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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 49, November 26, 2011

One-upmanship amid Partisan Politics


Sunday 27 November 2011, by SC


The way in which the winter session of Parliament has started it appears that this session too would meet the fate of earlier sessions. Last year the winter session was washed out as a consequence of the Opposition’s incessant protests; the last monsoon session was also marred by disruptions caused on the Lokpal issue. The first three days of this winter session have witnessed continuous disruption of the proceedings of both Houses on account of complete divergence of opinion between the government and Opposition on how major issues like price rise and black money should be discussed. The Opposition’s basic demand is that price rise should be debated under Rule 168 in the Rajya Sabha (that entails voting) and an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha—but the government did not want discussion on an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha, it insisted on a debate under Rule 193 (wherein no voting is required). Eventually it was decided (through consultations between the government and Opposition on November 23) that a discussion would take place on an adjournment motion on the “situation arising out of the money deposited illegally in foreign banks and action being taken against guilty persons”. Yet this too did not happen as, the BJP (which gave notice to and was to move the motion) alleges, Congress members from one part of Andhra Pradesh started shouting in the House in favour of a separate Telangana State and thus disrupted the Lok Sabha proceedings. Likewise the proceedings in the Upper House were also disrupted due to the prevailing pandemonium.

Against such a backdrop it is extremely difficult to predict what would happen in Parliament in the days ahead. Yet in the next 18 days (there are 21 working days in this session of which three have already been wasted) not only would both Houses have to debate crucial issues like the ones mentioned above as they are of national importance and affect the bulk of our populace, but also discuss and, if possible, adopt several vital legislations capped by the Lokpal Bill. Would that be possible? The signals are not positive as of now.

Last week it was written in these columns that “judicial steps taken of late to assert the rule of law in the domestic field.. need to be acclaimed without equivocation as they help to strengthen the foundations of our democratic structure...”. Several recent judgements of considerable importance from the social standpoint were recounted in this connection. This trend has gathered further impetus with yet another encounter by the Gujarat Police being termed as a cold-blooded murder: the Gujarat High Court had appointed a three-member Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe the much-publicised Ishrat Jahan case; this Team has now unanimously concluded that the Mumbai college girl and her three friends were murdered by the same set of Gujarat cops who killed Sohrabuddin Sheikh, his wife Kauser Bi and his accomplice Prajapati and gave those too the shape of an encounters which turned out to be fake.

The Gujarat High Court has, on the basis of the SIT report, called for a separate FIR against all the named police officers (the policemen number 21). On November 21 the court’s two-member Bench reiterated the demand for another probe to find the motive behind the murders.

The media has been prompt to point out that this could spell trouble not only for the Gujarat cops but the Central agencies too “as they are believed to have faked inputs” that led to the “encounter”. This would also open the Narendra Modi Government in the State to the charge of shielding the officers connected with this gruesome act.

In Lucknow CM Mayawati on November 21 pushed through a three-line resolution in the State Assembly to split UP into four different States—Paschim Pradesh (made up of 17 districts in Western UP, Poorvanchal (with 28 districts) in eastern UP, Avadh (with 23 districts) in central UP and Bundel-khans (comprising seven districts) in southwest UP—and got it passed by voice vote in just 20 minutes in spite of voiceferous protests from the Opposition, before the legislature was adjourned sine die. Of course there is logic in dividing the State due to its size, extreme density of population, poverty and economic backwardness. But as Dr Sudha Pai, a Professor at the JNU’s Centre for Political Studies and an authority on the subject, has stated, such a division should be debated in a second States Reorganisation Commission that is overdue in order to redraw the map of India “based on the criteria of economic viability and people’s aspirations”. In this context the Congress spokes-person has endorsed the idea of a second SRC and wondered why the proposal to divide the State was not even discussed in the Assembly. Obviously Mayawati was in a hurry to adopt the resolution in the Assembly to divert attention from the charges of largescale corruption being hurled at her from the Opposition that would hit her badly in the coming UP Assembly polls.

Here too it is petty politics that has come to the fore. And it is also due to its political calcu-lations that the ruling Congress running the UPA Government at the Centre has rejected the demand for a separate Telangana State, at least for the present.

One-upmanship amid partisan considerations has once again occupied the centre-stage of national politics.

November 26 S.C.

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