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Mainstream, VOL L, No 39, September 15, 2012

A Parliament of Howls

Monday 17 September 2012, by Badri Raina

So the republic’s “main Opposition party,” the BJP, has no use for Parliament. A mere talking shop, its deliberations do not yield the result that the BJP wants. Exactly what the Maoists maintain.

So when you take the straight line and curve it inward, those distant ends meet.
The Right-wing may not want to overthrow the state yet, since they already own a good part of it, but they have finally yielded to team Anna and overthrown Parliament, not through the barrel of the gun but through animal spirits and the power of howl.

Frustrated at the thought that the current government might linger on till 2014, and then, perish the prospect, yet again reap the benefit of its insistent social programmes (who votes for or against corruption in this country? Think of the lakhs who came to the late Vilas Rao Deshmukh’s funeral, or, for that matter to Raj Thackeray’s recent rally in Mumbai, and both Hazare and Ramdev pale into insignificance), the unparliamentary putsch of this party in Parliament seems to have been directed not just at obtaining the Prime Minister’s resignation, without a word spoken on any side on the issue at hand in the only House where accountability may not be evaded or substituted by polemic and disinformation, but at forcing the fall of the government, and then a mid-term poll now when it thinks the chips might favour its fortunes. A desired consummation for which electronic channels favouring the putsch prepare the propagandist ground through the usual concoction of polls and predictions.

Yet, like the cat in the adage, the BJP desires the fish but would not wet its feet, namely, move a motion of no-confidence in the government.

Then there was the fear that a discussion in Parliament might not have remained restricted to the Congress party and the Prime Minister, since the BJP’s own intimacy with crony capitalism is in no way of lesser vintage. And the Congress seems to have all the record to prove it as well, bearing both on the BJP’s tenure of six years of Central rule and on the shenanigans of its governments in the States, including the wholly totalitarian regime in Gujarat. And in many cases, shenanigans underscored equally by the very same CAG which now seems its ally.
The good thing already in evidence is that the BJP’s allies in the NDA have other and better thoughts. Why fight elections and come to Parliament if at bottom you have no use for it unless you are voted to power? And, should that remain the BJP’s position, what is to distinguish it from the Anna Team’s originary 
postulation about Parliament and parliamentarians? Nor may the irony escape the watchful that a sort of exchange of positions should be underway as between the BJP and the Anna Team—the former disgruntled with Parliament, and the latter seeking to enter the same. The one having tried the street and wanting sansad, and the other pretending to want to resolve the corruption issue but hitting the street for mayhem in anticipation of sundry elections.

In all this, the media, especially the electronic channels, seemed to find themselves in a bind not to their liking. Largely with the BJP and derisively dismissive of the Congress’ cussed refusal to plunge into the sort of “reforms” that the corporates adore, they found it nonetheless a bit disconcerting that their support to the BJP should run the risk of being read simultaneously as their disdain for Parliament as well. After all, it is the essence of Capitalist liberalism that it seeks to maintain the forms of democracy at all costs, even as its informing spirit of equity and justice is constantly derided and nibbled at in the interests of the fatcat. Exactly where the Maoists have a point, after all. At which you might well ask, why are we speaking on behalf of Parliament then. Put simply, there is nothing better in the offing. So that franchise and Parliament it is that we think must be honed in the days to come through the power both of argument and mass mobilisation to alter character and yield to those whose needs are the most pressing. However gradual and contested that process be.
Which  reminds us that amidst all this hullabaloo, nobody, but nobody—it will remain to be seen how far the current investigations by the CBI will go—has anything to ask of the corporates who, we are told tangentially, made those windfall gains in l’affaire coal. Remember it was an Ambani firm that made the most killings in the Iraq oil-for-food scam (see Arun K. Agrawal, Reliance, the Real Natwar) but has never found mention to this day on any public, media, or governmental forum. Even as what are essentially peripheral players do a dance of accusation and counter-accusation from hour to hour, day to day.

As for “corruption” as a theme, it does not include such unconscionable perfidies as manual scavenging (has there ever been another country where this practice has been recorded, not to say endorsed?), or the malnutrition of half of India’s children, or the anaemia of half of her women, or the unavailability of sanitation or safe drinking water to some two-thirds of Indians, or atrocities committed dime a dozen on India’s Dalits, women, marginalised communities each hour of every day. Or the racism we practice cavalierly vis-a-vis our own Indian citizens, or the slaughter we perpetrate in the name of one denomination or the other.

“Corruption”, however, as a slogan did help the Nazis once to destroy the precious democratic experiment of the Weimar Republic. And could it be said that subsequently there was anything corrupt about the Third Reich?

Something similar seems to be under way here at home, with the prospect that the best of all bad systems of government may yield to something far worse than we think.

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