BENGAL VIOLENCE: WHY MAMATA IS A PUNY LEADER, UNFIT FOR NATIONAL POLITICS DESPITE THE WIN - The Daily Guardian
Connect with us

Opinion

BENGAL VIOLENCE: WHY MAMATA IS A PUNY LEADER, UNFIT FOR NATIONAL POLITICS DESPITE THE WIN

Mamata Banerjee, prone to supporting lawlessness and tolerating corruption, is a leader of a party which does not boast of a presence anywhere outside her state. To even try to equate her to the indefatigable Narendra Modi is to do a great disservice to Indian polity.

Sanju Verma

Published

on

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee during an election rally, in Bankura on Monday. (ANI Photo)

A lot has been written about the BJP not being able to dismantle and prevent the Trinamool from romping home to victory in the recently conducted West Bengal assembly polls. First things first, going from 3 seats in 2016 to 77 seats in 2021 is a massive achievement, translating into an over 2400% rise in seat share. Don’t forget that the TMC was set up in 1998 and has no impact or presence outside Bengal whatsoever. Despite focussing only on Bengal, it took Mamata Banerjee 14 long years to dislodge an inept and corrupt CPI(M) from power in Bengal, before Trinamool struck gold in 2011. In the 2001 Bengal assembly elections, TMC won 60 seats. In 2006, that number halved to 30 seats. In 2011, the TMC won 184 seats, and in 2016, 211 seats. In 2021, the TMC’s tally was 213 seats. Jaded, hapless and largely irrelevant journalists like Pritish Nandy, for instance, who have been frothing in excitement at how Bengal managed to stave off the BJP juggernaut, fail to realise that what the BJP has achieved in just the last five years is incredible and exceptional. From a vote share of just 10.2% in 2016 to 38.1% in 2021 is not a mean achievement. The Lutyens’ cabal, driven by its visceral hatred for Narendra Modi, has always applauded Mamata Banerjee for managing to uproot Red terror from Bengal in a short span of 14 years, but is not willing to credit the Shah-Nadda duo for becoming the principal challengers to the TMC in a matter of just five years! Is that not rabid hypocrisy?

The BJP has made the Bengal electoral scenario from a four-party to a two-party affair. The BJP has also completely demolished the Congress and the Left to an embarrassing zero seats in the just concluded assembly polls. That most of the Congress-Left votes were transferred to the TMC this time is a different matter altogether that needs introspection. But to the BJP’s credit, it is the largest party in the world today, because it celebrates its victories but more importantly it learns from its defeats, dusts off the inadequacies, brainstorms, thinks hard, works harder and eventually wins the war! That Amit Shah and J.P. Nadda put in an incredible amount of effort, toiling day and night, is something that makes the BJP the disciplined, organisationally strong party that it has turned out to be, where not only is winning important, but playing by the rules is even more important.

The moot question then is: what about the “Modi factor”? The charisma, respect, ground-connect with the electorate, popularity and indomitable capacity for relentless hard work are all factors that make Prime Minister Narendra Modi a leader who is in a league of his own. PM Modi, the tallest leader in post-Independence India, has no competition. To even try and create a false equivalence between the indefatigable Narendra Modi and Mamata Banerjee, a fascist, rabble rouser, limited to Bengal, is doing a great disservice to even the basic understanding of Indian polity.

The Congress has ceased to matter after a string of debilitating defeats, with Rahul Gandhi turning into a vacuous paper tiger on Twitter whom no one takes seriously. The Left, barring in Kerala, has been wiped out. Mayawati and Akhilesh Yadav never had any national stature to start with and both their parties were almost reduced to nothingness in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls in 2017, with SP winning only 47 seats, compared to the massive 312 that the BJP won. Even in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, while the BJP secured 62 seats in UP, Congress was reduced to 1 seat, Samajwadi Party merely 5 seats and Mayawati’s BSP to 10 seats. The “Khan Market Gang” has tried to resurrect the political fortunes of many failed regional satraps in a bid to checkmate the Modi aura, but these efforts repeatedly came to nought.

