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Kissa Kursi Ka: KARNATAKA DRAMA OVER, By Insaf, 27 July 2019 Print E-mail

Round The States

New Delhi, 27 July 2019

Kissa Kursi Ka

 KARNATAKA DRAMA OVER

By Insaf

 

Curtains have finally come down in the long-drawn ‘kissa kursi ka’ nauseating drama in Karnataka. BS Yediyuruppa (earlier Yedyurappa) took over the top seat as Chief Minister for the fourth time, having been sworn in on Friday evening. There is much jubilation amongst the State BJP cadre as he did manage to dislodge the Congress-JD(S) government in just 14 months. But the wait perhaps may seem long for the Lingayat leader, as he had missed his first opportunity at the very start after the Assembly elections last year. Will he be cautious this time even though he has got another crack at power and be able to serve a full term, unlike the past? And will this be the final swearing-in ceremony at Raj Bhavan, given it’s the third? Nagging questions, alright. But the most critical one is: will he be able to cobble up the numbers for the floor test in the House and, if so, how soon? Speaker K R Ramesh Kumar has disqualified three rebel Congress MLAs so far under the anti-defection law and said he would take a couple of days to decide about the others. Guess it should be good enough for the Chief Minister to accommodate the rebels. But he must remember the adage ‘there can be many a slip between the cup and the lip,’ and the next few days are critical. The suspense unfortunately is yet not over.  

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MP Does Tit-For-Tat

Madhya Pradesh does a tit-for-tat. Just 24 hours after the BJP toppled the Congress-JD(S) coalition government in Karnataka, the Congress-led coalition government in the State hit back with a vengeance. Though Chief Minister Kamal Nath didn’t have to prove his majority in the House, he did manage to get two BJP MLAs to cross over and vote along with it on an amendment Bill. And this ironically after Leader of Opposition Gopal Bhargav had claimed he could bring down the government as soon as he gets the signal from Delhi! The ruling coalition has 120 MLAs and the voting showed 122 in favour of the Bill, sending the BJP, with 108 MLAs, into a tizzy and vociferously protesting that the voting was rigged as no MLAs had crossed over. Nath of course had the last laugh as the two BJP MLAs not only openly said they had voted along with Congress but soon after were seen sitting with the CM. 

Emboldened, he has thrown a challenge at the BJP saying come with a no-confidence motion, for “what happened today is not just voting in favour of one Bill, but to prove our majority”.

How soon will the BJP take to respond, is anybody’s guess.  

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BJP’s Mizo Challenge

Mizoram is BJP’s next big challenge. So far it has simply failed to make forays into this north-eastern State. But the party leadership as is known never says die. Therefore, its State unit has come up with a brilliant idea i.e. set up a Christian missionary cell within. It is reported the plan got the nod last week and the cell will be headed by popular Lalhriatrenga Chhangte, the State’s first mining engineer, who though had refused the BJP ticket this General election. With the proposed cell, the party hopes to gain on two counts: One, increase its footprint among the Christian-majority population, which it shall try by offering help to churches/missionaries. Two, change the BJP’s image of ‘a communal party’, which got it only one seat of the 39 seats it fought in last November 40-member Assembly election. Besides, the Mizo National Front (MNF), a part of NDA started keeping distance to safeguard its poll prospects. CM Zoramthanga couldn’t have put it better: “I always say, when your wife is in good health, why look for a girlfriend. No need.” So, will the missionaries step in for BJP?

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AP-Style Reservation

Andhra Pradesh has been bitten by the reservation bug, but of a different kind. On Wednesday last, its Assembly passed a Bill to impose 75% quota in private industrial jobs for locals. The first such step ever taken has got the industry worried. In a reaction it has warned that it will be ‘regressive and hurtful to investments.’ But Chief Minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy is firm and chooses to prove them wrong. He proposes the State will set up skill development centres, which will help locals gain jobs with the industry which in turn will get skilled labour. And his message to the industrialists is simple: ‘you should take care of the locals who had given up land for development of industries and should increase the perimeter as and when the scale of industry increases.” Further, the government said it won’t act rigidly on quota and is willing to ‘consider giving waivers and relaxations if investors find it difficult to hire the required talent.” The industry conglomerate is not convinced. Reddy would need to answer the big question raised: “Why would anyone invest in AP now when there are other States available with proactive and investor-friendly policies?” Time will tell.

