Turf Games

Almost all of the debate—Left, right and centre—is now confined within the bounds of how much judicial activism is safe for Indian parliamentary system, assuming that parliamentarians are there to represent people. Maybe, Haryana Swatantra Party is a small political outfit, having little relevance to national political drama but it is attracting attention of all political parties, national and regional alike, for the simple reason that it has filed two review petitions against the apex court’s two recent judgements disqualifying MPs and MLAs on being convicted and debarring arrested persons from contesting polls. Politicians cutting across party lines look united to reverse the Supreme Court’s ‘erroneous’ verdict and Haryana Swatantra Party takes the lead. Even the Congress-led UPA-II government  is seriously considering to approach the highest court of the country for a review, adding legitimacy to the uproar. They are also weighing options for amending laws, the Representation of People’s Act in particular, for a ‘legislative remedy’. In plain language criminalisation of politics is the order of the day and all political parties irrespective of their ideological stance, will be affected by the Supreme Court award. On an earlier occasion they also made a hue and cry about the transparency law and got united in demanding exemption from the Central Information Commission (CIC) ruling that RTI Act should be applied to six political parties, as they come under the purview of public authority, as well.

Parties need criminals and police to capture power, albeit all of them talk of people, ordinary people, day in and day out. Their united move against the judiciary’s observation is simply frightening. Parliamentarians have already shown themselves willing to sacrifice millions of people for corporate interests, they have been willing to accept the utmost degradation of parliamentary politics and culture. For them what matters is how to loot the exchequer, all in the name of development and people’s welfare. The whole country is being auctioned to corporations, domestic and global, for the construction of malls, luxury condominium, free ways, dams and nuclear plants. Wherever the masses are in motion against the sell-out, they face the ire of parliamentarians and the parties they represent, both ruling and opposition. With every passing day new social tensions are emerging because people demand to be involved in decision-making about regions they live in. And all political parties are hell bent on curbing freedom of people, so they need muscle power, legal and extra-legal coercion, to silence voice of dissent. They are ready to start gunning for democrats, liberals and progressives who stand for mass activities, for freedom and rights and get organised into broad-based forums rather than elitist party to lead.

Though the recent furore over the suspension of an IAS officer in Uttar Pradesh centres around secularism and communalism, many think, and not without reasons, the harsh step taken by the Samajwadi Party-led government of UP, was actually aimed at protecting sand Mafia. Political parties need money to keep their wheels rolling and how criminals and vested interests are being utilised to raise funds, is an open secret. SP, otherwise a notorious casteist outfit, is basically thriving on reverse casteism and minority communalism.

The accused IAS officer reportedly became a thorn in the flesh of the illegal sand mining lobby, including a section of ruling politicians. So they lost no time to describe her as a bureaucrat with anti-minority bias, fuelling communal tensions and got rid of her easily. Not that Congress party is a saint. But in this case they are batting for the beleaguered officer to keep Mulayam Singh Yadav and his SP in check and force them to fall in line whenever they need the number in parliament. Surprisingly the people of minority community didn’t raise any allegation of communal bias against her. The sand lobby did it and they had their way. Money talks and it makes sense for corrupt politicians to talk nonsense.

With the next parliamentary poll not far away, all parties are in search of issues around which they could mobilise their voters. In India secularism sells because the so-called secularists have painstakingly created a market for it. By continually locating majoritarian communalism only in the saffron brigade they just tell the half-truths and hide their dubious activities under the mask of secularism. In the Indian context, the easiest way to become a progressive without taking any responsibility to further the cause of masses, is to cry hoarse about communal danger and keep an environment of terror alive all the time.

But communalism is not without class context. The existence of religious fundamentalism in India’s body politic is not a new thing. Not is the phenomenal rise of religious right in some parts of the country is accidental. Globali-sation has its pitfalls. More they talk of reforms, more they invite miseries for the marginalised and pave the way for further criminalisation of politics. While Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram is hopeful of a growth rate of 5.5 to 6 percent in the current fiscal, up from 5 percent a year ago, Steel Minister Veni Prasad Verma says recession in the global steel market may be the reason for pull out of POSCO from Karnataka, not from Orissa and Arcelor Mittal from Orissa. And Manmohan Singh’s ambitions plan to increase India’s steel capacity form the present 90 MT to 300 MT by 2015 now sounds ludicrous.

This growth obsession is no less responsible for creating a situation in which criminals increasingly take to politics. They decorate the world’s biggest showpiece of democracy as MPs and MLAs. Judicial activism is unlikely to generate what people have lost—faith in parties. The tragedy is that people seldom ask who they are and what they stand for.

Vol. 46, No. 6, Aug 18-24, 2013

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