The recent efforts to portray West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as a challenger to PM Modi in 2024 is therefore both laughable and ridiculous. Outside Bengal, Mamata has no impact or credibility. At the Ramlila Ground in 2014, where Anna Hazare was supposed to speak but did not turn up, Mamata Banerjee had held the fort for Hazare by filling in for him, but no one turned up to hear her. She was greeted with an empty ground with rows and rows of empty chairs. Also, to be a national-level leader, a certain amount of empathy and compassion is a must and Mamata Banerjee, unfortunately, has neither. Mamata is the same lady who had mocked the rape of Suzette Jordan in Kolkata in 2012, saying that Jordan was a disco-going, alcohol-loving, club-hopping, partygoer, who probably deserved the ignominy of rape. Yes, womenfolk have been voting for Mamata in good numbers, despite her pathetic record in stalling crimes against women in Bengal. To that, let people be reminded that Rome was not built in a day. Womenfolk voted even this time for Mamata, more out of a fear of retribution, rather than any admiration for her brand of politics. The grim truth is that in the last ten years, the track record of Mamata’s governance has been shoddy: no new industries have come up in Bengal in the last decade, Central government schemes were stalled by Didi, driven by her hubris, and Hindus have been systematically marginalised at the expense of the Rohingyas and illegal migrants who have wreaked havoc in the state in terms of festering rampant lawlessness.

There are those who ask, if lawlessness prevailed in Bengal, why did womenfolk vote for her in 2021? To that, the simple answer is, “voter inertia”. The Sainbari massacre happened in 1970, followed by the ghastly Marichjhapi massacre in 1979. The brutal murder of Ananda Margi monks at Bijon Setu near Ballygunge in 1982 was followed by the heinous Nandigram massacre in 2007. Yet, CPI(M) ruled Bengal with an iron fist for 34 long years. From being invincible in 2001 to being reduced to zero seats in 2021, the Left has been completely routed. Hence, those who use Mamata’s 2021 victory to sideline her gross incompetence as a failed leader would do well to know that the TMC’s decline has started, and rather rapidly. It will take the BJP far less time to dislodge the TMC than it took the TMC to dislodge the Left.

The Left parties and the Congress have failed to win a single seat in the 2021 Bengal polls. This will be the first time since 1962 that the Left parties will have no representation in the legislative assembly. The CPI(M) registered an all-time low vote share of 4.73%. The other major partners of the Left alliance like the All India Forward Bloc registered 0.53 % votes and the CPI 0.20% votes. The Congress registered an all-time voting percentage of 2.93% in Bengal and lost its political clout over Malda and Murshidabad districts. In effect, the Congress is not a national party of any standing anymore.

The fact that the BJP in 2021 has made huge in-roads into a non-Hindi-speaking, non-Western, non-Central Indian state like West Bengal speaks volumes about Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invincibility and credibility. Don’t forget, the BJP won Tripura in 2018 after 25 years of inept, Leftist misrule. The BJP increased its vote share in Assam in the 2021 polls from 29.5% to 31.5% with a thumping majority, for the second time in a row. The BJP raised its tally from zero to four in Tamil Nadu and from zero to six in Puducherry. In Puducherry, the BJP’s vote share went up from 2.4% to 11% while the Congress saw a decline in its vote share from 50% to a measly 6.7%. While the local leadership in Assam played a pivotal role, the fact remains that it is the overarching and indefatigable “Modi factor” that should be given credit for the spate of electoral successes that the BJP/NDA has witnessed in the last seven years, over and over again.

Bengal has, over the decades, always held on to the status quo before a complete electoral shift. The CPI(M) was in power for 34 long years before Trinamool took over and the first time Trinamool tasted the scent of an impending victory, it managed only 60 seats. In sharp contrast, this time around, the BJP looking to displace the TMC did far better, with 77 seats. True, the BJP had set a target of 200 seats. But does that give out-of-work political pundits the right to mock the BJP? In the Bihar elections in 2020, the BJP upped its tally from 53 to 73 seats and got just two seats lower than the RJD. Tejashwi Yadav was stonewalled and despite a 15-year-old anti incumbency, the NDA, led by the “Modi factor”, won! Even in the DDC polls held last year in Kashmir, the BJP emerged as the single largest party with 75 seats, checkmating the combined bunch of six parties aka the “Gupkar Alliance”. In the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation elections, the BJP raised its tally by 1100% from 4 to 48 seats, while the TRS came hurtling down from 99 to 55 seats. In the Gujarat local body polls a few months back, after winning 483 of the 576 seats, the BJP, boasting of a success rate of 84%, trounced the Congress, which had a measly strike rate of just 9.5%. The very media which fails to give credit to the solid 77 seats won by the BJP in Bengal was pontificating at the 27 seats won by the AAP in the Surat local body polls, despite the fact that the AAP lost deposits in Rajkot, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar and Ahmedabad. The BJP-led NDA, under the fantastic leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has had a string of noteworthy successes, despite a highly critical media that has exacting standards for the BJP, but handles the Opposition with kid gloves. The talk of “Godi Media” is plain hogwash.

