Posts Tagged ‘Rajya Sabha’

CHURUMURI POLL: Is BJP guilty of ‘arrogance’?

7 March 2013

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Replying to the motion of thanks to the President’s address in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, prime minister Manmohan Singh was unusually belligerent, invoking memories of 22 July 2008, when he spoke in a similar vein after the UPA had won a controversial vote in favour of the civilian nuclear deal on which he had staked all.

Five years ago, he had said:

“The Leader of Opposition, L.K. Advani has chosen to use all manner of abusive objectives to describe my performance. He has described me as the weakest Prime Minister, a nikamma PM, and of having devalued the office of PM. To fulfill his ambitions, he has made at least three attempts to topple our government. But on each occasion his astrologers have misled him. This pattern, I am sure, will be repeated today. At his ripe old age, I do not expect Advani to change his thinking. But for his sake and India’s sake, I urge him at least to change his astrologers so that he gets more accurate predictions of things to come.”

Yesterday, days after Narendra Damodardas Modi said the PM was only a “nightwatchman“, the PM said:

“In 2009, they (the BJP) fielded their Iron Man Advaniji against the lamb that Manmohan Singh is and we all know what the result was. The BJP will lose again because of its arrogance…. I am convinced that if people look at our record, they would repeat what they did in 2004 and 2009.”

The PM’s “aggression” has caught many by surprise. Coming a day after Rahul Gandhi‘s admission that becoming prime minister was not his life-objective, there is even talk that this was as close as Manmohan Singh could come to bidding for candidacy for a third successive term as Prime Minister.

Questions: Is the prime minister’s charge of arrogance against the BJP valid? Or is he merely venting his frustration? Is it possible, just possible, that Manmohan Singh could be proved right again? Or is this just a pipe dream?

Infographic: courtesy The Telegraph

How Sonia has taken Congress beyond sloganism

6 August 2012

Prabhu Chawla, editorial director of the New Indian Express, in the Sunday Standard:

“It’s a perfect picture of perfect politics—a Sikh Prime Minister accompanied by a Christian defence minister and a Dalit home minister.

“When the monsoon session of Parliament starts this week, an erudite Sikh economist and a former Dalit police inspector—the new home minister—would occupy the first two seats in the first row of the Treasury benches. It will also have Defence Minister A.K. Antony.

“The two Houses of Parliament are presided over by a Dalit—Meira Kumar (Lok Sabha)—and an articulate Muslim—Hamid Ansari (Rajya Sabha). Never since Independence have the top legislative and executive posts been held by a combination of minorities and socially backward leaders.

“It was not mere political accident that led to the creation of a hierarchy, which was heavily loaded against the upper classes who always claimed to be born rulers. From Jawaharlal Nehru to Rajiv Gandhi, the Gandhi parivar was the darling of the minorities and the Dalits. It lost most of this support after the 1984 Sikh massacre and the Babri Masjid demolition.

“Ever since Sonia Gandhi took over the reins of the Congress in 1998, the party has been undergoing an invisible social transformation. Both Indira and Rajiv believed in sloganism. However, for the past 14 years, Sonia has been silently working according to plan to change the social character of the government and the party.

“She may have allowed the urban elite to dominate the Council of Ministers, but her long-term agenda to create and promote new leaders from the minorities and Dalits is finally acquiring shape.”

Read the full article: Sonia’s new umbrella

CHURUMURI POLL: Abdul Kalam for President?

20 April 2012

It is a reflection of the current state of Indian politics that even as boring an exercise as the presidential election has all the markings of a heart-stopping show, which, to use the sage words of Ravi Shastri in an IPL season, “can go all the way down to the wire”.

The elections are still two months away, but the battlelines are getting drawn between the UPA and NDA, with more than a few aspiring (and perspiring) partypoopers lining up alongside. Result: Hopes of a “consensus” in the “national interest” are quickly getting “elusive”.

The Congress-led UPA, whose electoral victories are few and far between, obviously wants its candidate (vice-president Hamid Ansari, according to the prevailing wisdom) to get in, especially with general elections due in 2014. Ansari is suave, erudite, secular, has friends on both sides of the political fence, and oozes plenty of presidential air.

The problem is his conduct as chairman of the Rajya Sabha in the Lok Pal debate—when he called of the session without giving time for a vote—which seems to have rubbed the BJP on the wrong side.

Worse, as a “left wing intellectual” Ansari is anathema to the current diva of Indian politics, Mamata Banerjee, who is part of the UPA. She, it appears, is talking with Mulayam Singh Yadav of the Samajawadi Party and exploring the possibility of propping up former president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam once again. Mulayam it was who had first suggested Kalam’s name in 2002.

Kalam’s name did the rounds at the end of his first term in 2007, but when the parties couldn’t reach a consensus, he dropped out. “Kalam Iyer” has given no indication that he is interested in a fresh tenure but by floating his name at this juncture, regional parties like Trinamool are giving every indication of a faceoff between a Tamil Muslim and a UP Muslim.

Questions: Will Kalam agree to enter the presidential race again? Should he? Does he stand a chance when the numbers are loaded against the Opposition? Could he end up becoming a pawn in the hands of small parties? Or, should the UPA consider him as the “consensus” candidate this time round given his role in defusing the Koodankulam anti-nuclear protests?

If it’s summer, it’s time for a nice Cauvery row!

5 April 2012

The Cauvery as viewed through a fish-eye lens at the Krishnaraja Sagar (KRS) dam, near Mysore, in September 2011. Photo: Karnataka Photo News

ROHIT BATNI RAO writes from Bangalore: Come summer and the two south Indian states, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, inevitably start the year’s quota of dialogue on Cauvery river water sharing and people get soaked in political arguments about water related negotiations and political engineering or the lack of them.

This has become a pattern etched in stone, with the two States repeatedly being pushed into the arena by the sheer failure of political machinery on all three sides of the table—the two riparian states and the Centre.

This year the cry heard in some Karnataka voices is the need for a national (river) water sharing policy stemming from an apparent belief that such a ‘national policy’ could magically uncoil the tension among riparian states just because a third party, the Union government, proclaiming itself to be just and equal, when given the funnel, will help direct the waters to the riparian states in a fair manner.

That is pure fiction.

Regardless of the fairness in this deal between States and the Union, these are the things that need to be deeply pondered about:

# (River) water sharing between states is a characteristically local problem, limited to the interests of the riparian states and the people within them directly influenced by the river waters. A solution to this had rather not come from outside of the problem domain for those would not really address the problem!

