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Calling A Spade

Calling A Spade

Former Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha is a member of BJP's Margdarshak Mandal, ostensibly set up in 2014 to guide the party. He seems to have taken his job seriously. In a scathing attack on the Narendra Modi Government, and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in particular, Sinha wrote in the September 27 edition of The Indian Express that he would fail in his national duty if he did not “speak up even now against the mess the Finance Minister has made of the economy.”

He called demonetisation and GST as badly conceived ideas hastily implemented and that his fear that the Indian economy would be in a long state of recession reflected “sentiments of a large number of people in the BJP and elsewhere who are not speaking up out of fear.”

Sinha said that revival of the economy before the next Lok Sabha elections was highly unlikely and “bluff and bluster is fine for the hustings, but evaporates in the face of reality.” He ended by adding that after the PM’s claims of having seen poverty from close quarter, Jaitley was working overtime to make sure that all Indians would get to see poverty from close quarters.

It is easy to dismiss Sinha’s criticism as the rantings of a man denied his pride of place in the current dispensation. However, there are a few things that are very significant:

Sinha is well past his prime (he would turn 85 in a few days) and could gracefully retire. After all, he has held several plum postings as a bureaucrat and has been India’s Finance Minister and Foreign Minister. His son is a minister of state in the Narendra Modi Government and I can’t think of anyone other than Dr Manmohan Singh who would overlook the father’s deed and not punish the son.

Even BJP patriarch L K Advani is quiet, even after the last hope that he would be made President of India has vanished. So why has Sinha decided to attack the Government? There is no doubt that Sinha has been known long for speaking his mind. As an IAS office he is supposed to have once told erstwhile Bihar Chief Minister Bindeshwari Dubey, “anyone can become a politician but someone like you can never become a bureaucrat.” He did prove his argument right too when he entered politics and held higher positions than Dubey.

Even in the run up to the last Lok Sabha polls, when even the likes of Murli Manohar Joshi remained mum, probably in the hope of getting a favourable post in the Modi dispensation, Sinha was too frank. He said that the electorate was suffering from ‘Namonia’, a dig at the ‘Namo’ chant BJP invented for Modi, while making it sound like a deadly disease. Hence it can be easily said it was typical of Sinha to strike at a time when the Modi Government seems to have wrecked the economy.

However, is Sinha’s just a lonely performance? The RSS-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh has already distanced itself from the NDA Government by criticising it for not giving enough sops to help farmers tide over the agrarian crisis and for not protecting the rights of labourers. Then there is the Tamil Brahmin duo of Subramanian Swamy and Gurumurthy who have always been critical of Arun Jaitley, despite doing several hit jobs for Modi, probably because both believe that they are better suited for the job of FM.

In Modi’s and Amit Shah’s BJP, it is difficult to ascertain whether Sinha’s claim that several people in his party were restless about the state of the economy and the way the Government was run because no one is even willing to confide in another for fear of retribution.

Why, even the different Indian chambers of commerce and industrialists who took pot shots at the Manmohan Singh Government and goaded Modi to usher in a paradise for the industry and entrepreneurs are silent despite every economic indicator, except may be the stock market, pointing to an economic slowdown ushered in by adamant and foolish policies.

So, the question is whether Sinha’s is a solo act or is he performing on the prompting of at least a section of the ‘restless pack’ and the backing of a section of the RSS. Even insiders can hardly hazard a guess. Irrespective of whether Sinha’s is a solo act or not, there can be no denying the fact that he will be remembered for exclaiming “the emperor has no clothes”. Unlike the people in the legendary tale, many people outside the emperor’s palace have known for long that the emperor was naked but everyone in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s durbar have been weaving a fictional robe for long, while enjoying the fishes and loaves of office.

Justice Patel

Justice Jayant M Patel of the Karnataka High Court has resigned after he was transferred to the Allahabad High Court, where he would have been the third senior-most judge. If Patel had remained in Karnataka, he would have become the Chief Justice or at least the acting Chief Justice after incumbent SN Mukherjee retires on October 9. 

Transfer of judges is done by a collegium that comprises the five senior-most judges of the Supreme Court. The collegium is supposed to have taken the decision on transfer of Justice Patel on September 15, 24 days before he would have had got the turn to head the Karnataka High Court.

Patel was asked if he had objections to the transfer. In reply, he sent in his resignation. Talking to journalists who contacted him, after his resignation became public, he said that he had done his duty without fear or favour as a judge but he would prefer to resign than do a short stint at Allahabad HC now.

This was not the first transfer for Patel. He was the acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court, when he was transferred to Karnataka. What makes his transfer significant is that Patel in 2011 was part of a division bench that ruled that the Ishrat Jahan encounter was fake and directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe the case. Those adversely affected by that ruling happen to be the two most powerful people in the Executive and BJP, respectively.

Tailpiece

Some months ago, a judge said a peacock impregnates the peahen with tears. Now Justice Ashutosh Kumar of the Delhi High Court has ruled that a mild ‘no’ from a woman during rape could be taken as ‘yes’ by the man, while setting aside the conviction for seven years for Mahmood Farooqui, co-director of film Peepli Live.

( abey.kay@gmail.com)

(Published on 03rd October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 40)