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Bangla Not WB

West Bengal doesn’t want to be known by this name. On Wednesday last, a 12-member delegation of ruling Trinamool Congress MPs met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and urged him to do something about their long-pending demand—the State be called Bangla instead. Their reasoning, as voiced in Rajya Sabha during Zero Hour was: “no geographical territory ever existed officially to be known as East Bengal and that the word Bangla or the territory called Bangla is believed to have been derived from Banga, a Dravidian tribe, which settled in the region 1000 BC.” Besides, it was pointed out that even after Partition, following the Radcliffe Commission award the eastern districts of Bengal became East Pakistan, which later became an independent country of Bangladesh. So, there is need for an amendment. Sooner the better, as the request has been hanging fire for a year now since the State Assembly passed a resolution recommending name change. Will Modi oblige?

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Odisha’s Crorepati Teacher  

Want to get a lesson or two on how to become a crorepati? Then turn to a former government teacher in one of the poorest districts of Odisha, Nabarangpur. But, be prepared not to be able to enjoy the wealth at the end of the day, like him. On Thursday last S K Choudhury, a former assistant teacher at Mundagada Project Upper Primary School, who had then drawn a monthly salary of Rs 25,000, was booked by Vigilance department for amassing assets worth Rs 6.5 crore in just 14 years of his service! Apparently, he may have made the money as a service provider for the Centre’s Pradhan Mantri Kaushal Vikas Yojana (PMKVY), by doctoring documents. Other than finding out the modus operandi, the anti-corruption officers are busy investigating the total assets. These certainly would go up as they have laid their hands on an agreement of constructing a petrol pump in Nabarangpur. So far their probe has lists a four-storied building, four double-storied buildings, 23 patches of land, two cars, and some gold jewellery—most in the name of his wife! It was only last month that he took VRS after working in the school since 2005. Obviously, with that kind of wealth, it would be best to retire to enjoy it. Sadly, not behind bars. ---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Mediation in Kashmir: TRUMP MUDDIES MODI, By Dr. D K. Giri, 26 July 2019 Print E-mail

Round The World

New Delhi, 26 July 2019

Mediation in Kashmir

TRUMP MUDDIES MODI

By Dr. D K. Giri

(Prof. International Politics, JMI)

 

An unexpected diplomatic storm has been created by American President Donald Trump’s revelation to visiting Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi requested him to mediate in Kashmir. Pakistanis are elated, Indians are upset, and the Americans are embarrassed. Politically, the Opposition in India jumped on their feet that Modi has been, even inadvertently, rubbed on the wrong side by Trump. The Ruling party fumbled in its reaction; it was in a fix, a catch-22 situation, as Modi is likely to visit the US in near future.

 

The government made, through its new bureaucrat-turned Foreign Minister S Jaishankar, a categorical denial that such a request was made. Sensibly, the Prime Minister, despite Opposition’s unwise demand, did not state in the floor of Parliament that Trump was lying. Perhaps, he sagaciously supposed that our national interest is greater than one person’s diplomatic gaffe, be it the President of USA. But did he? This exactly is the burden of my argument in this piece.

 

Let us track back a bit. How did Trump put it to Imran Khan? He said “do you want me to mediate in Kashmir? You have smart leadership in both the countries; you could resolve the problem going on for so long. How long has it been?” Imran Khan said 70 years. Trump then said, “Modi asked me, do you want to mediate? I (Trump) asked him, where? Modi said, Kashmir.” Trump said “I would love to if you want me to”. Imran said “we would like you to mediate. A billion of people will have their prayers for you if you were to mediate to resolve the Kashmir problem.” One wonders where he got this number of billion, when his country has 200 million odd people. A few separatists in Kashmir propped up by Pakistan may join in the prayer. Not 1.3 billion of people of India.

 

From the above narration, any thinking person who is part of a dialogue process at any level, let alone on such a sensitive issue like Kashmir, will decipher that Trump made it up to legitimise his offer of mediation by taking Modi’s name. Because, Modi or any leader will not say, “do you want to mediate” without a discussion on the issue. And there was no discussion on Kashmir in Modi’s recent meeting with Trump. The American State Department has denied it, did not mention Kashmir in their communiqué of meeting between Imran and Trump. So, Trump bringing up Kashmir and Modi is his own thinking or inducement to Imran in lieu of his help in Afghanistan, which is largely speculated to be the case by observers.

