of the state. In that letter, which was released to the press, he deplored the hounding by the BJP of all law breakers supporting opposition political parties while those who crossed over to the BJP were left gloriously untouched.

Now Pratap Sarnaik is a builder. Builders are notorious for cutting corners. The plethora of rules and regulations in the building trade make it difficult to realise the enormous profits many wish for. If he ignores these rules, the Enforcement Directorate is sure to go after him unless he belongs to your party, Mr Home Minister. So he pleaded with Thackeray to dump the three-party alliance Maha Vikas Aghadi alliance in Maharashtra and team up with your party to rid himself and other Sainiks of the nuisance of having to sup with the Enforcement Directorate, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the National Investigation Agency and other pestiferous agencies.

Borrowing our prime minister’s Positivity message, I decided to believe that your party leaders had a change of heart and decided to abandon Orwellian diagnostics to cure the country’s ills. From June 26, they were not going to lure elected or wanting-to-be-elected leaders of the opposition to your party with promises of position or pelf. That would not be really fair since neither love nor war was involved and you had stated in your article that the BJP is the only political party that practises fairness.

In your article you talked about inclusive development, of security for all (which includes I suppose the minority community) and equal opportunity and equal rights for all citizens (which again I suppose includes the minority community, presently facing the prospect of being lynched because of its food habits or jailed for falling in love with women from the majority community).

Development for all

You mentioned that for the past seven years the BJP had strived hard to fulfil its leader’s promise of “Sab Ka Saath, Sab ka Vikas” – development for all. Unfortunately, our eyesight failed us and we saw no evidence of that resolve in practice. But now with Positivity as the guiding beacon and your article hitting the stands, we hope to see real brotherhood in the years ahead.

You mentioned that since 2014, all arms of the socio-political system worked seamlessly in “co-operation, co-ordination and balance”. I agree that the legislature with its lopsided majority in favour of the ruling party and the political executive did combine to push through many important and controversial laws, like the Citizenship Amendment Act the farm laws and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Amendment Act, 2019, through Parliament. Our request is to spend more time in future debating and explaining the contents of the laws than thrusting them down the throats of reluctant beneficiaries.

Your assertion that the media is completely free took me by surprise. You were critical of our first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, for using his brute majority to ram the First Amendment to the Constitution through Parliament. The Amendment introduced the concept of reasonable restrictions on the Freedom of Speech of Citizens and personally I thought that was fair. It did not change my opinion that Panditji was anything but a blue-blooded democrat.

Presently, my friends and I remain troubled when journalists like Siddique Kappan are kept confined for months without trial or bail. The Assamese legislator, Akhil Gogoi was acquitted of charges under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act after two years in jail. Please, Sir, this disturbs our sense of justice.

In your seminal article, you harped on the centuries-old democratic traditions of our ancient land. I was thrilled that one who I had misunderstood for the past decade had referred to these traditions. You accused Indira Gandhi of an authoritarian streak, born of ambition. This streak led to the imposition of the Emergency on the midnight of June 25, 1974. She imposed censorship and that act alone reduced the Congress Party’s championship of free speech into a bitter irony.

There is much substance in all these charges against the Congress party. But if the BJP is to take on the mantle of “the Party, with a difference”, it must abjure such tendencies itself and practice what you have so succinctly preached in your article.

But what impressed me most in your writing was the importance you ascribed to “opposition”. You talked of the opposition spawned by Narendra Modi to Congress hegemony that unsettled the decades old arrogance of the Grand Old Party.

I said to myself, here, now is the apogee of this great man’s thoughts. He no longer pines for a BJP bereft of all opposition that was your dream before the West Bengal elections. Mamata Banerjee and Arvind Kejriwal must now be allowed to function as per the will of the great mass of the people of Bengal and Delhi.

Because till this moment of time the BJP, with you, sir, in a stellar role, was not allowing them to go about their job of governing, as promised to them by the Constitution.

Yours sincerely,

Vox Populi
(or so I dare to claim!)

Julio Ribeiro served in several senior positions as a police officer and was India’s ambassador to Romania.