Monday, April 13, 2009

Are we being honest when we call ours a vibrant democracy?

Nafisa Ali, a socialite from Delhi is now the Samajwadi Party’s candidate from the Lucknow Lok Sabha constituency. She was the Congress candidate from South Calcutta in the May 2004 elections against Mamta Banerjee. Nafisa Ali’s claim to fame is that she is part of the elite gatherings in Delhi and had also won a beuty contest in her younger days. It is not known as to when she adopted Mulayam Singh’s Socialism. But then, it does not matter.

Ranjitha Singh, who happens to be wife of Pappu Yadav, underworld don now serving a jail term in the case involving the murder of CPI(M) leader Ajit Sarkar, is now a Congress candidate from Saharsa in Bihar. She had contested elections from the same constituency in May 2004 too. But as a candidate of Ram Vilas Paswan’s Lok Jan Shakti Party. And she won the elections then. Ranjeeta, for those who are unfamiliar with Bihar and its politics, is not a native of Bihar. Her own home is in Punjab. This is true of Ram Vilas Paswan’s wife too. And that was one of the reasons why Paswan made her his party’s candidate in May 2004. Ranjeeta was given the LJP nomination this time too.

However, she decided to refuse the LJP nomination and accept the Congress as her party. Not because she found the Congress representing a superior ideology than the LJP. The reason behind her changing the party is because her husband, Pappu Yadav, an RJD MP in the last Lok Sabha wanted the party to nominate a person of his choice as RJD candidate this time from Purnea. Pappu Yadav could not contest the election because of his jail sentence. But RJD chief Lalu Yadav, for reasons best known to him refused to indulge Pappu Yadav. And hence Pappu was angry with Lalu and asked his wife, Ranjeeta, to walk out of Paswan’s party. Well, Lalu and Paswan are friends for the time being and that made Pappu ask Ranjeeta to walk out of the LJP.

The Congress wasted no time in taking Ranjeeta into its fold. Well. The Congress is hardly the party that the underworld prefers today in Bihar. Not because the party is full of saints. It is because the party has very little chance of winning and hence the dons do not join it. But when Pappu Yadav, who manages to carry on with his looting and other criminal acts even from inside the jail, found himself out of the RJD, he saw the Congress as another option. And for the Congress, which is not in a position even to ensure that its candidates retain the security deposit in Bihar, having Pappu’s wife Ranjeeta as one of its candidates means a possible Lok Sabha seat. Not because Ranjeeta is known to have served the constituency as a MP but because Pappu’s money and muscle power is such that it could ensure Ranjeeta’s victory from Saharsa.

The Congress managed more. It has now got Anirudh Prasad Yadav, also known as Sadhu Yadav, as one of its candidates. Sadhu, whose claim to fame begins with being Rabri Devi’s brother is also known for his goondaism in and around Gopalganj. He won as RJD MP from Gopalganj in May 2004 and was among those whom Lalu trusted when it came to organizing rallies and collecting large sums of money. Sadhu is also known to own a huge fleet of buses and trucks that ply across Bihar without the necessary papers. The Congress can hope to win Gopalganj too!
Well. Such a movement of individuals from the RJD, the LJP and the Congress is not going to make a difference in any real sense. Lalu Prasad, Mulayam and Paswan, after all, are declaring day in and day out that they continue to be a part of the Congress-led UPA and that they will continue that way even after the elections. The same sort of absurdity is also seen in Orissa. Naveen Patnaik, who was also in-charge of the Home portfolio when Christians and their churches were attacked in Kandhamal until a few months ago, is now a paragon of secularism according to the Left parties. The sight of Sitaram Yechury, Sharad Pawar and Naveen Patnaik seated on the same platform in Orissa was bad enough; recall the fact that Pawar remains a part of the UPA (and has firmed up a perfect alliance with the Congress in Maharashtra) and Sitaram Yechury’s party cries from the rooftops that it is committed to ward off the Congress and the BJP. Naveen Patnaik, meanwhile, is still not sure as to whether he considers the BJP a communal party.