While the media has been writing reams and reams about the BJP’s performance in the Ayodhya and Varanasi panchayat polls, there has been stoic silence about the fact that the BJP won the hitherto impregnable Pandharpur seat, Rajsamand in Rajasthan and Belagavi in Karnataka in the recent bypolls. Last year, the BJP audaciously snatched away the Dubbaka seat in Telangana, an erstwhile TRS bastion. And it is precisely this audacity of ambition that pushes the BJP to do the unthinkable and achieve the unimaginable. As they say, if you aim for the summit, you get halfway there. Next time, the BJP would be well on its way to scaling the summit and winning Bengal, with no ifs and buts whatsoever.

Some allege that Mamata’s vast and regular cash transfers to the Dalits and OBCs swung the votes in her favour, while others say that the turncoats who entered the BJP from the TMC played spoilsport for the BJP. Yet there are others who believe that the insider versus outsider narrative propped up by Mamata worked to her advantage. With the Muslim percentage in West Bengal more than double the national average, the Muslim vote was always going to be a huge advantage for the Trinamool if the community consolidated behind it. And by corollary, this would be a huge disadvantage for the BJP.

In 2021, the Trinamool painted itself as a nativist force,saying the BJP was a party of bohiragotos (outsiders). “Joy Bangla” overtaking “Jai Shri Ram”, “Bengali Nationalism” superseding “Hindu Nationalism” and Hindu votes getting splintered were the other reasons advanced by political pundits for Mamata’s victory. The elections are done and dusted. The key question now that begs a response is, is Mamata Banerjee worthy of taking on a larger national role? Is Didi capable of becoming a fulcrum around which the disparate Opposition unites for 2024? The answer to both these questions is a vehement “No”!

Mamata Banerjee is absolutely unfit and unworthy of a larger national-level role. She has peaked out. 2021 was her best performance ever, which she will not be able to repeat. Her loss in Nandigram to BJP’s Suvendu Adhikari signifies the many chinks in her armour. Even in 2016, Mamata’s victory margin in Bhawanipore had come down from over 60,000 votes to barely 25,000 votes. Mamata’s personal credibility amidst charges of massive corruption against her nephew have dented her immeasurably and going forward, the TMC could even split into two. While turncoats who came into the BJP may not have won this time, the exodus from the TMC shows that all is not well within the party and, for all her false bravado, Mamata has been unable to contain internal fissures.

Also, Mamata has a wildly maverick, fascist side to her. Rather than accepting her Nandigram defeat gracefully, she trained her guns on the Election Commission (EC), blaming it for the debacle. How can a leader who has scant regard for the EC, the apex court, the judiciary and the armed forces, be entrusted with a responsible role beyond Bengal? So consumed was Didi by her desire to win that she did not even spare the CRPF and CISF, who were repeatedly targeted by TMC goons. What a pity that those who talk about FoE and lecture Prime Minister Modi on the sanctity of democratic institutions have not once blamed Mamata Banerjee for the untold misery and mayhem that she has been a mute spectator to, even as TMC vandals unleashed a macabre chain of arson, loot, gangrapes, political killings and brutalisation of BJP karyakartas and supporters, largely Hindus, post the TMC victory. A large-scale exodus of Hindus (over 80,000) from Arambagh, Durgapur, Sitalkuchi, Karimpur, Bishnupur, Bolpur, Hooghly and Midnapore to Assam is a deliberate and mala fide attempt by Mamata and her goons to delegitimise the 2.28 crore voters, also largely Hindus, who voted for the BJP.

The national media which raised a stink over Hathras has completely avoided coverage of the horrific Hindu exodus from Bengal, which started with the exodus of Hindus from Raniganj in 2018 during the Asansol riots. How can Mamata Banerjee, who refuses to take action against large-scale communal violence, be even considered by the so-called secularati for a serious national role? Mamata Banerjee is a puny leader and her barbaric justification of political killings of those from the right wing ideology do her no good. Even as Bengal burnt, Mamata and her party, the TMC, rather than assuaging the victims of the Bengal violence, kept suggesting that the gruesome mayhem was a figment of the BJP’s imagination. The likes of a forgotten for good and irrelevant Yashwant Sinha and the out-of-work clubhouse chatterati played along with Didi. Yes, Mamata won the Bengal elections, but she lost her credibility, just as she lost that wheelchair magically the moment election results were announced!

She launched a personal attack at Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah after a CBI team questioned her nephew’s wife in connection with a coal pilferage case. At a rally at Hooghly’s Dunlop Ground, Mamata took potshots at the duo without naming them.

“I don’t want to malign the post of the Prime Minister. But two men from Delhi are visiting Bengal and spreading misleading words. One is hodol-kutkut and the other is kimbhut-kimakar,” said Didi. “Two persons are running the country. One is Ravan and another is a danav (monster),” she added. Those who accuse Prime Minister Modi of leading a misogynist campaign against Mamata have completely missed the point. “Didi o Didi” is neither an abuse nor a catcall. ‘Didi’ is merely a colloquial term for fondly and respectfully addressing someone as “sister”.