 

Let us look at the reactions to examine if they help our national interest or contribute merely to political posturing. The Opposition did not believe what Trump says, but they would want the Prime Minister to come up and say so. Was it necessary to have Trump condemned by the Prime Minister when he is likely to meet him soon? We know Trump is unstable in his demeanours and inconsistent in his diplomatic conduct. In order to solve the Korean tangle, he began to praise Kim Jong Un of North Korea, he once said, Nepal and Bhutan are parts of India, he confused the Parliament building in Kabul with a Library.

 

His gaffes or even faux pas are plenty, which are even said to be litany of lies. One perceptive American observer said, Trump does not prepare for such meetings, does not use correct diplomatically and politically correct language, does not check on facts and so on, and lands Americans into embarrassment. With such a personality, shall we not be careful.  

 

I will come to the government reaction a bit later. We have to evaluate their reaction in regard to their sense of judgement on Donald Trump, the individual even though he is the president, and the US as a country. Yes, in America, it is presidential form of governance; the president is the executive head. But he could not be a despot, as the other institutions of democracy are fairly strong; the Congress, the Judiciary, the federating states, the media, and the people. Do we have similar institutions here? Just one sector illustrates the stark differences, the entire media in the US is critical of Trump, and in our country, media easily falls for the ruling party. Is it not the case now barring a very few?

 

Without doubt, Trump has so far been the best friend of India. I have said so in a full article in this column. He called a spade a spade on Pakistan’s double standards. He called off the material support given by USA to Pakistan to fight the Taliban. He held Pakistan guilty of harbouring terrorists including Osama Bin Laden. He helped in declaring Hafiz Saeed a global terrorist and so on. More important, he de-hyphenated India and Pakistan in their strategy on South Asia.

 

Apparently, the US wants to build India as a countervailing force to China. But is India reciprocating? Is India not running with the hare and hunting with the hound it its policy towards USA and China-Russia? I would not include Pakistan here as it does not have any autonomous policy either internally or externally. The Military subverts and manipulates the policies internally, and Pakistan becomes a satellite to a foreign country in its external relations, it was USA before, now it is China.

 

Trump, perhaps in his exasperation with New Delhi, is seeking to accommodate Pakistan a bit. It could be also that, he is trying to wean Pakistan away from China; another reason could be that Trump is partly placating Pakistan to get the latter’s help in pulling out of Afghanistan before he goes to seek the second term. Transactional man as Trump is, he finds the American engagement in Afghanistan is not fetching commensurate returns for his country.

 

Whatever may be the driver, America reviving its past relations with Pakistan is not good news for New Delhi. America continues to retain Pakistan as a non-NATO ally, India is still not one. Trump is helping out Pakistan in securing a bail-out package of $6 billion from IMF. It could veto the deal, but the US is not. India was left out of the latest meeting on resolution of Afghanistan conflict. New Delhi said it was ditched by USA. Did New Delhi analyse the factors that led the US to leave India out of the group that met. Did Russia try to include India into it?

 

Instead of over-reacting to the gaffe made by Trump, we should focus on our national interest and our equation with the US as compared to China and Russia. The government could have said, like Shashi Tharoor initially did, that there could have been a misunderstanding, misremembering or misinterpretation of things while talking about terrorism etc. However, more important than that, is India not missing out on its national interest and aspirations? For instance, shall we be obstinate in buying S-400s from Russia? That, I think, sums up my argument. At any rate, Trump has, in his inimitable way, given us a pause to rethink our international politics of alliance-building. ---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Vidhan Soudha: COURT OF DEFECTION JUSTICE, By Dr S. Saraswathi, 25 July 2019 Print E-mail

Events & Issues

New Delhi, 25 July 2019

Vidhan Soudha

COURT OF DEFECTION JUSTICE

By Dr S. Saraswathi

(Former Director, ICSSR, New Delhi

 

The architect of Vidhan Soudha, the iconic building that houses Karnataka legislature in Bengaluru, K. Hanumanthaiah and his team would not have foreseen that the construction they were erecting would not remain just the most beautiful structure of bricks and mortar in India to house post-independence law-making body, but become the venue for nationally significant political/constitutional decisions.

