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Miners & Horse Traders

Miners & Horse Traders

Less than a fortnight ago, Shiv Sena President Uddhav Thackeray got it right when he described Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s campaign histrionics in Karnataka: “The state is called Kar-Natak and Modi is performing a natak.” Mispronouncing a word that means ‘land of Kannads’, by using a softer ‘n’, made the remark a hit but even Thackeray would not have imagined the kind of drama that unfolded after the results, even as newspapers and TV channels plagiarised his words.

Thackeray cannot expect royalty from the media, but newly-elected MLAs of the Congress and Janata Dal Secular can expect a king’s ransom if any of them are willing to do business with Amit Shah’s BJP, currently represented by the Reddy brothers of Ballari — one of whom was jailed in an illegal mining case — if they are willing to help B S Yeddyurappa realise Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts for a ‘Congress-mukt Bharat’.

Modi had once tried to clarify that Congress-mukt Bharat meant ‘ridding politics of all undesirable and corrupt practices initiated by Congress leaders, which were emulated by other parties too’. The two embedded TV noisemakers who asked the question and drooled at the explanation were not, however, expected to ask Modi if he was joking.

How else would one explain BJP forcing Karnataka to join neighbouring Tamil Nadu in having a Chief Minister from jail? Unlike Jawaharlal Nehru, Vallabhbhai Patel and several other freedom fighters who occupied high executive positions post-Independence, B S Yeddyurappa was jailed during the trial of a corruption case. He was exonerated much after he returned to BJP, and Modi assumed power at the Centre and took control of the CBI.

By forcing Karnataka to have a minority government led by Yeddyurappa and brazenly indulging in luring Congress and JDS MLAs, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has shown that BJP has made the Congress and all other political parties look like saints.

While Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala has advertised that he has not evolved from an RSS pracharak, the Union Minister for Law Ravi Shankar Prasad’s duty these days is to defend the unlawful actions of his Government and party. His best defence has been “Congress has done the same”. At this rate, I won’t be surprised if the Law Minister recommends amendments to the Criminal Procedure Code to allow a criminal to plead innocent if he is able to prove that someone else did a similar crime earlier.

Everybody knows Congress has formed defectors governments or destabilised governments led by rival parties. However, BJP, ‘the party with a difference’, is proving that the only reason it did not do worse things, before the 1990s, was because it could not, as it was not in power. The ‘difference’ is that BJP will brazenly do things what the Congress did surreptitiously, long ago, after technically meeting constitutional norms. For the BJP, Narendra Modi is the Constitution and his whim is the law of the land.

Those who point fingers at the Congress need to know a thing or two too: 1) Congress’ acts of forming governments with defectors, destabilising rival party governments and dismissing them are things of a distant past. 2) After Rajiv Gandhi became PM, he introduced the anti-defection law which to some extent prevented defectors from benefitting from party-hopping 3) The Supreme Court verdict in the Bommai case in 1994 laid down the rule that a government’s majority will be determined only on the floor of the assembly/Lok Sabha and reduced the villainous roles governors played in destabilising state governments. 4) Ever since the Bommai verdict, Congress’ horse-trading record is almost nil, though it was in power at the Centre for a total 12 years and in a majority of states, while the BJP has indulged in buying defectors several times since attaining political relevance in the 1990s.

BJP has thus proved that it had not indulged in horse-trading or destabilising rival party governments earlier because it was irrelevant then. Even before legally assuming power at the Centre, it broke the Congress and BSP in Uttar Pradesh with the help of moneybags to form a defectors government led by Kalyan Singh, and kept alive because Keshari Nath Tripathi forgot he was not an RSS pracharak but the Speaker of the House who had to disqualify defector MLAs.

Before UP, BJP illegally seized power at the Centre in 1996, winning just 161 MPs, as against Congress’ 140. Despite realising that it would lose the trust vote, the illegitimate Vajpayee Government approved the Dabhol power project with American company Enron. An energy review committee headed by ex-bureaucrat Madhav Godbole later upheld allegations that Enron bribed politicians and bureaucrats for clinching the deal. The Dabhol power project collapsed soon after Enron was exposed for massive corruption in the US.

To come back to Karnataka, voting patterns reveal that BJP struck a smart underhand deal with JDS to defeat Congress. BJP and JDS transferred votes to each other in weak constituencies. Congress hit back by offering the CM post to the JDS, post polls. These are machinations politics is known for, the world over. That is why Labour never cried foul when Nick Clegg’s neo-liberals joined hands with David Cameron’s Conservatives.

However, the politics that Modi and Shah have introduced have crossed all limits and pretensions of decency. One of the reasons why they have been able to do this is because the media does not have the guts or conviction to question them. And if someone does, it has the stock answer that ‘Congress has done this’.

In a way, one needs to appreciate Modi’s frankness. He does not believe in political hypocrisy or niceties. He is not someone like Advani who used to present himself as a genial old man while simultaneously harping on the ‘sins of the invader Muslim’ and letting his cadre loose for demolishing the Babri Masjid. That illogic was not very far from the Manusmriti belief that Dalits are ill-treated because of ‘the karma’ of their past lives.’

Unlike Advani, Modi says what he means. He compared Muslims killed in riots to dogs overrun by a car. It is only the corporate media, fawned by businessmen who wanted a clear mandate to mine India that tried to portray him as a ‘development man’.

My concern is not so much as to Yeddyurappa buying over defectors, if that would bring ‘Achhe Din’ for at least those MLAs. He may give a free hand for the Reddy brothers to re-start mining the state too. But what if BJP starts justifying savagery on citizens soon by saying that the cavemen did the same eons ago, when there was internet in India?

(Published on 21st May 2018, Volume XXX, Issue 21)