I am a woman myself and I say this with complete responsibility that, if anything, it is Mamata Banerjee who needs to be castigated for repeatedly abusing the office of the Prime Minister in the most unworthy language and then having the nerve to play the victim. Modi has been viciously abused by Mamata and her goons but national and international media has conveniently chosen to be quiet. Why? Does being a woman give Mamata Banerjee the carte blanche to abuse the Prime Minister and the Home Minister of the largest democracy in the world repeatedly and then pretend to be sanctimonious under the garb of gender neutrality?

Last but not the least, the BJP has 77 MLAs and 18 MPs in West Bengal today, from virtually nothing a few years back. The growth trajectory of the BJP, thanks to the “Modi factor”, has been phenomenal and will only get better going forward. For Mamata Banerjee, the writing on the wall is clear. It is time for her to get her act together and behave like a Chief Minister and not a rabble rouser who gives in to bouts of bogey victimhood and criminal lethargy when dealing with lawlessness. And for all those who say that Mamata did not act against arsonists and marauders during the Bengal exodus due to the prevalence of the Model Code of Conduct need to know that the EC only oversees conduct of free and fair elections. The law and order and administrative machinery continue to be with the incumbent/outgoing CM till the new CM takes over. Since both the outgoing and incoming CM was Mamata in this case, she needs to take complete ownership of over 80,000 Hindus who were forced to flee Bengal in a gruesome reminder of why she can never aspire for a significant national role. The Bengal exodus will prove to be Mamata’s final nemesis politically, and rightfully so.

The Daily Guardian is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@thedailyguardian) and stay updated with the latest headlines.

For the latest news Download The Daily Guardian App.

Opinion

Democratic deficits and disaster management

Disaster management may turn into a bigger disaster if complaint handling
mechanisms fail to resonate in the Parliament. In our emerging concern for
Parliament’s democratic deficits, one need not be complacent to phenomenal challenges
that besiege disaster management in the country’s larger governance.

Amita Singh

Published

on

Substantive democracy led by ethics and the spirit of the Constitution is a flywheel of governance. After the suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha Members on the first day of Parliament’s winter session for the rest of its session, it is more than obvious that institutions of governance suffer from a culture of democratic deficits. That, Parliament is becoming a platform for reprimanding opposition, bowdlerising debates, pecking into question hour and using available disciplinary authority in a repressive manner hounds the Constitutional spirit. In sharp contrast to Subramaniam Swamy’s expulsion on the basis of a detailed report on his alleged anti-national activities produced before the House in 1976, the current expulsion with short liner allegations and that too from a previous session appears monkey business. A right to speak, be heard and debate within Parliament represents the strength of this apex national institution as a repository of freedom and aspirations of people. Anything other than this can prove to be suicidal to policy formulation especially in the management of disasters which is currently the highest priority besides being indispensable to achieve Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030. Crisis incidentally, overlooks procedures for the demand of speed and efficiency but this cannot escape the hawkish eyes of a belligerent or cantankerous opposition in the Parliament. Any disproportionate use of disciplinary authority will provide a cover to all illegalities, diversion of funds, human insecurity and rise of surreptitious developmental mafias in disaster-affected zones where it would not be easy for the country to escape its catastrophic impact for a long time to come. 

Democracy and disaster management are Siamese twins and this relationship rests on five pillars of disaster management, that is, (i) participatory decision making; (ii) transparency of aid flows; (iii) financial safeguards; (vi) transparent procurement and contracting; (v) Project monitoring, evaluation and feedback. Disaster management may turn into a bigger disaster if complaint handling mechanisms fail to resonate in the Parliament. In our emerging concern for Parliament’s democratic deficits, one need not be complacent to phenomenal challenges that besiege disaster management in the country’s larger governance. In a 2015 report of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, it was found that a 10% increase in the per capita amount of disbursed funds leads to a 12.2 % increase in corruption. However, the disaster led fund transfers are much larger and therefore, offer a wider scope for corruption. This aspect is of particular interest in the kind of governance that weaker democracies suffer in non-tax transfers such as relief from national and international organisations. 