 

The reference is to determination of majority and formation of government and particularly to   the impact of the Anti-Defection law, which is an addition to the original Constitution as 10th Schedule in 1985. This law has received a very crucial judicial interpretation in a verdict in the Supreme Court on the proceedings held in this august Assembly in the famous S R Bommai case that the test of majority should be conducted on the floor of the House. Vidhan Soudha has come to be linked with the law and politics of defection.

 

The disputes under the Anti-Defection Law have also centred round the powers of the Speaker and the Governor who are the key concerned constitutional authorities. 

 

From Bommai case in 1994 to the triangular politics between JD(S), Congress, and the BJP presently going on in Karnataka, several issues surrounding government formation and its continuance, proceedings in the Assembly, role of political parties and their members, powers of the Speaker, Governor, and the Supreme Court, and the rights of the MLAs have arisen in the precincts of Vidhan Soudha.

   

The moves and counter-moves by members and parties expose the weakness of the Anti-Defection Law and the immense possibilities for manipulating and dodging the law by parties.  Recent political events in Karnataka are a naked struggle for power totally eliminating ethics in politics. They prove that law alone cannot shape institutions and individuals in the absence of the will of individuals to honour the letter and spirit of the law.

  

Karnataka government formed in 2018 was itself a weak formation of a coalition of two parties that bitterly fought each other in the election and joined hands after the election -- Congress with 78 members and JD(S) with 37 members -- claiming majority in a House of 224 members. The BJP winning highest number of seats had 105 members and was first invited to form the government.  Since it failed to get majority support, the rivals turned partners got the chance with the smaller of the two as the head. However, 14 months later, the Opposition BJP tasted success and defeated the confidence motion moved by the CM on Tuesday last.

 

The current episode started with the resignations of 13 MLAs (10 Congress and 3 JDS) on 6th July, and the Speaker wanted at least six days to decide whether they were voluntary and genuine. Speaker also raised a question about the format of the resignation letters of eight of them. The Congress party filed a petition to disqualify the rebel members who stayed away from the Legislature Party meeting convened by the party.

 

Number of resignations increased and some members moved the Supreme Court seeking its direction to the Speaker to accept the resignations.

 

Two issues were before the Speaker – resignations and disqualification of the members by their parties. The Supreme Court gave time till 11th July to the Speaker to decide on the resignations which raised the first constitutional issue in the episode whether the Speaker - a constitutional authority - could be given a time frame by the court to decide the matter of resignation. The court asked the Speaker to maintain status quo till 16th July. No decision could be taken by the Speaker on questions of disqualification or resignation. The Speaker asked the rebel members to appear before him in two batches on July 12 and 15.

 

Converting resignation into disqualification issue virtually denies concerned legislators the right to quit their seats in the legislature. A disqualified member cannot hold a parliamentary office or become a minister without getting reelected – a situation that would prevent the rebels from joining opposition for positions whereas a person who resigns may be inducted into an alternative ministry. But, disqualification cannot be effected without establishing its ground   while resignation is a simple question of acceptance by the competent authority.

 

The power of the Speaker is quite substantial in applying Anti-Defection law, but Speakers are generally reluctant to disqualify a member. The question whether the Speaker’s inaction can be challenged in a court is already pending before a Constitution bench. Such inaction happened in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Tamil Nadu. Karnataka is now exposing another dimension of the problem.

 

Meanwhile, further resignations followed and five more of the rebels moved the Supreme Court complaining of threat and intimidation by their party. Their contention is that the right to resign from their office is a “fundamental right of a citizen as well as a public representative”. They disputed the need to verify the genuineness of their resignations as they submitted letters personally to the Speaker and also submitted sworn affidavits in the apex court.

 

Supreme Court order while upholding the Speaker’s right to decide issues of disqualification and resignation, provided exemption to the 15 rebels from attending the on-going Assembly session where a trust vote was in process. It was to “strike a balance’ as the Speaker was delaying acceptance of their resignations. Both JD(S) and the Congress filed a petition seeking clarification of the Supreme Court on this order.

 

On 23rd July the game was finally over for the coalition. When the trust vote was taken, the coalition government had 99 members against BJP’s 105. The reason to prolong the debate and gain time for negotiations with the rebels, simply didn’t work for it and the government fell.

 

In this story that is rather confusing and boring to onlookers, the Governor set “deadlines” for trust vote thrice, but they were not complied with. On the contrary, the CM asked the Speaker to decide whether the Governor can give a deadline. Thus, every move of Constitutional functionaries is being subjected to questioning by the affected making the tale one of mutual check to fix limits of authorities.