Pawar’s end game is restricted to two things. One is to make his daughter Supriya Sule a MP. And the other one is to make sure that his ``Nationalist’’ Congress Party gets at least a dozen MPs so that he can bargain for a portfolio in the Union Cabinet that will fetch him a lot of money and thus shore up his kitty that is full to the brink even otherwise. The farmers in Maharashtra, whose aspirations he is supposed to represent as MP, shall fend for themselves and even consume pesticides and kill themselves when their debts increase because of a poor harvest. And lest we forget, Pawar will also keep himself busy with the BCCI and make more money out of the game. And if things take another turn, he will try for the Prime Minister’s job too.

Another one of such players is good old Deve Gowda. He did not care when his party’s M.P.Veerendrakumar was humiliated by the CPI(M) by being denied of his sitting Calicut Lok Sabha seat. Gowda’s only ambition is to become Prime Minister again and he has latched on to the CPI(M)-sponsored joke called the Third Front. For the CPI(M) too, it did not matter that Gowda does not recognize even the existence of the party in Karnataka. Parakash Karat does not miss an opportunity to acknowledge Gowda as the leader of that joke called the Third Front. The Third Front joke, after all, is of some use to the CPI(M) and the CPI because it helps the two Left parties to win a few Lok Sabha seats from Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh thanks to the AIADMK and the TDP. And amidst all this, Karat is making sure that he has a place in the Congress-led UPA, at least after the elections, by stating that his party will prevent the BJP forming the next Government by all means. And Karat’s party does not hesitate to join hands with Abdul Nasser Madhani and his PDP to ensure that India remains secular!

And Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too does not want to be left behind in all the drama that is unfolding. Unmindful of the fact that his party too has fielded such mafia dons as Mani Kumar Subba, Sadhu Yadav and Pappu Yadav’s wife Ranjeeta Singh as candidates and his party leader Sonia Gandhi is still looking forward to a tie up with Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and any other leader who is willing to support a Congress-led Government decided to recall the old story of the Quit India movement and the Left’s role in that at Kochi recently.

It is proper here to recall Dr. Singh’s lecture at Oxford in June 2005 where he held that the British rule, contrary to popular impression, did a lot of good to India. Dr. Singh had then said that the British were guided by a sense of governance that helped India’s growth. The point is that Manmohan Singh, as Prime Minister, had acted in a manner that simply defied all that the freedom struggle and its legacy had built and established as the norm for our nation building. The Indo-US nuclear deal for which he staked everything and even ensured the survival of his Government by way of organizing defections from parties and striking deals with such shady characters as Amar Singh chose to strike at the communists for their role in 1942. Singh did not mind the communists sustaining him as Prime Minister for at least 4 years after May 2004.

Well. It is now clear that Manmohan Singh too would want to remain India’s Prime Minister as much as Deve Gowda wanting to become Prime Minister again. Mulayam Singh Yadav, like Sharad Pawar, would be content with a portfolio that will fetch him lots of money and even more than what he had made as Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh for several terms until now. But then, if there is a chance, he too will not decline the job of Prime Minister. He will agree to take up that job unmindful of whether it comes to him as being part of the Third Front (in other words, he will join that Front if the joke turns into serious business) and if that does not materialise, his next bargain will be for that of becoming the next Prime Minister’s Deputy! Mulayam Singh, after all, learnt his primary lessons in politics from Charan Singh and the disciple cannot be different from his teacher!

We also have such other contenders for the top job. Jayalalitha will not mind. But then, unlike other such aspirants, she will not settle for a Deputy Prime Minister’s job or a berth in the Union Cabinet. She will, instead, do anything to get M.Karunanidhi out as Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and occupy that post. The Third Front means nothing for her. And that is true of another aspirant to the top job: Ms. Mayawati too will not refuse the Prime Minister’s job. And like Jayalalitha, she too will not settle down for a Deputy Prime Minister or a cabinet berth.

