Remember the young boy crunching Sachin Tendulkar’s hand in the ad “ Sunday ho ya Monday, Khate Raho anday” by the National Egg Co-ordination Committee? Long before the ad, I have been an egg fan. My dil hai Hindustani but my preferred breakfast is continental, in which an egg is a must. If it is a Sunday then add bacon, sausages and toast melba with marmalade!
Even on a road trip I will stop at a dhaba that makes anday bhurji. I like eggs in any form – fried, boiled, omelette or scrambled. But I detest poached eggs, because they are insipid. So what if the Brits liked their eggs that way.
From poached eggs let me move to political poaching, that seems to be the flavour of the season. The BJP that claimed to be the party with a difference, occupying the high moral ground on corruption, should now get the gold medal in the not so fine art of poaching.
The poaching buck had to stop somewhere, and on 9th August it stopped in Gandhinagar, Gujarat. Significantly this day commemorates the Quit India movement. Maybe it is high time that we Indians told the BJP to quit poaching. Till midnight on 8th August pliable TV commentators were waxing eloquent about how cool and calm Amit Shah looked, and how depressed and harassed the Congress camp was. Then the tide turned. The bubble burst. The poachers were left red faced as Ahmed Patel scrapped through to win his Rajya Sabha seat. This is not so much a victory for the beleaguered Congress, as it is for democracy and the rule of law – in both letter and spirit.
Over the last year, poaching of legislators has gone on unabashedly; beginning with Arunachal, then Uttarakhand, U.P., Manipur, Goa, Bihar, Tripura and lastly Gujarat, the home turf of the “invincible duo” of Modi and Shah. For a time it seemed that just nobody could stop the roll of the juggernaut and the role of Amit Shah, in manipulating and manoeuvring defections. BJP supporters rubbed their hands in glee, while the much maligned “secularists” looked on in hapless horror.
There is an old saying, “Pride comes before the fall”. This adage has been reaffirmed in the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections. It should also be a wake up call for fence sitters like Sharad Pawar, and Nitish Kumar who has already made the switch. Hopefully it will also have a sobering effect on the two factions of the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu.
Nobody can deny or belittle the BJP’s massive electoral victory in the Lok Sabha elections of 2014 and in UP in 2017. They were clean winners. One must also appreciate the Govt’s campaign for a Swachh Bharat and against black money. My support for the Govt ends there.
However, the unabashed poaching that the BJP has indulged in augurs ill for the future of the country; with some even contemplating to quit India before it is too late. It is well nigh impossible to prove that money would have changed hands, together with party affiliation. But the temptations of the loaves of office are more than enough to sway unscrupulous politicians. Then there is always the threat of raids from the CBI, Enforcement Directorate, Income Tax Dept etc. There could hardly be a politician who doesn’t have some skeletons in his cupboard. So the coercive threats are real.
If, despite such fraud, coercion and inducement (words freely bandied about in the so-called “Freedom of Religion” bills) the Gujarat Congress could keep its depleted flock together and make a fight of it, then it is indeed a greater victory than that of one Rajya Sabha seat. It is a ray of hope that there is still some spunk in the Congress and other professedly secular parties.
During the TV debates, the silver tongued BJP spokesperson, Sambit Patra, kept asking about the whereabouts of Rahul Gandhi. Why was he missing in action? In hindsight one might hazard a guess that Ahmed Patel won precisely because Rahul Baba was not there; else there may have been one more botched operation for the Congress. Hopefully, we citizens won’t have to think of quitting India if we can keep the political poachers and botchers at bay. And I can keep having my egg everyday, though not in the insipid poached way!
(The writer is the Founder Convenor of the Kanpur Nagrik Manch.)(Published on 14th August 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 33)