 

Obviously, there are many defects in the existing system and procedures which can lead to collapse of orderly governance in the hands of politicians. The country is going through a testing time and requires cleaning of institutions by well-meaning politicians.

 

Faced with possibilities of more resignations rather than return of the rebels, the CM moved Trust Vote on 18th July. However, parliamentary practices permit enormous delay in ending the suspense despite fixing of time frame by the Speaker several times.

   

A Trust Vote is different from a No-Confidence Motion. The former is for proving majority – a question of simple arithmetic and needs no arguments to carry conviction. The latter needs speeches to establish the grounds for loss of confidence in the government.

   

Members of any party are free to move from one party to another, but only have to take the consequences of their move. When they want to move without any adverse consequences to their career, trouble starts if they clash with an existing law or established precedent.

 

Vidhan Soudha has earned unenviable distinction of being the venue for the play of defection politics for too long. It must come out of its preoccupation with making and breaking governments and settle down for more serious function of governance.--- INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Housing For All: OVERCOMING OBSTACLES VITAL, By Dhurjati Mukherjee, 24 July 2019 Print E-mail

Open Forum

New Delhi, 24 July 2019

Housing For All

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES VITAL

By Dhurjati Mukherjee

 

A big question mark hangs over Modi government’s ambitious target of achieving ‘Housing For All by 2022-Rural’, given that surveys now recommend an additional 3.54 crore prospective beneficiaries over the originally estimated 2.95 crore. Thus leading social activists to suggest that housing schemes in real terms cannot have any fixed terms or cut-off dates since the demand keeps increasing perennially as old families get divided and new emerge.

 

In this section of the Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana the primary objective was of providing pucca (concrete) houses to 2.95 crore rural households by 2022. It identified the beneficiaries from the Socio-Economic Caste Census, conducted by the Union Rural Development Ministry in collaboration with the States in 2011-12. Then the survey had found 2.95 crore rural households that had kutcha houses (made of bamboo, wood, mud, straw etc.), ramshackle houses or none at all.

 

A performance review meeting held last month found that out of the target of building one crore houses under the scheme by March 2019, a little over 80 lakh have been built. As on June 3, some 3.48 lakh of the 1 crore target houses were yet to be sanctioned by the State governments. As for the next phase of building 1.95 crore houses remaining from the original list, some States stated at the meeting that they had already given houses under their own schemes to 38 lakh families. So, the Yojana needed to build only 1.57 crore houses in the second phase but this is unlikely to be achieved in the next two to three years.

   

This apart, the PMAY-Urban aimed for one, Slum rehabilitation of slum dwellers with participation of private developers using land as a resource; two, promotion of affordable housing for weaker section through credit linked subsidy; three, affordable housing in partnership with Public & Private sectors and four, subsidy for beneficiary-led individual house construction or enhancement.

 

It also prescribed certain mandatory reforms for easing up the urban land market for housing, to make adequate urban land available for affordable housing. However, a Reserve Bank of India survey revealed that housing as a whole has become less affordable over the past four years. This indicates that developers are holding on to prices.

 

According to the report, Mumbai remains the least affordable city in India, whereas Bhubaneswar has the cheapest real estate among 13 cities that were studied by the RBI. The study measured affordability by comparing the price to monthly income of average home loan borrowers. The household price to income ratio increased from 56.1 in March 2015 to 61.5 in March 2019 for all cities. Another measure used is the loan to income ratio which has increased from 3 March 2015 to 3.4 in March 2019.

 

Home buyers in Mumbai now pay 43.3 per cent of their income as against 42.6 per cent of their income in March 2015. In Chennai, it has gone up from 36.7 per cent to 38.4 per cent while in Delhi borrowers, who used to pay 35.1 per cent of their salaries, now have to set aside 26.9 per cent. However, the RBI study is in sharp contrast to the experience of HDFC which stated, in a recent presentation to investors, that all affordability, measured as ratio of property prices to annual income had reduced from 4.4 in 2015 to 3.9 in 2019. This means that borrowers were able to buy a house with 3.9 years of salary as against 4.4 years in 2015.

