India’s democracy is “strong, vibrant and robust”, Indian Ambassador to Ireland Akhilesh Mishra said in a letter to the editor of The Irish Times on Monday. The envoy also criticised the “deeply entrenched ecosystem of corruption” allegedly created by the Congress, albeit without naming it.

The letter was in response to the newspaper’s editorial on April 11 that described the Bharatiya Janata Party government as having “severely tarnished” India’s democratic credentials.

The editorial – “The Irish Times view on the Indian election: Modi tightens his grip” – said that “an intolerant Hindu-first majoritarianism is the order of the day” under the Modi government.

However, in his response to the newspaper, Mishra praised Prime Minister Narendra Modi while defending his governance and party.

Mishra claimed that the Modi government has had to fight against a “deeply entrenched ecosystem of corruption” that had been created during “the 55-year rule, including the first 30 years, by a single dynastic party”. The diplomat was referring to the Congress.

The ambassador also defended India’s central agencies and claimed that the Modi government had given them a “free hand” to facilitate the detection of the “nefarious, multilayered web of corruption and tax evasion by politicians, NGOs [non-governmental organisations] and media”.

The Irish Times’ editorial had also said that the BJP under Modi has embraced “Hindu nationalism in this 80% Hindu nation” and stoked “anti-Muslim tensions and violence”.

Mishra said that this claim was misleading because “Hinduism is inherently inclusive and fundamentally pluralistic”. The fact that the BJP is in power in only 12 out of 28 states “can happen only in ‘Hindu majority’ India”, he pointed out.

Mishra cited the proposed 33% reservation for women in Parliament as an achievement of the BJP government, among others. He also claimed that the BJP government had uplifted 250 million people out of poverty during its tenure.

The editorial had said that while Modi may win the upcoming Lok Sabha elections on account of his personal popularity and economic success, his government has cracked down on free speech and the Opposition. It also mentioned the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and the Income Tax Department’s freezing of the Congress’ bank accounts before the polls.

“The BJP denies any role, with Modi insisting the federal agency conducting most of the investigations, the Enforcement Directorate, is independent,” said The Irish Times. “Yet 95 per cent of its political cases have been filed against the opposition.”

Diplomat acting like BJP apparatchik: Congress

The Congress responded to Mishra’s letter claiming that he had breached his rules of service.

“Defending the Government of India is one thing and is to be expected,” said party leader Jairam Ramesh in a social media post. “But to attack Opposition parties openly in thus manner like a party apparatchik [an obedient party functionary] is not expected from an Ambassador even if he be a political appointment.”

Ramesh added: “This Ambassador is actually a career diplomat which makes his comments even more shameful, disgraceful and completely unacceptable. He has actually breached service rules and should be sacked right away.”

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