# The farther removed a government is that is arbitrating river water sharing between states, the little it can do to benefit the riparian states, and the lesser jsut and equal its policies and decisions come across to some of them. ‘The reason why this is so often the case is that bureaucrats and technicians base themselves mainly on political considerations external to the region in question: the needs of the local population rarely feature at all’ (pp 161). Hence the Union government which is further removed than the governments of the riparian states is much poorly disposed to do justice to these states. (In fact it is better disposed to favor either of the states over the other!)

# The strong adverse impact such remotely-designed policies bear on the hydrology of various river basins in question. Historical tribunals of such remote origins and their verdicts on river water sharing in India have proven this point amply.

Keen on catching up on this debate?

Here’s a trivia (along with my interpretation) I thought we’d rather help ourselves with before we dive-in, hoping it’ll expose whatever sense exists in this argument (about the consequences of a national river water sharing policy).

1.) The preamble to the Indian Constitution offers justice (social, economic and political) and equality (of status and of opportunity) to the citizens of India.

Literally interpreting: Among other things. the citizens of this republic are secured social, economic and political justice. Likewise, the citizens have also been secured their equality of status and of opportunity in this sovereign democratic republic.

2.) Item 56 of the Seventh Schedule of our constitution places regulation and development of inter-State rivers and river valleys under the Union List. This officially strips the riparian states of their (otherwise natural) political right to regulation and development of the rivers flowing through the respective states.

How can political justice be secured by stripping one of the rights to govern oneself, to develop oneself?

3) Karnataka and Tamil Nadu elect 12 and 18 members to the Rajya Sabha respectively and to the Lok Sabha they elect 28 and 39 members respectively. Hence on every vote in Delhi, there are 17 extra Tamil Nadu voices roaring to mute us!

How can Karnataka’s equality of status ever be secured by such unequal representation at the Centre?

How can equality of opportunity be secured by a denial of one’s right to engage in constructive negotiations with neighboring Union members targeted at deriving mutual gains?

How can any government, removed from this list of members, secure this equality any better?

4) Article 262 of the same Constitution conveniently assumes the Centre (Union government) to be the responsible body to arbitrate disputes related to inter-state river water sharing. But it has been found in several occasions that the agreements and tribunals arrived and awarded by the centre have only provoked the States to execute massive reservoir projects purely driven by hoarding intentions laden with greed and fear.

Such greed and fear are a synthesis of non-federal siphoning of responsibilities from the States to the Centre, which is not better disposed than the states themselves to decide on matters of such immense local nature.

One instance of Andhra Pradesh describing river waters flowing into the sea as wastage (pp 331) is a clear indication of how such tribunals have bred greed & fear to dangerous proportions at the state level. Not only has this led to hydrological degradation of various river basins, but also led to intra-state conflicts  (pp 14) not unseen till then.

5) The battle between state and central politics complicates the equation.

A national party allying with local parties of either riparian state is inclined to pamper its ally state (TN for example) with a better deal in its tribunal thereby starving its own victorious state (Kar for eg.) of precious water, which is later lured with other political mirages like ministries and such other sihi-tindi (confectionery)!!

Of special importance in this context is the wide gap in quality of local political representation in Karnataka and Taminadu, with Karnataka falling severely short of good local representation, which in turn severely handicaps its ability to negotiate deals in Delhi.

These items vividly elucidate the reasons why central overruling on inter-state river water sharing could be hazardous to the river basin itself, and hence to the riparian states in question. But it is seriously dependent upon public education and political acumen and will-power in the system if strong cries have to rise, demanding decentralization of power with respect to inter-state river water sharing. Like someone said, the next big war in this world will be fought over water.

Let’s not sow such seeds that can only speed up this war crop!

Also read: Should Bollywood have a place in Mysore Dasara?

What the DMK’s muruku did to the PM’s teeth

3 July 2011

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: A number of personalities, and the print and electronic media, have accused the Prime Minister of maintaining a stony silence on important policy matters and using secrecy as a weapon when the administration was falling apart all around him.

This is rather unusual for a former professor of the London school of economics and a former finance minister. There was no other way he could have communicated with his students or his colleagues, least of all delivered the Union budget, without opening his mouth.

I wondered what had really happened to him over the years and here a stroke of luck helped me.

When I was with my dentist friend at Green Park, his uncle dropped in to spend the evening there. I was pleasantly surprised to learn that uncleji was in the panel of doctors who had treated our PM for the last five years.

Here was a chance to find out about our PM from someone who has looked deep into his mouth.

“Why is our PM mostly silent on all issues?”

“He was not silent at all during UPA-I. During the vote of confidence motion moved by the Left parties during the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal, his incisors and premolars had partially decayed. He couldn’t chew on any question that needed his left molar. To reduce his pain, I had hidden some swabs of cotton dipped in dettol on the left side of his mouth with the result nobody could understand what he spoke. He mumbled though his speech amidst thunderous applause by Congress members. In fact I had suggested to the UPA chairperson to issue a whip that every member must clap throughout his speech!”

“Oh, I see.”

“In fact the other day when he went to both Lok Sabha and the Upper House, his teeth on the left canine was colliding directly with the one below causing a guttural sound and to those around PM this would have looked he was gnashing his teeth. Soon enough he was tearing Lal Krishna Advaniji to pieces as he had called him a puppet Prime Minister.”

“You seem to have read the PM’s teeth like a book and so his moods too.”

Shayad. Again during the nuclear bill debate his right molar had grown wild and was directly challenging the teeth around the periphery. You could call this an unhinged and untrammeled growth, the one that comes from supreme power.  I filed and cut his teeth to size, so to say, and I found his speech on the nuclear bill which started with a supreme air of arrogance had come down next day by several notches to one of decency once the sharp edges were filed.”

“What has happened of late?” my friend asked his uncle.

“When he spoke of the compulsions of coalition politics, which he pronounces as collision, he was simply stating the facts.  He had bit hard in to the muruku brought by some DMK members from Saravana Bhavan which tore his gum off the dental arch and hit the roof. Till this day CBI has not cracked this case whether it was an act of culinary negligence or a willful and deliberate attack on his teeth for not helping its corrupt members rotting in jail.”

“You haven’t answered our question. Why is he mostly silent these days,” we asked simultaneously.