 

This has possibly been the reason why housing sales in eight major cities increased marginally by 4 per cent to 1.29 lakh units during the first half of this calendar year, largely driven by rise in demand for affordable homes, according to property consultant, Knight Frank. The supply of new homes rose by 21 per cent to 1.11 lakh units during January-June 2019 from 1.24 lakh units in the year ago period. These findings are from report titled ‘Indian Real Estate’ that tracks demand, supply and prices of residential and office properties in eight metros.

 

While huge construction of flats in metros and big towns have gone up as also various types of facilities extended, there is possibly no dearth of housing for lower and middle income sections. But for the poor and the economically weaker sections, specially those residing in interior villages, the scenario is not quite encouraging. The efforts of the State government lack sincerity and urgency of purpose as a result funds from the Centre remain under-utilised. Lack of proper governance and prompt release of funds in some States are the major obstacles.  

 

Another big problem is with regard to slums and squatter settlements in metros and big towns. India faced a shortage of 18.78 million fresh supply of houses in its urban pockets in 2012, the Technical Group on the Estimation of Housing, constituted by Union Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation revealed. The estimated slum population in India was 94.98 million. As against this, the number of dwelling units sanctioned under JNURM during a seven-year mission period was 1.6 million.

 

The report found that by 2031, about 600 million Indians will reside in urban areas, an increase of over 200 million in just 20 years and a major section would find place in slummish type settlements. This change in the socio-economic landscape will have a bearing on several things, housing being the foremost. With the real estate industry facing continued pressure in terms of raising funds for investment, the research report suggested that India must have a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) which, however, has not been formed.

 

Upgradation and renovation of slums is a key challenge for State governments, not just from the point of shelter needs of the poor but also the environmental aspect. Moreover, with adequate number of toilets and availability of potable water, this would be a major milestone towards affordable housing at low cost. In this connection, experts are of the opinion that governments can mandate minimum reservation of space for specific categories of consumers and, thereby, increase the stock of affordable housing.

 

At the same time, while housing for the poor and EWS must be thrust areas and that companies through CSR should be motivated to build tenements, there is need to consider giving industry status to housing. This, feel experts would give a boost to the sector and that the Government must take a decision if it seeks to see its housing for all mission turn into a reality.---INFA

 

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

Era Of Aya Ram Gaya Ram: MONEY HAI TO POWER HAI!, By Poonam I Kaushish, 23 July 2019 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 23 July 2019

 

Era Of Aya Ram Gaya Ram

MONEY HAI TO POWER HAI!

By Poonam I Kaushish

 

When gold speaks all tongues are silent. This adage was brutally reinforced by the revolving door politics witnessed in the last fortnight across the country, New Delhi to Karnataka and Andhra-Telangana to Goa. Undeniably turncoats are the flavour of the season as power at all costs is the new normal of political morality to the exclusion of ethical considerations. Money hai to power hai!

Nothing underscores this than the brazen tug-of-war between the Kumaraswamy led JD(S)-Congress Government and BJP in Bengaluru’s Vidhan Souda. While the former accused the latter of bribing 15 of its “absconding” MLAs by holding them in a Mumbai hotel, thereby whittling down its strength from 117 to 102 in a 224 member House, the BJP readies itself for the kill. Big deal if it further rips the facade of our democratic norms and functioning.

Another ring-a-ring-roses game was played in New Delhi last week when four TDP Rajya Sabha MPs joined the BJP shoring up its strength. In Goa 10 Congress MLAs jumped ship to the Saffron brigade with three being sworn-in as Ministers taking the total to a comfortable 27 in a 40 MLAs Assembly. In Andhra TDP MLAs are queuing up to board the BJP bandwagon. 

Today, the BJP controls a major chunk of India’s political landscape with its ‘mahagathbandhan’ of turncoats with the Congress’s stocks crashing to a handful of States. Certainly, some are serving the Party’s purpose of getting new States and constituencies where it has little presence, like the North East, West Bengal and Andhra. But the changeover comes without any guarantee and for a few it is turning out to be a one-way ticket to obscurity. Plainly, rajneeti is all about depleting the strength of the rival. Once that purpose is fulfilled, they discard you.

