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Stop this nonsense about our great democracy

By T V R Shenoy
March 03, 2005 15:26 IST
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At the recent meeting of the finance ministers of G-7 countries, to which India and China were invited, the finance minister of China looked in my direction and told the gathering that China had received US $500 billion worth of foreign investment since China opened its economy in 1980. Of this, nearly US $60 billion came in calendar 2004.' As you may recall, this was P Chidambaram in his Budget speech.

The Union finance minister did not tell the House about his response to this challenge. 'Democracy,' he told the delegates of the world's wealthiest nations, 'is a powerful tool for inducing transparency and accountability in economic policy.' Neither the finance minister nor any other representative of India shall be able to make such a preposterous claim again. If they do, the smiling Chinese can shut them up with two words, namely 'Jharkhand' and 'Goa'. And if that does not suffice they can simply mention 'Syed Sibtey Razi' and 'S C Jamir.'

The marauders of democracy

I hope Sonia Gandhi is proud of her men. Both Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Home Minister Shivraj Patil were left blushing at the idiocy and blatant partisanship demonstrated by the two governors. Rumour has it that Syed Sibtey Razi acted in a hurry precisely because he wanted to forestall any action by the prime minister. (Dr Manmohan Singh had been fairly 'receptive' hours earlier when a BJP delegation met him to complain about the Jharkhand governor's behaviour.)

How did Syed Sibtey Razi arrive at the conclusion that Jharkhand Mukti Morcha supremo Shibu Soren should be chief minister? The BJP-Janata Dal-United alliance had won 36 seats in the assembly. Five independent MLAs -- Sudesh Mahato, Chandra Prakash Chowdhary, Hari Narain Rai, Enos Ekka, and Madhu Koramet -- had told the governor in person that they would support the BJP-Janata Dal-United coalition. That adds up to 41 MLAs. There was no way that Shibu Soren could have claimed a majority given that there are only 81 seats in the assembly.

Confronted with the arithmetic, Syed Sibtey Razi told the BJP and Janata Dal-United leaders that he wanted to meet all the 12 Independent MLAs who had just been elected. This was a lie. What he actually did was to hold an hour-long conference behind closed doors with Shibu Soren and Harikesh Bahadur, the Congress leader in Jharkhand. This was immediately followed by a communique saying that Shibu Soren would be sworn in as chief minister in a few hours.

Why the BJP is smiling

So, what proof did Soren, aided and abetted by Harikesh Bahadur, present that sounded so convincing to Syed Sibtey Razi's ears? We do not know. In fact, we shall not know until March 21 since that is the date set by the governor for Soren to prove his majority. In other words, Syed Sibtey Razi knows it will take three weeks at the very least for Soren to manufacture the majority that the voters of Jharkhand denied him. The electorate was so anti-Soren in its mood that Shibu Soren's sons lost the two assembly seats allotted to them.

Of course, there is no guarantee that Shibu Soren shall actually be required to demonstrate his support even on March 21. Syed Sibtey Razi has, if he so requires, a precedent in the form of the shenanigans in Goa. Pro-tem Speaker Francisco Sardinha's office said that a communique has been received from the governor saying the confidence vote would be held on Friday, March 4.

At the time of writing I have no idea if this shall actually happen. Rane himself is so unsure about his following that he has offered to do so not by March 4 but at some unspecified time before March 28. This, the Congress leader says piously, shall give the Election Commission enough time to hold by-elections to six assembly seats.

'The Congress has no role in this'

I have no idea if the Election Commission shall agree to this crazy schedule. But one thing stands out thanks to Pratap Sinh Rane's latest brainwave. He has implicitly admitted what we knew all along, namely that the Congress and its allies simply do not possess a majority in the Goa assembly. That in turn means that Governor S C Jamir was willingly party to a fraud when he made Rane the chief minister of Goa on February 2.

Many people were happy to shed crocodile tears over the 'murder of democracy' in neighbouring Nepal after King Gyanendra dismissed his prime minister. Let us now stop talking nonsense about India's great love for democracy and the sanctity of elections. S C Jamir and Syed Sibtey Razi have thrown a pail of manure on the Constitution, and until their sin is redeemed we have no right to preach to Nepal.

May I end by noting that Mulayam Singh Yadav would do well to take care? Sonia Gandhi's men are already saying it is only a matter of time before there is a change in Uttar Pradesh. After Goa and Jharkhand we all know what that means.

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T V R Shenoy