“I don’t think it has to do with his teeth. My psychiatrist friend in the panel, who watches the PM all the time, was telling me it may have to do with his job security and some rebellion brewing within the party,” concluded the dentist.

CHURUMURI POLL: Will you vote for Hema Malini?

27 February 2011

The BJP’s decision to nominate the former dancer-actor Hema Malini as the party’s nominee for the Rajya Sabha polls from Karnataka is now a fait accompli. In itself, appointing an “outsider” is neither unprecedented, unconstitutional nor unwelcome. Parties and politicians have their own requirements (seemingly political, but usually financial) and there are other institutional and individual dynamics at play.

The lawyer Ram Jethmalani has represented the Janata Dal, Shiv Sena and BJP from three different States, because his legal eye was required by parties and personalities in them. Moneybags like the stud farm owner M.A. M. Ramaswamy and the mobile phone operator turned media baron Rajeev Chandrasekhar get in because, well, they can afford to. The Kannadiga owner of Garuda mall (Uday Garudachar) tried Bihar but failed.

Another reason is that many politicians stand no hope in hell of being elected given the role cash, caste, community and other imponderables play in our politics. Prime minister Manmohan Singh represents Assam because South Delhi, a prime beneficiary of his reforms, didn’t think the great reformer was worthy of their vote. The Kannadiga Jairam Ramesh represents Andhra Pradesh; Venkaiah Naidu, a Telugu, represents Karnataka.

However, Hema Malini’s candidature doesn’t sit so easily in such silos. Au contraire, it raises some fundamental questions about the kind of candidates parties push through the back door; about the track record of candidates and their ability or lack thereof to shoulder the expectations of the people they represent; about how the hands of legislators are tied by the whip in what is supposed to be a democratic setup. Etcetera.

For starters, is a rich dancer-actor, who has previously represented the party in the RS, the only “artiste” the BJP could think of for the State? The playwright Girish Karnad says the ‘Dream Girlhadn’t asked a single question in her earlier term. Words like “dud, daddi, buddi illa, inefficient” have been freely used by Kannada “buddhijeevis” to describe the BJP candidate. Plus there are murmurs that her candidature doesn’t have the backing of all BJP legislators and that has she been imposed on them to quell the dissidence.

To be sure, Karnataka has been through this debate before, when businessman Rajeev Chandrasekhar was pitted against the literatteur U.R. Anantha Murthy. Then, too, similar questions had flowed forth. But it tells us something about the worldview of Basanti of Sholay when she promises to take special interest to develop Ramanagaram. Was the BJP incapable of finding a writer, dancer, intellectual who could earn the legislators’ vote other than Ayesha Bi?

It’s easy to blame our woes our legislators, the party whip, and the system, for these infirmities.

Here’s a straightforward, counterfactual question: If you could take part in a Rajya Sabha election, if you weren’t bound by the party whip, would you vote for an outsider, “dud, daddi, buddi illa, inefficient” celebrity like Hema Malini, party affiliation notwithstanding? Or would you back a home-grown intellectual, a drama and theatre expert with his ear to the ground like Dr K. Maralusiddappa, party affiliation notwithstanding?

A continuing civilisation that’s forever churning

25 August 2010

CPM member of Parliament, Sitaram Yechury, making his case for the Nalanda university, in the Rajya Sabha:

“We are the churning crucible of human civilisation, and that is what these lands represented. Various tendencies have come; we have assimilated various tendencies, and on that basis, we have advanced. And today the BBC describes, in its Epic History series, India as the only continuing civilisation in the history of human civilisation anywhere in the world.

“I think we have come to a stage in India where this churning crucible that is called the Indian civilisation has a variety and divergence that is unknown and unconceivable anywhere in the world— from the Kashmiriyat to the Dravidian civilisation to the pari mahal, where Dara Shikoh wrote that famous treatise called Majma-ul-Bahrain, where he was talking of the synthesis of Sufism and Upanishads, mingling of the two oceans….

“We must remember that we are moving into a higher plane of human intellect and civilisation. Remember the final paragraph of Swami Vivekananda‘s declaration at Chicago. He says, ‘I take pity from the bottom of my heart on those who believe in the destruction of someone else’s religion for the purpose of his own religion. In the final analysis it shall be inscribed on the banner of every religion: assimilation not destruction.’ That is the philosophy with which we have advanced and come to this stage.”

Read more of his speech here: ‘Churning crucible of civilisation’

CHURUMURI POLL: A Kannadiga MP for Bihar?

14 June 2010

Should an “outsider” represent us, is a question that dogs linguistically resurgent Karnataka whenever a Rajya Sabha election is round the corner. Should a Telugu (Venkaiah Naidu) represent Karnataka? Should a Malayalee (Rajeev Chandrasekhar) represent Karnataka? Should a Sindhi (Ram Jethmalani) represent Karnataka?

But should a Kannadiga represent Bihar?

That’s exactly what the promoter of Bangalore’s Garuda Mall, B.G. Uday alias Uday Garudachar, is seeking to do by throwing his hat into the Rajya Sabha ring from the State. Bihar has five vacant seats and Uday, son of former Bangalore police chief B.N. Garudachar, has entered the fray as an “independent” candidate.

“Bihar is a part of my great country. I thought the state apt for making my political debut in electoral politics,” Uday has said in an interview. He says he he was swayed by the fact that Bihar was a state badly in need of investment and that his election would helps its cause. “Even Gandhiji started his struggle from here.”

Uday’s nomination was proposed by ten MLAs, including three Congress MLAs, and the independent MLA man who pushed his nomination has been quoted as saying the “great entrepreneur” will bring investments to his State. Already there are reports indicate that independent and BSP MLAs may have fallen “prey” to the lure of the “behind the scene promise of lucre” from the rich trader.

Uday, who counts the filmstar politician Ambarish among his partners, declared assets of Rs 20 crore at the time of filing nominations, which was accompanied by considerable drama. He flew to Patna in a chartered plane and two SUVs were used to block his entry into the Bihar Assembly to file his nomintion papers which were delivered to him at the last minute by a scooter.

Question: If it is not OK for “outsiders” to stand from Karnataka, is it OK for an “outsider” to stand from Bihar? And is Bihar’s development really the reason for Uday Garudachar to stand fromthat State?

CHURUMURI POLL: Dinakaran, fit for Sikkim HC?

