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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 35

Political Scene In The Wake Of Trust Vote

Tuesday 19 August 2008, by Amitava Mukherjee

The tussle between the Manmohan Singh Government and the Opposition over the nuclear deal is now over. The UPA has scored a convincing victory in Parliament. The Left, particularly Prakash Karat, the CPM General Secretary, has been forced to bite the dust. Somnath Chatterjee, by his refusal to resign from the post of the Lok Sabha Speaker, has shown that his party is no more a disciplined or regimented one. Mayawati, who suddenly dreamt of becoming the Prime Minister, has discovered to her dismay that the Left and constituents of the so-called Third Front are not yet strong enough to catapult her to national level politics. But in spite of its victory in the Lok Sabha it is perhaps the Congress, which was forced to take the severest blow to its reputation by allegations of bribery which rocked Parliament on the day of the voting on the confidence motion, that is, July 22.

The CD, on the unfortunate episode of the alleged attempt to bribe the BJP MPs, is now with Speaker Somanth Chatterjee and it will not be proper to comment on it now. But the entire proceedings of the Lok Sabha on the day of the voting for the confidence motion is an indictment of Somnath Chatterjee, not because he had flouted the party directive and was ultimately expelled from the CPM but for an entirely different reason. During his tenure as the Speaker, Somnath has consistently tried to downgrade the importance of the judiciary in relation to the legislature and if this is the standard of the law-making institution of India, with only a minuscule section of MPs exhibiting any sense of self-respect and responsibility, then Somnath Chatterjee has to account for many of his past stands.

The BJP has expelled a good number of its MPs for defying the party whip and rescuing the UPA Government over the nuclear deal issue although it is difficult to say whether it is really unhappy over the likely conclusion of the deal and a strategic relationship with the USA. L.K. Advani said in the Lok Sabha that his party is not averse to it but would only renegotiate the deal. While keeping in mind the interests of the powerful business lobbies of the USA and the influence they exert on the Bush Administration, Advani’s statement is dangerous for the safety and security of India. Today it is for everyone to see the conditions of many of those countries which had entered into strategic relationships with the USA, the most glaring example being Pakistan. Advani has written his own autobiography. He is a writer and a former journalist too (having once been the film critic of the RSS mouthpiece, Organiser). But it appears that he does not take lessons from other writers. Advani is advised to read B. Raman’s book on the Research and Analysis Wing before advocating any proximity and alliance with the USA.

THE confidence motion, moved by Manmohan Singh, has raised many questions. He has taken support from those MPs who have been sentenced to imprisonments, life imprisonments too, by the judiciary. It was really nauseating to see these MPs creating uproar in Parliament on behalf of the UPA Government. Has not the time come to enact laws, which would save Parliament from the ignominy of having such criminals as parliamentarians? Manmohan Singh is now uttering big words like conscience, good of the country etc. Where was his conscience when he saw jailbirds in the Lok Sabha? The Prime Minister chooses to be forthright when he expresses his inability to contain inflation quickly. Similarly the nation wants to hear his voice about convicts voting in the Lok Sabha.

And here Prakash Karat and his party, the CPM, as well as the Left as a whole come under criticism. It would have carried much more meaning if Karat had announced withdrawal of support to the UPA Government immediately after Manmohan Singh talked of his inability to take the bull of inflation by the horn. But the Left had kept this government alive for more than four years in spite of the fact that the Manmohan-Chidambaram-Montek Singh Ahluwalia combine had all along followed policies which can be reasonably called anti-people.

Parliamentary politics in India is now afflicted with serious maladies. One finds it difficult to visualise that the Indian Parliament was once adorned by stalwarts like Jawaharlal Nehru, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Govind Ballabh Pant, Hiren Mukerjee etc. It was really painful to see a Minister, named Laloo Prasad Yadav, behaving in a flippant manner all through the discussion or the CPM MP, Mohammed Salim, gesticulating and flinging his arms in a childish manner while speaking on the motion. MPs were ready to give lectures but very few of them had contents.

Who has really won in the confidence motion drama? So far as the parliamentary game is concerned, it is the Congress. But there is no sign that the party will be able to motivate the voters to vote for the Congress in the coming election. Even if the bribery charge is set apart, the Congress will find it extremely difficult to explain the presence of Shibu Soren in any future Cabinet.

The Congress has many things to explain, the most important of them being whether it still believes in the words and beliefs of Mahatma Gandhi. The answer will not be a comfortable one for the party. It is open to question whether any of the Prime Ministers from the Congress after Lal Bahadur Shastri had any inclination to study and practice the Mahatma’s teachings.

The Left has lost the battle inside Parliament, thanks to the over-enthusiasm exhibited by Prakash Karat and A.B. Bardhan. Losing a battle is always inglorious whether one stands for a cause or not. The Left is trying to project itself as the savior of the nation. This is again open to question. The Left did prop up the Manmohan Singh Government for more than four years and during this period the government carried out quite a few anti-people policies. It will be difficult for Prakash Karat and company to wash off this stigma at the time of the next Lok Sabha elections.

Neither Karat nor Somnath Chatterjee is above reproach. Constitutional propriety certainly demands that the post of the Speaker should be treated as one above party considerations. Karat’s approach indicates that he is not prepared to give much time for constitutional considerations. On the other hand it will be difficult to pass the verdict that Somnath Chatterjee’s handling of the parliamentary proceedings during the last four years was absolutely neutral. Top-level CPM sources are now projecting him as a villain, one whose ambitions have been checkmated by Prakash Karat.

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