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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks editor, also arrogantly arrogated superior magisterial powers to himself on NDTV, describing the Government’s response as a “cover-up” typical of “guilty men”, a strange comment coming from a man protesting at being baselessly charged with sexual abuse.

Dangerous Gamesmanship

The BJP has been indulging in some very dangerous gamesmanship in trying to destabilise the Government for petty political gain.

By B G Verghese

New Indian Express, 28 March, 2011

The BJP has been indulging in some very dangerous gamesmanship in trying to destabilise the Government for petty political gain. There can be no other interpretation of the privilege motion it moved against the Prime Minister in the Lok Sabha last week, virtually calling for his resignation. This on the basis of a WikiLeaks story about the manner in which the US Embassy in Delhi reported the cash-for-votes episode that was played out on the eve of the crucial 2008 vote endorsing the Indo-US civil nuclear deal. This spoke of a US diplomat being told by a Congress minion that the Party was buying votes to muster a majority in the House and shown a chest of currency notes to drive home the point.

The Government’s response was twofold. First, the US dispatch was a privileged document to which it had no access and was by its very nature “unverified and unverifiable”. Secondly, the cash-for-votes sting operation conducted by a leading TV channel in 2008, and subsequent display of notes in the Lok Sabha by three BJP MP’s who claimed they had been “bought”, had been investigated by a parliamentary committee which found insufficient evidence to substantiate the bribery charge. Moreover, the police is still investigating the key actors in that sting operation.

Though baying for blood, BJP spokesmen were quick to contradict other US WikiLeak disclosures disparaging the words and attitude of some of their own leaders. Some had told American diplomats that they were not opposed to the Indo-US nuclear deal but were only out to embarrass the UPA Government. Another disparaged Hindutva as “opportunistic”. Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks editor, also arrogantly arrogated superior magisterial powers to himself on NDTV, describing the Government’s response as a “cover-up” typical of “guilty men”, a strange comment coming from a man protesting at being baselessly charged with sexual abuse.

The recklessness with which the BJP has launched its Operation Topple marks a new low in Indian politics and subversion of due process. Initially, there was insistence on the WikiLeaks disclosure being discussed even before the Finance Bill debate was concluded. This was overruled but the BJP subsequently walked out before that Bill was passed, an unprecedented act of irresponsibility by a party seeking accountability. Nothing can justify such abuse of Parliament.

Worse, Tehelka has secured more details of the 2008 sting. The reporter who did the original story, some of which was suppressed by his Channel, declared that the sting was sponsored and executed by senior BJP leaders including Advani, Arun Jaitley and Sudheendra Kulkarni. Three BJP MPs were marketed for sale in order to “prove” the cash-for-vote transaction. This sordid tale, and its dubious money trail, also needs investigation and condign punishment of those found guilty.

More light has meanwhile been shed on alleged corruption and shoddy management in relation to the Commonwealth Games by V.K. Shunglu, former Comptroller and Auditor-General, appointed to look into aspects of that controversy. In one of a series of reports, Shunglu has indicted both the CM of Delhi and the Lt Governor. These functionaries want time to study the report before they respond, as their views were not solicited by the inquiry committee. However, the BJP has once again demanded their instant resignations, short-circuiting due process to advance a political agenda. This constitutes reckless subversion of the credibility of institutions of state commenced with the Party’s hijacking of almost the entire winter session of Parliament even while defending the rot in its own stable in Karnataka.

None of this extenuates the Congress party’s acts of omission and commission. These are being probed. Some heads have already rolled and none should be spared if guilt is established. Meanwhile the BJP too must rein in vaulting ambition that has clearly overreached itself.

The competitive freebies on offer from the DMK and AIDMK in the run up to the Tamil Nadu polls points to another state sinking in the mire of corruption. Karunanidhi’s offer of mixies or grinders to housewives and laptops to senior school and college students, should he be returned to power, has been matched by Jayalalitha’s offer of mixies and grinders plus a fan, free rice and other goodies such as gold, sheep, cows and shelters for the indigent. These may be sought to be passed of as welfare schemes but announced as they have been without any reference to budgetary estimates and administrative and plan considerations, they constitute electoral inducements in the form of largesse from the exchequer for party-political gain. The Election Commission has expressed concern. It would however be desirable that some public-spirited persons file a PIL suit and seek a stay unless the rival parties make an income-tax certified advance deposit of a modest Rs 500-1000 crore to be debited pro rata to the election expenditure of each party candidate.

The good news is that Dr Manmohan Singh has invited the Pakistan President and Prime Minister to witness the Cricket World Cup semi-final between the two countries at Mohali. The gesture, though symbolic, is likely to bring about a surge of popular goodwill on both sides which should be captured and translated into positive measures to move forward on the entire basket of issues awaiting resolution. Pakistan has been on the backfoot at home with civil society terrorized by jihadi zealots who have exulted in the murder of two liberals opposing the blasphemy law. The Mohali game, irrespective of who wins, should put new heart into popular yearnings for peace, goodwill and civilized exchanges that cannot but be of immense mutual benefit.

The J&K Interlocutors have in turn been wise to put all proposed variants of internal autonomy – centre-state, regional, and local – on the agenda for serious debate at all levels both within the state and across the country. The BJP’s gut reaction, that any discussion of this will weaken J&K’s “integration” with India is misplaced and underlies the need to build a national consensus in Delhi. Constitutional illiteracy on some of these issues is extremely high all round as we have never encouraged open discussion or learnt from examples of innovative nation-building measures embodied in the Constitution and actually tried out in the Northeast.

Baulking at the J&K Governor and Chief Minister being called Sadr-i-Riyasat and Wazir-e-Azam is best dismissed with reference to Lenin’s instructions to the new Soviet plenipotentiary at the signing of the Treaty of Brest Litovsk. The envoy asked for directions about his attire as the German insisted on frock coats and top hats. Lenin’s tersely replied, “If it will serve the cause, go in a Petticoat”! Small words should not be allowed to defeat big gains.

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