9 April 2010

After months of dithering, l’affaire Justice P.D. Dinakaran has suddenly gained steam. First, The Hindu reported that the Supreme Court collegium had decided to ask the tainted chief justice of the Karnataka high court to go on leave as he was not performing any judicial work since December, hampering the court’s activities.

Then, after “reports” that Dinakaran was going slow, giving the impression that he was defying the collegium’s advice, the law minister Veerappa Moily has made bold to remind him that “the hand of law is long enough to catch anyone” and that Dinakaran is “neither above or beyond the reach of law”.

Meaning: Justice Dinakaran will have to go on leave as advised pending the completion of an inquiry as part of the impeachment proceedings launched by the Rajya Sabha chairman Hamid Ansari “on charges of land-grabbing, corruption and abuse of judicial office”.

Now, Dinakaran has been transferred to Sikkim High Court. This is apparently being done so that the chief justice slated to replace him in Karnataka (Justice Madan B. Lokur) is not placed in a piquant situation should Justice Dinakaran cancel his leave and return before the inquiry is complete, etc.

Questions: If Justice Dinkaran is unfit for the Supreme Court, can he be fit for Karnataka? If Justice Dinakaran is unfit for Karnataka, can he be fit for Sikkim or any other State? Is north-east India justified in seeing this posting as yet another sign of apathy shown by mainland India?

Full coverage: The strange case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dalit Dinakaran above the law?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC—II?

‘Integrity + competence + judicial temperament’

Yella not OK, but Supreme Court silent yaake?

The brazen conduct of Justice Dinakaran

The strange case of Justice Dinakaran (continued)

Audi alteram partem? Hear the other side out?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Justice Dinakaran be impeached?

Is CJI K.G. Balakrishnan right about P.D. Dinakaran?

CHURUMURI POLL: Sonia, smarter than Indira?

14 March 2010

The passing of the women’s reservation bill by the Rajya Sabha last week is the beginning of its journey to become law, not the end. It still has to be passed by the Lok Sabha and be ratified by the majority of the assemblies before it becomes an Act. Nevertheless, there can be little doubt that the journey has begun, never mind the route and time it will take.

UPA chairman and Congress president Sonia Gandhi has justly cornered much of the credit for pushing the landmark bill through despite opposition from within her own party and across the aisle, although its impact on the Manmohan Singh government will only be known in the days and weeks to come—and although Sonia wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without support from the BJP and the Left parties.

The media has variously interpreted Sonia’s role in piloting the bill. One TV channel saw it as the emergence of a “firmer” Sonia, in the wake of recent reports that she was stepping back. A weekly newsmagazine asks the question whether Sonia is turning out to be smarter than her mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi.

The reasoning is: the foreign-born Sonia has managed to resurrect a crumbling century-old party, put it back in power (twice), silently answered her critics, gracefully declined office, put a “professional” to run the country, been less pushy about her children Rahul Gandhi and Priyanka Gandhi, and above all pushed pathbreaking social legislation like the national rural guarantee scheme, right to information, right to education, and now the bill.

All this, presumably, being in contrast to Indira, who was at the centre of a party split, imposed the Emergency (with censorship), unleashed her son Sanjay Gandhi, mouthed cliches like garibi hatao, silently cultivated fundamentalist forces like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, and then launched Operation Bluestar.

In other words, outside of the triumph in the Bangladesh War, Indira Gandhi is seen as a largely negative influence, although some opinion polls find her to be the best PM India has had. In contrast, Sonia Gandhi, although not occupying the high office (therefore enjoying power without responsibility) is likely to be seen by posterity much more kindly than her mother-in-law.

Question: Is Sonia Gandhi turning out to be smarter than Indira Gandhi?

CHURUMURI POLL: Impact of 33% women’s quota?

9 March 2010

Now that the historic 108th amendment to the Constitution of India, guaranteeing 33% of seats for women in the lower house of Parliament and the Assemblies, has been passed by the Rajya Sabha, the beginning of the end of male domination of Indian politics, with all its attendant biases, prejudices and weaknesses, is just one step away.

At least, in theory.

Yet, while the landmark nature of the move—a rare confluence of right, left and centrist political formations—is something to salute in the short term, a big question mark hangs over its medium to long term impact. And we are not talking the usual cliche of the reservation being misused by political families, etc.

A huge question hangs over the “house of the people”.

In the Lok Sabha, out of the 543 seats that need to be warmed by the representatives of the people, 122 are already reserved for the scheduled castes and tribes (SC/STs). Now a further 181 will be reserved for women. So, a nation of a billion plus people will have exactly 282 seats open for the general category. Ditto in the state assemblies, where out of the 4,109 seats, 1,167 are reserved for SC/STs and 1,370 for women, leaving 2,942 for the general category.

Doubtless, the women’s quota will alter the established power matrix, doubtless it will bring a “soft touch” to the legislative process, doubless it will give one-half of the population a voice, doubtless it will bring more germane development issues to the table, etc, but in the medium to long term, could such a small number of seats in the general category have a deleterious impact on our democracy?

Will the size of the Lok Sabha and the assemblies need to be increased to give adequate representation to general category candidates who are not women or SC/STs? Or is this just a fashionable way of airing the same bias and prejudice that held up the women’s bill for 14 years?

CHURUMURI POLL: Is CJI right about Dinakaran?

18 January 2010

On the very day Rajya Sabha chairman and vice president Hamid Ansari was initiating the impeachment process against Karnataka high court chief justice P.D. Dinakaran by constituting a three-member committee of experts to probe the charges, the chief justice of India (CJI) K.G. Balakrishnan has said something rather strange.

In an interview with Bhupendra Chaubey of CNN-IBN, the CJI has indirectly questioned the timing of the charges levelled against Justice Dinakaran.

“I can say one thing: there was not a single allegation when he was a judge of the Madras High Court; there was not a single allegation when he became Chief Justice of High Court of Karnataka in August 2008. Till his name was recommended by the Supreme Court collegium for elevation there was not a single allegation. Not a member of the bar raised any objection, nothing. All these allegations have been raised when his name was suggested to be elevated,” the CJI has said.

Questions: Is the CJI right? Does the timing of the charges indicate that Dinakaran is being targetted and vilified to block his elevation to the Supreme Court? Does the fact the charges have been made only now and not before absolve him? Or does it not? Should the impeachment process and the probe into the allegations go on regardless of the timing? Or should it be called off since the CJI has given him the benefit of the doubt?

Full coverage: The strange case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dalit Dinakaran above the law?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC—II?

