Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Of elections, rabble rousing and floor crossing!

Five forty five is the number of total elected members of parliament in India. This number partly seals the fate of over a billion people when it comes to handling country’s policy framework. As, these “legislators” vote on important issues and help formulate legislations, it becomes incumbent upon the “legislators” to act sensibly. This sensible demonstration of democratic values is rarely seen in India’s Houses.

In a democratic set up, it is really a matter of great pride that these elected representatives are called as legislators. One cannot say for sure how many of them understand the meaning of a legislator or a legislative body. But many of them understand what politics is. And what it takes to be a great politician. They do not know that a constructive politics is different from rabble rousing.

Elections bring back our politicians at the door of the common man, at least every five years. India’s 60 years’ history is the witness to the elections experiencing a massive change. Her electorate has also undergone a sea change. Advent of Electronic Voting Machine has added to the number of rural electorate turning up at the booths.

Don’t compare the lure of the gadget with the profile of the candidate. The ideals of Nehru and Gandhi have gradually disappeared from the poll arena. People are meant to exercise their franchise to lead the country indirectly. They are supposed to vote to “lead”. But in India voters are “led” to vote.

Gone are the days when India had good parliamentarians who had a sense of their surroundings; in this case the floor of the Houses. At least they knew the sanctity of the House which does not lie in creating unnecessary pandemonium. It is hidden in the maturity of the members who vote sanely on matters that come up for discussion.

Anything uttered or rather to say “shouted” inside the House cannot be subject to any arraignment. Our “legislators” exploit this particular Constitutional mandate with impunity. The narrative does not end. And so do the delinquencies of our demagogues.

Come April and we will witness another spell of mud slinging. The Chief Election Commission (CEC) has announced the phases of the 2009 General Elections, scheduled in the same month. What makes this election so special? Elections apart, the Commission (CEC) itself is in the limelight. It has triggered a constitutional debate.

The announcement of the dates by the Commission imposes the code of conduct. The contravention of the code of conduct may lead to rejection of the candidature. But the elections in India have proved that wrong. It is the time the codes are put in effect that our “demagogues” start attacking their rivals. They use their “demagogic” skills to disguise their denigrating utterances.

Floor crossing and horse trading prevent a government from falling. This “characteristic” undemocratic exercise also protects the public money, not peoples’ money, from being spent on another election. Remember, in India a General Election costs millions of rupees and requires deployment of additional forces.

During the famous Jharkhan Mukti Morcha (JMM) bribery case this floor crossing prevented the collapse of the Rao government. The term floor crossing is a euphemism for defection, as defection is considered as something near to a rebellion. A similar incidence saved the Manmohan Singh government.

Opinions and equations change in a political set up like India. As the popular saying goes, there are no permanent foes and friends in India’s politics. Take for example the Samajadi Party (SP) which has its stranglehold in Uttar Pradesh. During the ‘political crisis’ over the Indo-US nuke deal the SP parted ways with the Left and cemented Congress (INC) position. SP’s segregation dashed the hope of a robust Third Front which the Left was trying to build up.

It is very hard to believe but the politicians in India have become like ‘jugglers’ who pretend to amuse the audience with their magic deeds. Kalyan Singh was recently spotted in the Mulayam Singh camp. It does not make any sense when one hears Mulayam speaking about Babri demolition. Ridiculously, Kalyan himself was present when Mulayam held the former responsible for the demolition of Babri Masjid.

The upcoming General Elections will see many more switching their loyalties. The post 26/11 electorate seems to be angry. If our political class does not take corrective measures then the same electorate will boycott the elections, a threat they expressed en masse at the Gateway of India.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Can Ulema Express Derail Congress’s Poll Prospects?

Events prior to any election change peoples’ opinions. Opinions influence peoples’ minds. Minds control the fingers that press the buttons in an Electronic Voting Machine. A slight change in these opinions gives governments sleepless nights.

The Thursday’s protest at Jantar Matar can not be termed as an ordinary event. Muslim youth who had arrived by Ulema Express from Uttar Pradesh were gathered at Jantar Mantar. They were dismayed with the Congress and its policies towards Muslims.

The harassment of Muslim youth from Azamgarh at the hands of security agencies occupied the central place at the protest. Though the Congress does not rule the state, it has done very little at the Centre to do away with the problems that the community faces.

Muslims have always looked forward to the Congress leadership to get their demands met. The ongoing campaign that stereotypes Muslims also came under strict criticism of Ulema Council.

The Ulema Council which had organized the protest has announced to field its own candidates from Azamgarh and Lalganj in the upcoming general elections. One doesn’t know how it is going to change the equations. The reasons for singling out these places were obvious. Most of the Muslim youth were picked up in large numbers for questioning from these places.

The Council also hinted to support the Third Front, which still has to make its presence felt. The Third Front has failed to make in roads. To make things worse, the Third Front has seen a division among its own cadre. Such splits have always benefited the Congress and prevented the emergence of a strong replacement of Congress on the horizon of national politics.

It can hardly be believed that the two Ulema Council candidates, even if elected to Lok Sabha, can change the equations. But in the time of horse trading and floor crossing nothing seems to be impossible. Coalition politics also makes that easier.

The Council also indicated that the Congress is fooling Muslims to achieve political supremacy over its rivals, which somewhat turns out to be true. Many in the embattled community think the only thing the Congress has given Muslims in abundance is the enquiry commissions.

The party also plays the fear card. “The Congress has been making a fool of the Muslim community by constantly raising the bogey of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and other communal forces," said Maulana Amir Rashadi, the chairman of the Ulema Council.

The Congress’s so called ‘minority appeasement’ policy neither goes down well with the communal forces nor produces any results.

The decision taken by the Ulema Council may not be productive in short term. But in long terms it can affect the Congress’s poll prospects. The land slide victory of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) has already reduced Congress’s numbers in the state.

The coming together of Kalyan Singh and Mulayam Singh Yadav will eat into both the Congress’s and the BSP’s vote bank.

The Jantar Mantar could be the destination of the Ulema Express but the message that it carries does not have one particular destination. It will change peoples’ perceptions and change itself brings a change with it.