A sense of de ja vu overwhelms. Reminiscent of the 1967 Aya Ram Gaya Ram culture when Gaya Lal an Independent MLA in Haryana switched three Parties in 15 days. Followed by Bhajan Lal who hijacked his Janata Party Government to the Congress, thereby opening the floodgates of defection and institutionalizing it through Indira Gandhi’s 60s-80s. Elucidated by JMM Suraj Mandal in the Lok Sabha in 1993, “Paisa boriyoin mein atta hai….Do saandh ke beech ek bachra kya kare?”

Politicians girgit-like transfer their loyalties from one Party to another based on winnability. The modus operandi is simple: Paisa and satta bargains are struck, depending on the value of legislators, who switch sides, are ‘guarded’ at luxury hotels therein a Government is toppled and another formed. All executed with clinical precision, devoid of ‘meeting of minds’ pretensions, common ideology, principles or personal fondness.

Patronage, opportunism and a share of the power pie is the glue that keeps the swarm of hoppers together with its new benefactors and makes incongruent Parties come together whereby poaching of legislators is extolled as smart political management: money for allurement, use of state machinery for intimidation etc are commended as resourcefulness. The winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all guilt and criminality. The friends and enemies are all rolled into one to fulfil their lust for power.

Shockingly, between 1967 and 1983 there were 162 defections in Parliament and 2,700 in State Assemblies with 212 defectors being rewarded with Ministerial positions and 15 becoming Chief Ministers, according to a PRS Legislative Research. Politicians have made it abundantly clear that they have no strong, single-Party preference and are willing to switch sides to the highest bidder. A testimony to the influence of paisa and kursi.

True, the 1985 Anti-Defection law did act as a speed-breaker but only temporary, as the ruling Party allowed it to be violated by anointing its MP or MLA as Speaker. The law says a defector can either resign or be disqualified by the Speaker on the basis of a petition by another member of the House. So if the defection suits the ruling Party then the Speaker accepts the MLA’s resignation without looking into the motive behind it, obversely disqualifies him if it runs contrary to the Party’s wishes.  

Bluntly, this lacuna opened the floodgates for revolving door politics. Thereby, making it hard to keep pace with who is ensconced in which Party and who has drifted to greener pastures.  Bringing things to farcical charades where defecting legislators switch sides with some being anointed “Opposition Ministers in Government” even before they officially changed Parties with Speakers looking the other way. Worse, nobody queries them of what happened to the commitments they promised to abide and uphold, serve society and work for peoples’ upliftment. Were they merely posturing?

Arguably, one can quibble that elections are won by Parties not individuals. In this market model of democracy it is a misnomer to believe that Parties are governed by ideology. Instead, there is a tendency to capture the imagination of the people by creating a spectacle alongside money which makes the clogged, polluted and corrupt political mare go around.

Questionably, in a milieu where defections undermine the foundations of democracy and where ‘stable’ Governments are formed through barefaced political immorality, no Party can claim the high moral ground. In this process, our leaders forget that they leave behind a toxic residue of hatred long after polls are over.

In the moral desert of politics and barren discourse the BJP has only perfected the art of defection and political over-reach from the Congress which holds the copyright. Consequently, such behaviour is likely to be commended as a sign of political ambition than censured as opportunism. Wherein Modi’s incantation of “na khaoonga na khane doonga”, flies in the face of rajneetik nehtektha.

Alas, political discourse is so quick to justify a neta’s right to trample ideology and ethics to serve his selfish ends that questions about public service are seldom raised as all are trying to out-maneouver the other dus numberis! Thus, this game of lies, deceit and deception reflects the emerging truth of today’s India. Power is all.

Raising a moot point: Are short term gains worth the long-term costs? Can one brush away this display of naked careerism as admiration worthy of a political cause or cynically accept it?

Of course, one can say this is what democracy is all about. Sadly, however, the basic postulates of democracy have got botched over the years. Few care to remember today that democracy is not an end in itself. It is only a means to an end, namely, the greater well-being and happiness of the people. Which is possible only through a clean and stable Government run by dedicated leaders committed to putting country above self and all else. Not through ram-shackled fair-weather partners in corruption and crime.

Where do we go from here? It is a long trudge as there seems to be no one who will dare to bite the defection hand that feeds it. Politics without ethics is dangerous for democracy as it is produces distrust at all levels where-under even the gutter seems cleaner than the politics of today. Hence the battle for democracy continues. It remains to be seen if in the bheed of opportunistic turncoats, the murmur of ideology, beliefs and honesty will find favour. -----INFA

(Copyright, India News & Feature Alliance)

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