‘Integrity + competence + judicial temperament’

Yella not OK, but Supreme Court silent yaake?

The brazen conduct of Justice Dinakaran

The strange case of Justice Dinakaran (continued)

Audi alteram partem? Hear the other side out?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Justice Dinkaran be impeached?

CHURUMURI POLL: Will Dinakaran be impeached?

21 December 2009

The case against Justice P.D. Dinakaran, the chief justice of the Karnataka high court, is the first in the history of post-independent India to be played out almost entirely in the age of 24×7 media.

While there have been dozens of judges with a question mark against them and while only two of them have had the infamy of having the impeachment process initiated against them (Justice V. Ramaswami and Justice Soumitra Sen), Justice Dinakaran has exclusively had his dirty linen washed in public.

Yet, slimy politicians will be slimy politicians, just as perhaps sleazy judges will be sleazy judges.

While 76 members of the Rajya Sabha have signed the 55-page impeachment petition, which the vice-president Hamid Ansari has admitted, the issue has quickly attained a pro-Dalit, anti-Dalit tone, just as it had when the issue first broke. Some Congress Dalit MPs have criticised the impeachment move, saying Justice Dinakaran was being hounded because he was a Dalit. And then that sturdy pillar of rectitude, Uttar Pradesh chief minister, Mayawati, has lent her weight to the issue.

In some ways, the current situation is no different from 1990, when Justice Ramaswami’s impeachment was seen as a plot against a south Indian. The Congress eventually abstained from the voting, rendering the impeachment void. However, the key difference in Justice Dinakaran’s case is the media play it has got. While the Congress is making the right noises today, there is no guarantee it will stick with this course.

Questions: Will Justice P.D. Dinakaran be eventually impeached? Or will the Dalit card help him out? Will the impeachment process drag on by which time he will retire “honourably”?

Full coverage: The strange case of Justice P.D. Dinakaran

CHURUMURI POLL: Is Dalit Dinakaran above the law?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC?

If he is unfit for Supreme Court, how is he fit for Karnataka HC—II?

‘Integrity + competence + judicial temperament’

Yella not OK, but Supreme Court silent yaake?

The brazen conduct of Justice Dinakaran

The strange case of Justice Dinakaran (continued)

Audi alteram partem? Hear the other side out?

Everybody loves a good, cheap, vegetarian thali*

17 August 2009

thali2

When the average worth of each MP in the current Lok Sabha is Rs 5.1 crore, when the average assets of each minister in sadda Manmohan‘s team is Rs 7.5 crore, a good question to ask is if crorepatis can really relate to the woes of the crores of people they represent.

The flip side to the argument is provided by the Indian Express today, which asks if the honourable members of Parliament (MPs) who are worth so much can understand the travails of ordinary Indians whose backs are bent double by soaring prices of essential food items if they eat for so less.

Reason: the astonishing subsidy that MPs—and others including, yes, media people—enjoy at the canteens at the Parliament House complex that it can almost cause you indigestion.

Vegetarian thali: Rs 12.50

Non-vegetarian thali: Rs 22

Sada dosa: Rs 2.50

Masala dosa: Rs 4

Dal (assorted): Rs 1.50

Soup with one slice: Rs 5.50

Four chapatis: Rs 2

Boiled rice: Rs 2

Churumuri: Free

OK, not the last one.

How much do you pay for your dosa and thali?

Read the full article: Why soaring prices don’t worry this House

Also read: Did Marie Antoinette really say “let them eat cake”?

* Article tools sponsored by taketheirtrip.com. Photograph used for illustration purposes only. Actual parliament thali may differ depending on the day of the week or the size of MP.

18 things you might like to know about Jairam

19 July 2009

Jairam Ramesh is the ultimate outsider looking in. Born in Chikamagalur but not quite a Kannadiga. Tam-Brahm but brought up in Bombay. An engineer by education but better known as an economist. A columnist and television anchor, but not quite a journalist. Half-Kannadiga, half-Tamil but now a Rajya Sabha member from Andhra Pradesh.

Yet, while the media likes to count Jairam along with S.M. Krishna, Veerappa Moily, K.H. Muniyappa and Malikarjuna Kharge as part of “Team Karnataka” in the Union council of ministers, little is known about the man from coffeeland who possesses the most over-sized pate in Indian politics and a mot juste for every occasion.

Minister of state for commerce in the previous Manmohan Singh team who had glass doors installed at his office (“because he has much to hide!” in the words of a long-time political observer), Jairam is now minister for environment and forests. In the first 100 days, the wordsmith has already crossed swords with three chief ministers, B.S. Yediyurappa (over the Bellary mines issue), Ashok Chavan (over the location of the new airport in Bombay), and Sheila Dixit (over relaxing the ban on plastic covers).

So, who is Jairam Ramesh?

***

1) Son of Prof C.K. Ramesh, who taught structural engineering at IIT Bombay, where Jairam later went on to study “girlfriend repellent” mechanical engineering. Studious Jairam often was pelted with chalk by his B. Tech classmates. His crime? He wouldn’t walk out with the backbenchers even if the professor wasn’t in.

2) Married to K.R. Jayashree, daughter of former IAS officer K.V. Ramanathan. The couple have two sons, one of whom is studying law at Oxford. Although a devout Hindu, he is also seriously into Buddhism. Suffice to say, Jairam’s personal life is the topic of more than ordinary interest in the family. His mother Sridevi Ramesh lives on Chord Road in Bangalore.

gossip_sujan_park_200907063) Jairam did a brief stint at Business India, once the pre-eminent business fortnightly owned by Ashok Advani. That began his association with tiger researcher Valmik Thapar‘s sister Malavika Singh, the eminence grise of Business India who launched the company’s now-defunct business channel, BiTV. Jairam was part of Malavika Singh gossip sessions with such worthies as Navin Patnaik, now Orissa chief minister, in attendance, and now carries the tag of being an ace gossip.

4) Former planning commission member Abid Hussain has been quoted as saying  “Jairam has the highest IQ I have ever come across in anybody and energy levels that 10 horses can’t match.”

5) Jairam dropped out of a PhD program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) after getting a master of science (MS) in public management at the Heinz College at Carnegie-Mellon University in 1977 to take a job at the World Bank.

Quotable quote: “The rate of growth of any economy is inversely proportional to the number of economists. Look at South Korea, look at India. South Korea produces no economists, but it has three times the growth rate as India, which produces three times the number of economists.”