The real source of democracy comes from community-based organisations such as the Panchayats in rural areas or Municipal Corporation in urban areas. At this level, tolerance to undemocratic measures is the least, reactions are mostly direct and confrontation more united and lasting against the government. From the tribal protest against three controversial bills in Manipur that lasted 600 days from 2015 to 2017 with eight bodies of their young boys kept in the morgue to the farmers’ protest against three contentious land laws lasting 466 days, one can see that these results of a united agitation are impossible from those areas distanced from communities. There was intensive research that went behind a transformative governance framework suggested by the post-Tsunami Hyogo Declaration of 2005 for a community-based action in disaster management. Hyogo Framework for Action, as it is referred to, directed governments to focus on community resilience-building as a priority. It stated, ‘communities and local authorities should be empowered to manage and reduce disaster risk by having access to the necessary information, resources and authority to implement actions for disaster risk reduction.’ It is sad that grassroots slippages of disaster management policies have weakened action against disasters. During the 2018 Kerala floods most of the Panchayat members from Kottayam to Idukki and Munnar shared that even though some alerts in the form of red, yellow and green were being sent to them, they were unable to make any sense of it as no one had ever spoken to them or trained them to understand it. This deficit of mutuality and participation runs through the system up to the Parliament yet no government ever pays any heed to priority action needed at the ground.

How democracy replenishes community resilience building is to be understood by our various research visits to regions marooned in hopeless islands of corrupt governance. Around 2009, tea plantation workers of 14 tea gardens of Dooars in West Bengal lost their livelihood and were pushed into starvation and death. The estate owners had fled bag and baggage without anyone’s knowledge to escape huge payments to workers under the Tea Board Act 1949, Plantation Labour Act 1951 and Industrial Disputes Act 1947 leaving behind ageing and unproductive tea gardens. Since these workers had known no other skill but plucking tea leaves they did not know how to cope up with the sudden closure and absentee government. Our visit to their broken homes raised hopes that someone is reaching out to them, they started coming out in numbers during our evening discussion groups arranged in their villages. These meetings also brought out a subtle presence of mafias which helped garden owners to flee without notice after which they illegitimately started collecting relief funds, indulging in trafficking across borders and also becoming their despotic masters. Our meetings which had nothing to give them except sharing information, inadvertently enlightened them on the Constitutional framework and the laws to strengthen their conviction during depressive times. Their awakening helped to revive the inactive Tea Board, receive a more meaningful restoration plan within the Panchayat Act and receive livelihood guarantee under MNREGA. 

During 2015-17 our team visited Sundarbans in West Bengal and some districts of Manipur. Despite much segregation and high vulnerability due to its geographical location, Sundarbans could display a vibrant community action. We could talk to people waiting in queue for seeking the benefits of the public distribution system and also those who were repairing their homes to prevent snakes and tigers from entering. The place was vulnerable to many forms of disasters but people despite poverty were prepared with their indigenous techniques and plans using the most basic equipment for early warning, human and cattle rescue besides grain storage for emergency use. On the other hand in Manipur, as we travelled through Churchanpur, Thoubal, Senapati and Tamenglong people flocked around us as they felt that the government officials were finally visiting them for a change. Even their Ward Councilors had no knowledge of their responsibilities and availability of developmental funds for their Ward. The communities over there had not seen any government official visiting them. There was a big dent between the Meitei led government and Kuki, Paite and Nagas outside Imphal. No one had ever spoken to them and they felt that probably a change of government at the Centre has sent this JNU fact-finding team to their villages. It was a coincidence but in the election that followed this silent suffering tribal abode kicked out a non-participatory government in their silent revenge. If some of these examples could be a lighthouse on the power of democracy, Hyogo Declaration would become a serious enterprise. 

A participatory framework provides a unique opportunity to promote a strategic and systematic approach to reducing vulnerabilities and risks to hazards besides identifying ways of building the resilience of nations and communities to disasters. Now that the community of world nations has been taking Hyogo spirit through Sendai Framework (2015-30) on the adoption of measures which address the three dimensions of disaster risk (exposure to hazards, vulnerability and capacity) a need for an increased resilience-building rests on nation’s ability to protect democracy at every Constitutional layer of governance. No technology, internet-based information or e-governance can replace physical meetings and face to face discussions and learning. Yet, how could this be possible if representatives of these people are not able to air concerns in the State Assembly of the Parliament? There are Rules as strict as Rule 256 and Rule 259 of the General Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in the Rajya Sabha, but the Constitutional spirit behind the rules combined with the ethics of enforcement defines the manner in which these Rules are to be used against representatives of people.

Parliament is not a confidential Committee Room of the Intelligence Bureau or the Pentagon Boardroom but a microcosm of society where the government’s democratic personality and tolerance to Constitutional norms are most needed. If this tolerance is lost, there would be no time for multihazard disasters to inflict our country stretching beyond the government’s capacity to prevent or manage them. It is hoped that the government in its true wisdom realises that the genie may not be released from the corked bottle.

