Shame Tuesday

The shock and awe surrounding Manmohan Singh Government’s trust motion victory has left many of us quite numb. It will take some time for the full impact of the several strands of that twisted Tuesday to reveal itself. However, the immediate fallout is that the survival of the government was secured not by any newfound acceptance of the capacity of Mr. Singh to govern, or a backing of the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, but because the people the UPA entrusted with crunching the numbers did a better, or rather a dirtier job than their counterparts.

People were brought from prisons to the parliament, seriously ill patients were flown from far to vote, money and political inducement flew thick and fast – all for a confidence vote.

The run up to the vote was a distinct downslide of all that the term “parliamentary” represents. The outcome of the enquiry that the Speaker has promised – and hopefully there will be no cover up, even if political equations change – must be awaited to take a final call on the despicable display of “bribe money” in the House. Even as the grim realities of that are disputed and contested, who can deny that the show was cunningly choreographed and by his own admission, done with the approval of L.K. Advani: a brazen bid to taint the vote the NDA knew it was losing, as was the BSP claim of CBI intimidation. The BJP leaders could well have taken that money to the Speaker’s chamber to make their case ~ but they deliberately opted for the live telecast in the House, and brought the entire nation into international disgrace. Creating a cheap alibi for impending defeat.

As disturbing as the development itself was the way several television commentators described it as a legitimate political strategy, wondered why it would shock when it was only visible confirmation of common knowledge. In indicating an acceptance of declining probity in public life, the so-called intelligentsia and opinion makers are merely abetting the crime.

The parliamentary system was not the only loser, but few tears ought to be shed for the others that bit the dust. For all the “principled spin” they might try and put it on, comrades Karat and Bardhan have red-carded the Left to beyond the sidelines of the game in which the spineless UPA had earlier flattered them as kingmakers. The arrogant bombast of the top figures of the CPI-M and CPI has been sorely punctured, proving that ideologues, armchair experts and their hangers-on have little relevance in a practical scheme of things: let them suffer the hangover of their anti-American intoxication.

What of their new found mate, Mayawati who stooped but did not conquer? Her poaching powered prime ministerial aspirations have been punctured, but in accusing the Congress and BJP of caste-based conspiracy she confirmed at which level she operates ~ significantly she made no mention of the Left, underscoring its irrelevance now. Whether the governments in West Bengal, Tripura and Kerala also pay a price for that irrelevance remains to be seen. Not being the prime mover of the toppling bid, though keen to cash-in, the BJP has not been so battered but the fact that some of its members cross-voted, and at least three others were deemed “buyable” has bruised its image. Advani’s personal attack on Manmohan Singh has been countered in the Prime Minister’s “tabled” reply ~ has any previous Prime Minister been denied the right to reply to a confidence motion debate? Let Advani and his slogan shouting backbenchers answer that one. This also is an indication of where the Opposition sees the incumbent. Tuesday was indeed a sad day for Indian democracy.

Perhaps only the much-maligned Somnath Chatterjee emerged with some honour for resisting his party’s bid to malign the institution of the Speaker ~ as proven by Mohd Salim’s disgusting, provocative conduct over the past few days (to think Karat would probably laud his ‘loyalty’). Thus it was not inconceivable that the CPI-M will “act” against the veteran: it probably has no other obvious target and its self-inflicted wounds are raw.

What of the future? The Prime Minister has bought some time: unshackled from the Left he has opportunity to press ahead with reforms that he backed off from these past 50 months. Will he succeed in addressing the several important issues of the day, more importantly how much of what he does will trickle down to the aam aadmi ~ the ultimate arbiter whose only opportunity to speak his mind, through the ballot box/ EVM, is only some months away.

Anupam Dhar

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