6) Upon his return, he did a stint as a backroom boy with economist Lovraj Kumar and was an Officer on Special Duty in V.P. Singh government. He became a key fixture in Manmohan Singh‘s finance ministry in the Narasimha Rao regime. As an example of the licence-quota-permit raj that Singh unshackled, Jairam has said his father waited 15 years to buy a car.

As long back as 1979, he gave a clear indication of his main interests by co-editing a book titled Mobilising Technology for World Development.

moodindigo7) Jairam Ramesh and Infosys co-founder Nandan Nilekani, both excellent quizzers, were part of the 1975 Mood Indigo team at IIT Bombay. Jairam was the man Nandan tapped when the Infosys IPO was undersubscribed in 1993. Nandan asked Jairam to put Rs 10,000 in the company; Jairam didn’t and calls the move “the single biggest mistake of my life“.

8) Has a deep interest in history and when he wrote a column for The Times of India, revealingly chose the pseudonym Kautilya. He says he used to spend two-three days researching the topic: “Most columnists in India write for senior government officials to read. They write to be noticed by the government. And they write in a language only they can understand. I am writing for an ordinary person who wants to know more and more about economics. I try to de-mystify economics and issues. It is not an easy thing.”

9) Workaholic Jairam hosted a Sunday evening business roundtable on Doordarshan in the early 1990s called Crossfire produced by the Ananda Bazaar Patrika group, and a daily morning show called Business Breakfast on Star Plus.

The legend goes that for 480 days he woke up at 3.30 am, read the morning papers, and hosted the programme. He would arrive at the studios in a Fab India kurta and pyjama, remove the kurta, and host the show with a shirt and the pyjama. He was also famously known to be addicted to mint with a hole, finishing off a couple of packets a day.

miles-davis10) His North Block office as was famous for the music that emanated from it all day. Jairam, who counts music among his interests, has a huge collection of music CDs, from Kumar Gandharva to Miles Davis.

11) In the early 1990s, Jairam told friends there were four reasons why he thought he wouldn’t make it as a politician: “I am Brahmin, I am South Indian, I am good-looking, I am brilliant.”

12) Jairam is an Iyengar and wags say the line “this website is a public service so that you can leverage my knowledge and experience,” as proof that the three forms of the human ego are I-Iyer-Iyengar. Mani Shankar Aiyar, with whom Jairam fell foul early, is reported to have said, “The only thing Jairam Ramesh is interested in is Jairam Ramesh.”

Both Mani and Jairam later fell foul of Sanjaya Baru, the journalist turned media advisor to the prime minister. Jairam is seen to have played a key role in the installation of Harish Khare as Baru’s replacement this time around.

13) Jairam Ramesh fancies himself as a wordsmith, but is notorious for shooting his mouth off with amazing regularity. Yet, something in his persona endears him to the powers that be in the Congress first family who are famously not known to tolerate dissent.

He told Asiaweek magazine in 2000: “Two years down the line [after the Congress' 1998 election defeat], Sonia Gandhi is seen as a loser and the morale in the party is very low… People who saw her as a ticket to nirvana now see her as a ticket to narak [hell]…. If things go the way they are, the Congress will not come back to power for another 50 years.” He also famously rubbed off Gandhi family retainee, Ambika Soni, on the wrong side on the Ram Sethu issue, but without sustaining any visible injury.

14) Jairam is known to draft many of Sonia Gandhi‘s English speeches. He wrote and re-wrote the UPA’s Common Minimum Programme in 2004 on his Fujitsu notebook at 99 South Avenue six times. He now uses a Sony Viao laptop.

15) Created a diplomatic boo-boo in 2006 by trashing the India-Brazil-South Africa summit in an interview with Patricia Campos Mello of the influential Estado do Sao Paulo daily, even as the prime minister was winging his way to the Brazilian capital. Later, when asked “why” by a veteran political correspondent, Jairam is said to have said: “But she was so beautiful.”

16) Although he served as deputy chairman of the Karnataka State Planning Board, chief minister S.M. Krishna is said to have refused to give him a Rajya Sabha seat, because, according to a well-known quizzer, “SMK has a slight aversion for bright people”.

Quotable quote-II: “The early generation of our founding fathers were all educated in England. Our tragedy is that not many crossed the Atlantic. In fact, there were only two of our leaders who crossed the Atlantic, and they made a substantial difference to India.

17) Although he is 55, Jairam has a formidable reputation as a “whiz-kid” and “backroom boy” in the Congress, and is even credited for having his finger on the political pulse, by pushing the Congress’s aam admi slogan in 2004. However, Jairam, who served as deputy chairman of the Karnataka State Planning Board, is said to have predicted 120 seats for S.M. Krishna‘s Congress in the assembly polls. He got 65.

zheng he18) Zheng He, a Muslim eunuch admiral who headed a Chinese fleet which reached the Malabar coast of India in the early 15th century (some have argued he reached America, before Columbus, as well) is a particular favourite with Jairam. He appears several times in his book Making sense of Chindia.

Photographs: courtesy Bharatwaves, Scott Adams, Outlook, Flickr

Also read: 12 things no one’s telling us about namma Nandu

Boys will be boys, MPLADS will be MPLADS

27 June 2009

E.R. RAMACHANDRAN writes: The Members of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) is a very popular scheme among all MPs irrespective of the party or caste they belong to.

Under the scheme introduced by the P.V. Narasimha Rao government in 1993, each MP has Rs 2 crore per annum at his disposal, to spend on projects in his or constituency. The money is not directly given to the MP, but routed through the deputy comissioner or district collector.

Naturally lads will be lads, and MP lads being more so, they happily squander the pocket money the way they want and routinely end up short. Result: there is now a proposal to hike the MPLADS allocation to Rs 5 crore per annum.

There is a ministry of statistics and programme implementation which keeps tabs on the activities of MPLADS and how the money doled out by the government is used, abused or misused.

I had a chance to meet the Programme Implementation Group (PIG) chief who was quite earnest to talk on the subject.

“I am glad there is at least one organisation to keep a check on the drain of funds from MP quarters.”

“MPLADS has many subsets not many are aware of. There is a Members of Parliament Kickback India Development scheme (MPKIDS). Here the junior MPs, basically kids, are initiated by seniors as to how the system works. It is here they take up projects such as construction of bus stand, drinking water taps  in slum areas, autorickshaw stand etc. Poor MPs have to give massive kickbacks to contractors to get the projects going,” elaborated the PIG head.