The writer is president of Network Asia-Pacific Disaster Research Group, Senior Fellow at the Institute of Social Sciences, and former Professor of Administrative Reforms and Emergency Governance at JNU. The views expressed are personal.

Continue Reading

Opinion

PARLIAMENT MUST BE ALLOWED TO FUNCTION

Joyeeta Basu

Published

on

Parliament

Vice President Venkaiah Naidu should be commended for refusing to back down on his decision to suspend 12 MPs from the Rajya Sabha for the whole of the winter session for unruly conduct during the monsoon session. Public memory may be short, but it’s not that short that the bedlam Parliament witnessed in the monsoon session would be forgotten by now. In that session, MPs jumped up on tables, tore up documents, threw paper, misbehaved with the security staff, while at the same time playing victim and claiming that outsiders were brought in to manhandle them. Unprecedented scenes were witnessed in Parliament and the MPs who indulged in such mayhem deserved to be suspended. The parties that alleged that outsiders were brought in should have provided the evidence to back up such a charge, barring which the nation will be forced to consider only the video evidence that is available in the public domain and those clips show the most appalling behaviour by certain MPs.

That the Vice President, as Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, feels strongly about the disruption of Parliament has been clear for some time. In September, while delivering a lecture on the topic of “if disrupting Parliament was an MP’s privilege or could be regarded as a facet of Parliamentary democracy”, he had said that disruption was “a certain negation of the spirit and the intention behind the rules of the House, the code of conduct and the parliamentary etiquette and the scheme of parliamentary privileges, all aimed at enabling effective performance of individual members and the House collectively. Given the consequences, disruption of proceedings clearly amounts to contempt of the House…” Even otherwise he has been unhappy that disruptions were leading to the loss of productivity of both Houses. The monsoon session this year was among the least productive in the Narendra Modi government’s second tenure. According to available statistics, out of 96 hours, the Lok Sabha functioned for just 21 hours and 14 minutes, which is 22% productivity, and Rajya Sabha for only 28 of the total 97.5 hours, with 28% productivity. Important bills were passed without any debate and the government too adjourned Parliament early. All this signify a complete breakdown of Parliamentary proceedings.

Unless due process is followed and every bill debated and amendments suggested and incorporated, the sanctity of a Parliamentary democracy cannot be upheld. Parliament is a place for debates, discussions and repartees, with the jousting limited to verbal rapier thrusts. Indian Parliament has a long tradition of that. A good Parliamentary debate can be fascinating and intellectually stimulating, especially when both the treasury and the opposition benches are peopled with great orators. It is a shame when their voices get lost in the din and the nation is deprived of their views. For that matter, even a limited amount of din is acceptable, but not physical aggression. And as VP Naidu correctly pointed out on Wednesday, “the members who have committed this sacrilege…have not expressed any remorse”. Forget about remorse, some of them think that it’s a matter of pride that they have been suspended for “raising their voices on behalf of the farmers”. It is not known how rushing to the well of the House, throwing paper planes, tearing up files, jostling and pushing are part of the exercise of raising one’s voice on any issue. Street politics should be left outside when entering Parliament. In this context, mention must be made of the unparliamentary language being used by certain Parliamentarians, outside Parliament. One of these worthies implicitly compared the president of a rival political party with a barking dog. It is incumbent on every party leadership to rein in these foul-mouthed entities, instead of trying to portray them as fire-brand people’s politicians.

As for the disruptions that have started once again, it is hoped that saner heads among the Opposition will prevail and the two Houses will be allowed to function. Every government needs to be held accountable for its actions and inactions on the floor of the House, every bill needs to be debated and discussed before they are made into law. Not allowing that to happen amounts to “sacrilege”.

Continue Reading

Opinion

ANALYSING FEAR AND SPECULATION OVER THE OMICRON VARIANT

Priya Sahgal

Published

on

Are we ready for another lockdown? The fear of Omicron, the new coronavirus mutation hitting our shores has raised a high level of anxiety amongst Indians. The predominant fear of course is a repeat of the horrors of the second wave. Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has already asked the Prime Minister to stop all international flights from the affected countries. Kejriwal points out that a South African returnee has already landed in Chandigarh and tested positive for Covid-19. He has also infected his domestic and a family member. The genome sequencing is being done to figure out which strain of Covid-19 this is, and for now, the Union Health Minister has stated that there is no case of Omicron in India as yet. 

Kejriwal, being Kejriwal, has taken to the social media amplifying the efforts his government is putting in to counter a fresh wave. The PM too we are told is holding several high-level meetings to ascertain the threat perception and our response to it. Testing has been ramped up at airports and there is talk about speeding up the booster shot and this is essential as the elderly and the health care workers have already had a gap of over six months since their last dose.