Like these leaders, we also have L.K.Advani, who still thinks that his BJP is a national party, wanting to be the next Prime Minister. Well. Advani is the only one who has made an open offer that he is willing to take the job. But then, he has a problem. His own ``stature’’ will prevent him from settling down for anything less. And his party, the BJP, is hardly in a position to wrest as many as at least 150 Lok Sabha seats to even hope to cobble up a working majority in the next Lok Sabha.

It is true that the BJP remains a strong force in Gujarat and is in power in Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh. But then, there is hardly any indication to suggest that the party has revived in any way from its state in May 2004. And the situation has worsened with Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s failing health. Despite the fact that the Congress-led UPA is now a rickety coalition and the Left combine continuing to bark at it, the fact is the political discourse, at the national level, continues to be guided by a set of factors that are specific to regions within the various states and fragmented in all senses of the term.
Take, for instance, the ground reality in Uttar Pradesh. The BJP is in no better position now than it was in May 2004. The contest from Uttar Pradesh remains between the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. And it is most likely that the two parties will end up winning at least 60 Lok Sabha seats from out of the 80 seats from the state. That would mean that the Congress and the BJP will end up sharing only 20 seats from the state and this will be the same as it happened in May 2004. With Vajpayee now out of the scene, it is unlikely that the Brahmin votes will remain with the BJP in Uttar Pradesh; and in the emerging scheme of things, the BSP and the Congress could gain some more seats in the process and end up with a couple of seats more than they won last time.

The fact is that Rajnath Singh, as party president, has failed to capture the imagination of the Rajputs and the reason is that it is now clear that Singh is there in that post only for symbolic reasons. The Samajwadi Party remains the favoured destination of the local lords from this community and a strong BSP will only further this trend. The point is that the BJP was reduced to being the second largest party in May 2004 primarily because it lost heavily from Uttar Pradesh. From 29 in 1999, the BJP’s score from Uttar Pradesh was just 10 in 2004. The same is true about Bihar too.

The BJP won just five Lok Sabha seats from the state in 2004 against its 1999 score of 23. In other words, the BJP lost as many as 37 Lok Sabha seats from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh between 1999 and 2004; and this led to the fall in the party’s strength from 182 in 1999 to 138 in 2004. While there is no way that the party can hope to substantially improve its position in Uttar Pradesh, the scope for improvement in Bihar is only marginal.

And yet, we find Advani, serious about his own self and his chances of becoming the next Prime Minister.

To cut a long story short, the compelling message that comes out of the election scene 2009 is that we have a number of small chieftains who will do anything to preserve themselves in offices of power and go to any extent to ensure that. The list includes Sharad Pawar, Lalu Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav, Jayalalitha, Prakash Karat, A.B.Bardhan and even a Naveen Patnaik. While all of them would want to be Prime Minister and will not shirk if asked to do that job, they will also agree to support someone from the Congress for that job as long as they are handed out with lucrative portfolios. This used to happen in the ancient and medieval times when petty vassals used to prop up an emperor and sustain such an emperor as long as they were allowed to loot the people. The political leaders of today are no different from the vassals and the petty kings of the past.

Another important aspect of the times of the Kings and the Emporors was that the right of succession was vested in the children. That aspect too is so blatant in our own times. Sharad Pawar to Supriya Sule, K.Karunakaran to K. Muraleedharan, K.M.Mani to **** Mani, M.Karunanidhi to M.K.Stalin, M.K.Azhagiri and M.K.Kanimozhi, Mulayam Singh Yadav to Akhilesh Kumar Singh, Murli Deora to Milind Deora, Rajesh Pilot to Sachin Pilot, Jitendra Prasada to Jitin Prasada, Madhavrao Scindia to Jyotiraditya Scindia and hmmm…… Nehru to Indira to Rajiv and now to Rahul Gandhi.

Are we being honest in pretending that our democracy is vibrant?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very good piece Krishna. I enjoyed reading it.

1:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

2:18 AM  
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9:07 AM  
Anonymous Subbu said...

Sir, Cambridge sir. Manmohan Singh got some shady honorary doctorate there, god knows why, in 2005.

I think it is appropriate to slap him for that comment.

2:26 AM  

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