The liberal sections in the Indian political system and the academia which is the most vocal against authoritarianism, dictatorial attitudes and the concentration of power in one individual, have gone largely silent over the changes in the Constitution of China which offer President Xi Jinping a limitless tenure in his post. They are the ones who have often berated the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Government, claiming that the Union Ministers were merely showpieces while Prime Minister Narendra Modi alone called the shots. The critics maintained this view without offering any substantial evidence of their allegation. But in China’s case, we have the clear material of the stranglehold that President Xi has over that country’s political set-up.
The Left, especially, in India, protests the loudest and the most frequently, so what does it have to say about Xi Jinping’s elevation as President for life? The Communists can claim that the development is an internal matter of a sovereign foreign nation and that it need not comment. But such niceties have not prevented the Left from condemning others, such as the United States for its ‘imperialist’ designs or Israel for its ‘atrocities’ against the Palestinians.
Just in case the opposition parties, who are only too fond of hurling thoughtless accusations of ‘fascism’ against the BJP, have forgotten, the only time in the history of democratic and independent India when authoritarianism was given constitutional cover, was during the Emergency declared during Indira Gandhi’s tenure as Prime Minister. At that time, a section of the Left had actually supported the decision to suspend Fundamental Rights of the citizens. What has happened in China is more planned and suave, but is equally dangerous. After an endorsement of the changes in the Constitution by an overwhelming majority of lawmakers in the National People’s Congress, Xi now can be President for as long as he wants. He is already General Secretary of the all-powerful Communist Party of China, a post which has no fixed tenure; he also heads the Central Military Commission. At one level, of course, the development is nothing more than a constitutional amendment — after all, Chinese leaders in the past, regardless of the terms they served, have always been dictatorial or authoritarian. But then, they were at least bound by the 35-year-old rule that limited the tenure of a President to two five-year terms, paving the way for changes and keeping hope alive. Now those expectations have been extinguished.