At stake are also the series of weddings and Christmas get-togethers planned as the post-Diwali surge showed an increase in cases but very few of them requiring hospitalisation. Instead, doctors claimed that it was dengue that was occupying the hospital beds. But dengue is an old familiar case study even though the cases were severe and the pollution was helping any. However, it is the fear of the unknown that has a more potent impact and the mere suggestion of another coronavirus mutation was enough to dispel any goodwill cheer.

However, the stock market is already mirroring the gloom felt in the industry. Businesses that had started are now again facing a road bump, especially the travel industry that was all set to reopen all international flights. Suddenly travel agents are getting cancellation requests on planned Christmas vacations. Offices that were opening up for offline work are also now rethinking this decision —and while there are inherent advantages to working from home and holding digital meetings, these do not match the productivity level of face to face meetings, especially in industries that require you to brainstorm.  

However, we are being told by global health experts that the symptoms shown by patients infected with Omicron are mild and are mostly being treated at home. But until more data is known, one will have to live in the uncertainty that is fast becoming a regular feature in this Covid continuous world.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Why do Indians achieve more success in Western world than India?

On experiencing systems of the Western world, we come to realise what freedom and independence are. We get to see the true face of democracy in such nations. One finds no cause to hold ones’ opinions and is able to express them without any fear. In our country, even if one is right, still he can find himself in trouble if his expressions are to the dislike of the people in power.

Jagdip Singh

Published

on

We Indians are fundamentally noble and articulate people but this primary trait of ours had lost its significance as we had been ruled for centuries by invaders who exploited us to the maximum and unleashed a reign of misrule which went up to the extent that we almost forgot our identity and values. We had turned ourselves almost as slaves of our oppressors and this was not only confined to our body but our inner self too.

Islamic conquests made inroads into this subcontinent as early as the 8th century followed by the invasions of Mahmud Ghazni. The Delhi Sultanate was founded in the 13th century by the Central Asian Turks, who ruled major parts of the northern Indian subcontinent. This was followed by the Mughal Empire and their decline in the early 18th century that led to the rise of East India Company and consequent British Rule that lasted for over 200 years till 1947 when India was finally freed from the chains of slavery. However, it was not without a permanent scar on our motherland as it was not without the partition of this country.

We hoped to come out of this mindset that had deeply entrenched our hearts and minds during this long period of domination by invaders, but sadly we still continue to be under the shadow of the tendencies grown out of this long misrule and even after the passage of more than 70 years since we got independence, the misrule we faced earlier has not ended and we continue to watch it in one form or the other. Unfortunately, we continue to live under the same sort of oppression though in a different disguise. This takes us to believe that though the foreign rule ended, the legacy of misrule of that time is becoming more and more evident instead of being totally erased and wiped out from the face of this country.

Going by the above, one is led to believe that we Indians are not even now truly free and independent in real terms of the word. Freedom and independence connote freedom of thoughts and actions but without infringing such rights of others. What it further implies is that we are hesitant and scared in expressing our thoughts due to some dark fear of retribution from the powers that be. As a corollary, we have to accept the fact that after suffering foreign domination for a long period, we are and continue to be a suppressed society and also suppressed people. Our psyche always fears the unknown and we are totally shaken if we hear an unfamiliar knock at our doors. This has made us almost robotic and we only express the rehearsed lines as we are always controlled by the thought that if we express anything which is not found palatable, we would be made to suffer on one pretext or the other. So to find safety, we enter into our cocoon and seal our mouth.

We Indians are well aware of the rampant corruption around us. We are fully aware that some powerful people in our society are the most corrupt and there are anti-social elements but we see day in and day out such people ruling the roost and they use the powers at their command to serve their personal interests at the cost of this great nation. We have watched since independence such elements taking control of our destinies, but we have chosen to give a blind eye to this, just to ensure our personal well-being. It is there for everyone to see that barring a few, our political class is not entirely clean and the pity is that we stand helplessly and allow such things to continue.

But the contrast becomes crystal clear when we move to the Western world. On experiencing their systems, we come to realise what freedom and independence are. We get to see the true face of democracy in such nations. One finds no cause to hold ones’ opinions and is able to express them without any fear. In our country, even if one is right, still he can find himself in trouble if his expressions are to the dislike of the people in power. This has made us vulnerable before the political class and we don’t find ourselves safe even if we are following our normal routines. Things have come to such a pass that one is not safe while walking on the road. This has made our womenfolk and children more vulnerable.

