Integrated development, politics and social empowerment in India and beyond

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Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Books written by B G Verghese

Rahul Gandhi’s singular failure as the Congress’s shining hope has again been exposed and the Party will be wooing national disaster if it continues to project him as its dynastic champion, let alone a potential prime minister

Mandate for Change

The anti-incumbency surge has offered a new mandate in some states but anything could change in the run-up to national polls several months away.

By B G Verghese

Deccan Herald, 8 December, 2013

The electorate has spoken and has voted a mandate for change especially with regard to corruption, people’s problems and mounting criminalisation. The BJP has retained its mandate in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh and wrested Rajasthan by a massive margin. It has, however, failed to win Delhi where the new Aam Admi Party has registered something of a triumph relegating the Congress to a poor third place. Delhi has a hung Assembly. Rather than shirk forming a minority or coalition government the BJP or Aam Admi Party have a duty to try and form and run a government with issue based outside support from whomsoever. Forcing President’s rule and a fresh poll without an honest effort at government formation would be to rebuff the democratic process.

Narendra Modi may preen, but it is not certain how much credit can go to him But the outcome will certainly boost his prime ministerial aspirations. The Congress has had to eat humble pie and can only take small comfort should it retain Mizoram. The BJP has lost tribal votes in Chattisgarh to the Congress while the AAP has failed to register much success in rural Delhi, thus suggesting that its focus and support is perhaps predominantly urban. From this it follows that it may not be as successful in the forthcoming national polls where rural predominance matters even it is able to mobilise the kind of organisation it mustered in Delhi, which is unlikely.

Rahul Gandhi’s singular failure as the Congress’s shining hope has again been exposed and the Party will be wooing national disaster if it continues to project him as its dynastic champion, let alone a potential prime minister. The pathetic sycophancy of the Congress is a millstone round its neck. Restoring internal democracy is the prime “reorganisation” it sorely leads. The Delhi results reflected anti-incumbency and the overhang of a non-functional Union Government that has been adrift for quite some time.

The current Assembly results do not necessarily reflect what might happen next year. Four or five months is a long time in politics. Signs of more vigorous governance by the UPA-I, which is not impossible, some revival of the economy and falling prices could influence electoral opinion. However, the Telengana muddle, and especially the misplaced decision to have Hyderabad as a joint capital for ten years, shows that the Congress must learn once more not to trade principle for expediency.

Narendra Modi remains vulnerable over Gujarat 2002 and its aftermath. His defence and denials are gradually unravelling. His failure with Amit Shah to utter a word on the so-called snooping-stalking scandal is eroding his credibility. Likewise his repeated faux-pas on the history and geography he cites is embarrassing. His latest call for a debate on Article 370 pertaining to J&K betrays a lack of knowledge on the subject. This is perhaps no surprise as the BJP has spouted a lot of nonsense on this Article over the years.

J&K is a fully integral part of India under Article 1(2) of the Constitution read with the First Schedule that defines the territories of India. The Instrument of Accession that the Maharaja signed on October 26, 1947 was no different from that signed by all princely states. Article 370 provides a mechanism governing Centre–State relations between Delhi and Srinagar in the same manner as Articles 371 and 371-A to I make special provisions pertaining to several other states. Likewise, the Fifth and Sixth Schedules make special provisions for Tribal India. If J&K has “state subjects”, so does Sikkim and in both states, as in some others, purchase of property by outsiders is banned or regulated. Tribal lands too cannot be casually alienated.

Further, Article 370 is “temporary” or “transitional” only to the extent that it can be varied or extinguished only with the consent of the constituent assembly/legislature of the state. The BJP has shown similar ignorance about the Article 44 pertaining to a uniform civil code which can be legislated by any Statre. Sadly, other parties and intellectuals are equally illiterate in this regard.

While still on Kashmir, it is a pity that Indian civil and ex-military commentators go ballistic whenever Pakistan says something about J&K. The latest instance relates to Nawaz Sharif’s address to the “Azad Kashmir” legislature in Muzaffarabad where he said he dreamt of Kashmir one day becoming part of Pakistan and that his Government would, while seeking a peaceful resolution through talks, continue to lend support to the Kashmiri people’s right to self-determination under the UN resolutions. He added that Kashmir remained a flashpoint between Pakistan and India and could, if unattended, lead to a fourth war between the two neighbours – and a nuclear war at that.

Though the statement was unhelpful, it would have been best to laugh it off as mandatory rhetoric Pakistani leaders must spout from time to time. Manmohan Singh neatly punctured the balloon, observing that Pakistan is unlikely to win any war against India in his lifetime. Instead, by reacting as belligerently as some did, India vested a stray remark with more importance than it deserved and almost justified Pakistan’s fears of Indian stance and revived the global anxieties that Pakistan trades on.

The same lack of proportion was seen at another level when, asked about the current discussion on alleged sexual misconduct and rape laws in the country, Farooq Abdullah said he now feared bantering with a woman or hiring a female secretary lest some chance remark or gesture land him in jail. The media and women’s groups pounced on him as a male chauvinist and extracted an apology for any inadvertent offence!

The media’s overreaction to such events is manifest. The cry for retired Justice A.K. Ganguly’s resignation as Chairman of West Bengal’s Human Rights Commission, following a female intern’s allegation of molestation by him a year ago, has grown shriller by the day. The Justice has denied the allegation and said he has yet to see the full text of the order passed by a judicial committee appointed by the Chief Justice to look into the girl’s complaint.

Some days ago the Chief Justice was reported in the media as saying that the statement of the female lawyer both written and oral “prima facie discloses an act of unwelcome (verbal/non-verbal sexual) behaviour” with the young lawyer who was interning with Justice Ganguly on December 24, 2012. This has been categorically interpreted by the media and political critics as a finding of guilt by the inquiry panel against the Judge and he has been harshly criticised on that ground. But was that the finding of the panel or merely certification of the young lawyer’s allegation rather than the considered judgement of the three member team which has not met or heard Justice Ganguly. There is a world of difference between the two positions and it would seem that the Justice is being hounded on a misinterpretation of the panel’s alleged finding. Is the lynch mob ahead of the facts as in the Tehelka case?

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