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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2619

‘Swamp’ fever grips Delhi

By J. N. Raina - Syndicate Features

The die is cast. The United Progressive Alliance (UPA)---which has come to be nicknamed as the “United Poachers Association”---led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has secured the coveted trust-vote, but not before ‘purchasing’ and swapping ‘horses’, suffering from swamp fever. It was ostensibly a tainted verdict.

The bewildered nation was dumbfounded to watch the crisscross of cross voting and ‘horse-trading’. The criminal exercise is bound to change the country’s political contours in the near future.

The countrymen, who remained glued to TV channels on the D-Day, July 22, when the trust-vote was taken up, were shocked when three BJP members rushed into the Well of the House, waving wads of currency notes, allegedly given to them by the Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh’s men, as a bribe to abstain from the crucial trust-vote. It is mind-boggling. The Congress purchased victory with money power. Naturally, it will be the BJP---the party which the Communists wanted to keep away from power---which is going to benefit from ‘horse-trading’ and poaching, allegedly engineered by the Congress managers, who remained busy for weeks before the arrival of the day.

Manmohan Singh’s clean image has been further sullied by the incidents of rampant political corruption, and these latest allegations of ‘vote-for-money’. It was the murkiest contest of sorts in the history of Indian parliamentary democracy. Parliament has been demeaned. The UPA has won the trust-vote, but the nation has lost.

Parliamentarians were put on open ‘sale’, selectively, for a heavy price, reportedly ranging from Rs 25 crore to Rs three crore, plus other allurements. The criminalization of politics has paid huge dividends to the UPA; advantage Congress, led by Sonia Gandhi. One is aghast to note that 24 opposition MPs, including eight from the BJP, either voted for the government, or abstained, giving the UPA government a victory.

It is quite queer that leader of the Opposition L K Advani had failed to keep his ‘flock’ of BJP MPs tethered, obviously due to the onslaught of poachers. Manmohan Singh for a day turned out to be the ‘king’, but portentously he might lose the ‘kingdom’, come next elections. Tricks of the ugly ‘trade’ will not provide him and his party permanent succour. The people’s faith has got shaken in the Congress leadership. It has lost moral ground to rule.

K. K. Venugopal, a senior advocate, has rightly remarked that the incident (exhibition of currency notes) has shown that Indian politics was at the ‘bottom of the barrel’. He made it succinctly clear that “no amount of amendment to the Constitution or the 10th Schedule (anti-defection law) can stand in the way of political immorality or dirty politics”.

The BJP President Rajnath Singh has however, fired the first salvo and expelled eight members of his party who had cross-voted and abstained. Such elements should be weeded out. Similarly, other parties have taken action against the erring members. Even the Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee has not been spared. The Speaker, on whose head the Damocles sword remained hanging from day one, has been expelled from CPI(M)’st primary membership for ignoring the party whip, following the withdrawal of support to the UPA government by the Left combine.

Political analysts blame Chaterjee for his ‘failure’ to start a ‘fast track’ probe into the sweeping allegations of ‘horse-trading’. The allegations are the first of its nature in India. He could have ‘put off’ the trust-vote till an inquiry was held. Some constitutional experts aver that there is no provision for such a deferment, but the Speaker ought to have used his own discretion.

Rajiv Dhawan, a senior advocate, has said that if the members of the Lok Sabha, who level charges of bribery, show prima facie proof of corruption that “hits at the root of the constitutional and parliamentary process”, the Speaker should have taken a call on it.” We know how he had dealt expeditiously in the ‘cash-for-query’ case. He expelled 11 guilty MPs in no time. What barred him from taking action this time, is a matter of conjecture and concern. When Parliament has been assaulted, imperilling democracy, he must rise to the occasion and make haste to probe the allegations and assuage the ruffled feelings of people at large.

The cash-for-query incident pales into insignificance when we compare and recall the ugly happenings on July 22. In 1993, four JMM (Jharkhand Mukti Morcha) MPs had received just Rs 1.6 crore as bribe to help then Prime Minister Narasimharao to defeat no-confidence motion. It is a lightening call to the nation to stir up against anti-democratic forces and acceptance of bribe by the elected representatives. The electorate must have a right to not only recall criminal and notorious MPs, but also get them debarred from contesting for ever. Woe-betide criminal politics.

The UPA’s ‘impressive victory’ would have been impossible, but for cross-voting, preceded by impious ‘horse-trading’, absenteeism et al. A total of 24 MPs had defied whip or went against the party line and voted for the government. Had the concerned members shown political morality and voted according to the dictates of the party, the votes cast in favour of the motion would have been only 262 and those against 276.

The rub is the debate on the core Indo-US nuclear deal was relegated to the background. It was overshadowed by ‘cash-for-money’ deal debate, or deal between the Samajwadi Party and the Congress. The latter has failed to govern. It lost precious four years because of the CPM’s high handedness. Reforms were delayed. On the contrary, BJP at least has succeeded in the governance of coalition arrangements. Time for the people to rethink.

- Asian Tribune -

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