“No doubt it’s heart rending to see MPs go through such hardship,” I empathised.

“Another subset of MPLADS is Member of Parliament Fabrication, Underutilization and Nexus Development (MPFUND). Here the money involved is much more as there is a lot of fabrication involved in material or books. Underutilization is a must here and this is where politics and business meet, what we call Nexus Development. MPFUND needs money anywhere from Rs 5 crore to Rs 100 crore to see some real development. Right now they will make do with Rs 5 crore. But I am sure the finance department and PMO’s office will see the plight of MPs and double the amount every year so that there is a comfortable operating level of at least Rs 100 crore for each MP.”

“I am so happy for the info. Is there any other info you would like to share?”

“For smaller projects they use terms such as MPSYPHONS or MPJUICERS but these are for projects less than Rs one crore which they get as routine.”

“One last question, Sir. How do MPs get such huge amounts of money at such short notice in the Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha?” I asked.

“We call this MPQUICKFIX. We are not sure how this works. But we should be able to solve this by the time they are ready to table currency bundles next time,” concluded the PIG head.

Three more predictions to totally confuse you

13 May 2009

The Election Commission’s fiat against exit polls during the five phases of polling has resulted in a small cottage industry for political soothsayers in a recessionary period.

Before the “real” exit polls start rolling, three more straws in the wind:

# Rajya Sabha member Rajeev Chandrashekhar asserts no party or alliance will get a majority, but UPA’s numbers will decline from its 2004 tally vis-a-vis NDA’s.

# According to a Reuters report, bookies are giving 140 for the Congress against 125-130 for the BJP.

# Columnist Girish Nikam who claims he accurately predicted 145 for the Congress in 2004, says the party will get 173 this time, BJP 131 and Left 43.

Nikam’s reading for Karnataka: BJP 13, Congress 12, JDS3.

Also read: Churumuri predict-the-verdict contest

CHURUMURI POLL: Who will win 2009 elections?

CHURUMURI POLL: Single-largest party in 2009?

As Ravi Shastri might say, it’s a two-paced wicket

Why BJP will get 18 (or more) seats in Karnataka

Why should candidates stand from multiple seats?

31 March 2009

MOHAN NELLORE writes: There has been a long history of candidates contesting elections from more than one constituency in Indian politics for reasons of safety, prestige and pure powerplay.

This has happened in the past and this time, too, it is going to be no different.

Either you can praise the Constitution for providing such a provision.

Or you can pan it.

I, for one, believe, that this provision creates a huge hole in the Treasury, especially if a candidate is elected from one or more constituencies to either the Lok Sabha or to the Assembly. More so when the electoral rules also clearly state that an elected member can represent only one constituency and fresh elections should be held in the constituency vacated by a multiple seat winner within six months.

Allowing candidates to stand from multiple constituencies results in a waste of resources and doesn’t serve any useful purpose. It only allows our leaders to exploit the electoral system by making a mockery of democracy.

I wish to see the following amendments in our Constitution:

# Candidates shouldn’t be allowed to contest from multiple constituencies.

# Candidates should not be allowed to contest for either Parliament or the Assembly if they are already a member of either house.

# If both the above rules cannot be implemented due to any technical reasons, then a candidate winning from more than one constituency should pay for entire re-election expenses. Plus, twice the expense amount towards public and government inconvenience.

# In addition to the third point above, such person should not be allowed to contest any election in future.

This is my personal opinion.

If a candidate is so sceptical about winning chances, he/she can never be a good leader. In a Freudian sort of way, it only points to a flaw in their thoughts and their inability to convince voters.

Every voter should think twice about such contestants and should punish them so badly that this kind of candidates should never chose to come in public again.

Folks, wake up. It is our money being spent to test their fortune. Do we really need such leaders to represent us?

12 questions written in rage for Sri Shivaraj Patil

13 September 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Another Saturday, another set of serial blasts. Therefore, yet another set of questions for Union home minister Shivaraj Patil:

1) Are you going to make a fresh statement tonight, or are you just going to release photocopies of statements made (or photocopied) for previous blasts that “such incidents will not deter the government from pursuing its policy of dealing with terrorists in a resolute manner”?

2) Do you sleep well at night, especially Saturday nights? Lesser mortals like us count sheep. What do you count, the death tolls under your watch?

3) Does the thought of resignation ever cross your mind? Or is that just a handkerchief in the left pocket of your bandhgala?

4) How strongly do you favour performance-based incentives for Union ministers?

5) What does the God of 10, Janpath think of your performance (so far)?

6) And what does the frizzy-haired godman of Puttaparthi? Does he have no miracle cures for this disease?

7) Have you ever noticed your cabinet colleagues suddenly stop talking when you enter the room?

8) Are you going to single-handedly claim victory for the BJP, or do you propose to wait for the elections?

9) Is it true you are going to oppose Rajya Sabha nominations for leaders who have lost Lok Sabha elections at the next CWC meeting?

10) Sometimes are you just glad you were a Speaker in your previous assignment, because you are clearly not a doer?

11) Among all the portfolios you have held—defence, commerce, science and technology, atomic energy, electronics, space, and ocean development, civil aviation and tourism—which would you say has been the easiest?

12) Are you, by any chance, on a retainer from television channels to keep them busy on weekends?

Photograph: courtesy Mustafa Quraishi/ The Associated Press, digitally altered

Also read: The softest f****** state in the world?

CHURUMURI POLL: Should Shivaraj Patil resign?

Civilian security is a joke, and it is on you

CHURUMURI POLL: Should POTA be brought back?

With sports ministers like this, god tussi great ho

20 August 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: If the decision of the Congress party to field former chief election commissioner Manohar Singh Gill as a candidate for the Rajya Sabha in 2004 was bad enough, the move to make him a member of the Manmohan Singh ministry in the last reshuffle was worse.

Not only had a body blow been struck on the notional independence of the Election Commission, by dangling carrots before its high officers, it had handed a blanket licence to the BJP to impudently follow suit for eternity: “After all, didn’t the Congress do so too…?”

However, Gill’s record as a sports buff provided some comfort. As a mountaineer, he had trained with Everest hero Tenzing Norgay. He was a reasonable cricketer. And, at least, he was not as dogmatic as his predecessor Mani Shankar Aiyar on matters of sport.

