What a way to end the year! We began with the threat of Annas fast and a promise to jail bharo. By the early afternoon of December 27,it was clear that Anna was a flop in Mumbai. Delhi is a city obsessed with politics; a one topic town where the pyramid ends at the top with the most powerful. Mumbai is a multi-peaked city; politics is not even the second most important hierarchy. Also as I said in my last column,repeated fasts are boring and ineffective. So it proved. The Anna Movement committed suicide on the 28th with the fast being abandoned,no jail bharo and no coherent programme.
But relieved of the Anna threat,the UPA too then committed suicide. It started with Sonia Gandhi asserting that the Congress was ready for a fight but the party put on a shambolic show. It was unprepared. Even in small things like getting all their MPs to attend the Lok Sabha,it failed (No one told them that if the Ambanis are holding court in Chorwad,then Gujarat Congress MPs are likely to stay away from Parliament).
I have rarely seen a parliamentary party so badly led,so clumsy in elementary precautions as the Congress was on December 27 in the Lok Sabha. To have to abandon the Constitutional Amendment Bill was bad enough; Rahul Gandhis game-changer fell at the first hurdle. The Congress got its Bill though because of friendly walkouts by the BSP,the SP,et al. Here the crucial element was the fact that the CEC had announced the dates of the UP polling just then. This occupied the minds of all parties. The crucial prize is the Muslim vote bank which the Congress lost when Narasimha Rao cynically let the Parivar demolish the Babri Masjid without any attempt to enforce the law of the land. Ever since,the Congress has been trying hard to win back the Muslim vote in UP and the Samajwadi Party has pocketed it. This is why the Congress introduced the minority provision in Lokpal Bill. That is also why the SP and the BSP walked out rather than support the BJP in its amendments. It did not help. The Lokpal Bill,which was passed by the Lok Sabha without the Constitutional Amendment,was a pale version of itself. The autonomy of the CBI was not guarded. But even so what followed in the next two days was disgraceful. The Rajya Sabha schedule was manipulated to leave only one day for the Bill,thus ensuring that it could not go back to the Lok Sabha with amendments. I know enough about managing parliamentary business to say that this cannot happen by accident. It is either deliberate or due to total incompetence. The Congress has so bankrupted itself that its only line of defence and attack is to blame the BJP for everything. Hence the strange doctrine that it was BJPs fault that the Congress could not get its two-thirds majority for Constitutional Amendments. If only the Congress stopped abusing the BJP day in and day out,it may win its co-operation. So why blame the BJP for its own inadequacies?
Yet,while the Congress /UPA-II was committing suicide spectacularly on the 27th (along with Anna),on the 29th,it murdered parliamentary democracy in a fit of cowardice. Lacking votes in the Rajya Sabha,it faced the TMC as one of the opponents. Mamata Banerjee is not one of my favourite politicians,but her conduct was exemplary and her amendments were cogent. The Congress has a centralising tendency which crushes regional autonomy and any diversity. Times have changed since 1947 and States have now their own power and identity. It was federalism which hit the Congress in the Rajya Sabha,not the BJP. Incoherent in the face of this challenge,the Congress spokespersons kept on parroting their anti-BJP message.
In the final half hour,the Congress orchestrated a noisy riot to avoid any vote and prevented the Rajya Sabha from functioning. All because it could not face losing votes which it surely would have. An unruly riot replaced parliamentary deliberation. This is the way democracy begins to end as strong arm tactics replace arguments and votes. It was parliamentary democracy which was murdered by the Congress by midnight 29th.
The Lokpal Bill is dead. How long will UPA-II live?
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