Yet, three incidents in the last ten days give three good reasons to ponder:

# Amit Varma reports that on the day Abhinav Bindra won India’s first individual gold medal in 117 years at the Olympics, India’s Cambridge-educated sports minister grandly said on NDTV: “I congratulate myself and every other Indian.”

Yes, myself and every other Indian.

# When “The Goldfinger” returned to Delhi, The Times of India reports that Gill, who chaperoned Bindra around in the capital, suggested that while he should call on Congress president Sonia Gandhi, it was not necessary to visit the leader of the opposition, L.K. Advani.

However, it is Gill’s latest boo-boo that takes the breath away.

# When Saina Nehwal, the women’s badminton quarter-finalist at the Beijing Olympics, paid a courtesy visit on the minister, Gill greeted the Hyderabad lass heartily. But the 72-year-old minister failed to recognise her coach who was alongside.

Who are you?” Gill is reported to have asked the coach pointblank, leaving all those present dumbstruck and embarrassed.

The coach? Pullela Gopichand, one of only two Indians who have won the All-England Open championships.

Hopefully, when he bumps into Deepika Padukone during one of his many social engagements, Mr Gill won’t ask her father, “Who are you?”

Photograph: courtesy Election Commission

Also read: Say hello to Mani Shankar Aiyar for a real cock-up

Should the PM always be a member of Lok Sabha?

3 July 2008

PRITAM SENGUPTA writes from New Delhi: Plenty of reasons—good, bad, ugly, silly—have been dredged up by those supporting and opposing the Indo-US nuclear deal. But of the all points raised by those who would not like India to sign the dotted line and toe the American line, none is curiouser than the sudden doubts that have arisen in their minds on the legitimacy of the office of the prime minister.

Yes, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

For four years and more, there has been no confusion about prime minister Manmohan Singh’s status.

There were no doubts when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was unveiling the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme. There were no doubts when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was announcing farm packages and farm loan waivers. There were no doubts when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was implementing the pay panel commission’s recommendations. Etcetera.

All that was OK.

But the sight of the same Prime Minister Manmohan Singh pushing the nuclear deal has them all shuffling around nervously: Can a prime minister, they ask, who is only a Rajya Sabha member, and not an elected member of the Lok Sabha, really override the opposition of the people to the deal?

The underlying assumption here is that with the majority of members in the Lok Sabha—the house of the people—are against the nuclear deal. So, can a man who is only a representative of the States, the Rajya Sabha, ride roughshod over the voice of the people?

Even if the ruling alliance somehow cobbles up a majority in the house of the people?

In an July 1 editorial titled “Short-sighted adventurism“, The Hindu editorialised a point made by its editor N. Ram, a former collegemate of CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat, on a CNN-IBN show a few days earlier.

Curiously, it is Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has no known electoral base and holds office by virtue of being a member of the Rajya Sabha, who has been allowed to pull the trigger on the political arrangement that sustains his minority government.”

The Times of India‘s editorial advisor Gautam Adhikari provided what seemed like a fine rebuttal on the same show, hosted by Sagarika Ghose, one which Ram ducked with a smile.

“Prakash Karat has no electoral base either and is not even a member of the Rajya Sabha.”

In other words, is sauce for the Oxbridge goose not sauce for the Madras Christian College gander?

A lay reader from Madras, Amaruvi Devanathan, calls the bluff in today’s Hindu:

“It does not matter whether the Prime Minister is from the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha. Dr Singh was a member of the Rajya Sabha when he apologised in Parliament for the anti-Sikh pogrom of 1984. Was it not valid? What about the various policy announcements made from the Red Fort during Independence Day addresses to the nation? Should they be declared null and void because of the Rajya Sabha membership of Dr Singh?”

So, does the PM have the right to go ahead with the n-deal despite only being a Rajya Sabha member? Is prime minister Manmohan Singh any less of a prime minister because he represents the States, not the people? Is this episode a cautionary lesson: should it made mandatory for the prime minister to be an elected representative of the people?

More importantly, would the communists have been asking this question, if the n-deal was being signed with Russia or China in similar circumstances?

Photograph: courtesy Associated Press via BBC

Also read: The media moguls in the life of a communist

‘First businessmen, now their agents in the RS’

29 March 2008

Anil Ambani‘s decision to hitch his wagon to the Samajwadi Party and become a member of the Rajya Sabha was generally seen to have been one of the contributing factors to his split with Mukesh Ambani. Like their father Dhirubhai Ambani, Mukesh was rumoured to have been of the belief that, while political influence was important for the group’s business operations, there was little to be gained by openly aligning with political parties.

That bit of conventional wisdom has come unstuck in the week gone by. At least three Mukesh Ambani men—two of them (Parimal Nathwani and Y.P. Trivedi) wholetime directors of the elder Ambani’s Reliance Industries, and the third (former bureaucrat N.K. Singh) a visiting fellow at the Reliance-sponsored thinktank Observer Research Foundation—have entered the house of elders, drawing the support of BJP, NCP, JMM, JD(U), among other parties.

There is even talk that a fourth Mukesh Ambani candidate may sneak through, although one news channel which did a story on the Reliance link has reportedly been served a legal notice. With so many businessmen sneaking into the Upper House—think Vijay Mallya, Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Rahul Bajaj, M.A.M. Ramaswamy, the late Lalit Suri, et al—and with so many parties helping them do so for not entirely political considerations, there were obvious questions to ask. Now, with their henchmen doing so, the circle it seems is complete.

In Jharkhand, Parimal Nathwani stood as an independent. Yet, according to unconfirmed reports, a number of cabinet ministers were willing and, in fact, did vote against the official UPA candidate while the chief minister himself abstained.

Harish Khare writes in The Hindu:

“Whether or not there was a quid pro quo, the critical aspect is that the industrialists have secured their passage with the cooperation, indulgence and votes of the established parties….

“The role of money in our public life has had a deleterious impact on the policy choices and moral integrity of political institutions. Apart from the aberrant case when an odd money-bag deemed it expedient to try to suborn the loyalty of a political or bureaucratic executive in order to sabotage or promote a policy, the business houses have over the years acquired a quasi-institutional voice for themselves. As the electoral process has become very expensive, the role and reach of money power has become all too obvious.

“However, it seems that the industrialists are no longer content with acquiring leverage in the political process by donating large sums of money during and between the election times. They seem now keen to pack the Upper House with their “men.” They want to have their agents in the middle of the action.”

Read the full story: One more invisible line crossed

Also read: Why Narayana Murthy will make a poor President


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