It leads us to the question as to how Indians become important, rich, and leading lights when they are settled in some foreign land. We see everyday Indians achieving newer heights in the US, Europe, and many Asian countries. Most of these Indians enjoy ultra-high net worth and high status in these countries. The question arises of how such a thing is possible outside of our country. The answer lies in the fact that Indians are peace-loving people. When we are in our country, we are moulded by the prevailing environment that evidently is not clean and we feel helpless and sometimes make us choose the wrong options to achieve the right end. A further fact is that generally we Indians are intelligent and believe in toiling hard. But the predicament is that only a few attach values to such traits. However, the same people, when they go abroad, find that these values are given great importance and values. Indians achieve a higher success rate than the local people since they sacrifice their comforts and involve themselves with heart and soul in their endeavour but in comparison, a local wouldn’t make a similar sacrifice at the cost of his lifestyle and comforts. This endears the Indians to the local people and provides them with a priority. A similar approach can be noted as far as the academic field goes. Indians believe in achieving academic excellence and ignore extra-curricular activities when pursuing their education. Their effort is always to top in their career. Comparatively, people in such developed countries devote time to other activities such as games. This naturally makes Indians more suitable for various specialised fields and it is there for all to see that they hold important positions in foreign countries in such positions.

The need is to open eyes and call a spade a spade for the welfare of our teeming millions and this will help us to achieve the Eldorado we always dream of and then we will see no difference whether we are in India or abroad.

Jagdip Singh is Chairman, SIGMA GROUP of Industries and Hony. Consul General of South Korea. The views expressed are personal. 

When we are in our country, we are moulded by the prevailing environment that evidently is not clean and we feel helpless and sometimes making us choose the wrong options to achieve the right end. A further fact is that generally we Indians are intelligent and believe in toiling hard. But the predicament is that only a few attach values to such traits. However, the same people, when they go abroad, find that these values are given great importance and values. Indians achieve a higher success rate than the local people since they sacrifice their comforts and involve themselves with heart and soul in their endeavour but in comparison, a local wouldn’t make a similar sacrifice at the cost of his lifestyle and comforts.

Continue Reading

Opinion

TMC WORKING TOWARDS UPSTAGING THE CONGRESS

Joyeeta Basu

Published

on

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is clearly working on a plan—to replace the Congress as the main Opposition force in the country. To achieve this goal, she is picking up various leaders, even though questions can be raised about her choice. Those who have joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC) as the party seeks national prominence, do not have any ground presence except perhaps in Meghalaya. By inducting Kirti Azad, who lost the last Lok Sabha elections by nearly 5 lakh votes, and Pavan Varma, who was expelled by JDU and before that was a Rajya Sabha member without any grassroots connect, it is not known what sort of a national presence the TMC is hoping to get. In Meghalaya, 12 of the 17 Congress MLAs there may have joined the TMC, but when it comes to Lok Sabha seats, Meghalaya has only two, and even if Ms Banerjee wins all the 42 seats in Bengal, her tally will go up to 44 if she wins both those seats. So TMC may have become the main Opposition party in Meghalaya, courtesy Mukul Sangma, but there are grave doubts about whether this will have a domino effect and make other Congress leaders from the Northeast make a beeline for the TMC—this could have been an immediate possibility if the TMC had done well in the Tripura civic body elections, but it didn’t. It performed miserably, managing to win 1 out of 334 wards. And in spite of the claims being made by TMC spokespersons as the party emerging as the main Opposition face in Tripura, statistics show that the Left is still ahead of the TMC. The Tripura result was not commensurate with the hype created by the TMC, proving once again that unless there is hard work at the grassroots, no Opposition party can uproot a well-entrenched ruling party. Anti-incumbency is always a factor against any government, but for the Opposition to convert that into a critical mass of votes to overthrow a government depends on a lot of factors, including the severity of the anti incumbency and the grassroots connect of the Opposition. The TMC should have known this, for this is what happened to the BJP in the Bengal Assembly elections earlier this year. It just didn’t have the organisation on the ground to convert the anti-incumbency into votes for it to defeat Mamata Banerjee’s party. From the Tripura results it is anyway apparent that in this case, anti incumbency was not severe against Chief Minister Biplab Deb.

The whole national strategy of the TMC appears to be hinged on breaking other parties—particularly the Congress—and importing their organisation in different states, but for that the electoral performance of the TMC outside its stronghold Bengal will have to be up to the mark. Why else will senior Congress leaders consider replacing the Gandhis with Mamata Banerjee as their leader? The Tripura results would not have inspired confidence in such quarters, for it drove home the point that a stellar performance by TMC against the BJP outside of Bengal is unlikely at this point.

More importantly, a lot will depend on the Assembly elections that will take place next year. If Congress does well in Punjab, then it will be easier for the Gandhis to quell dissension within the ranks and the possibility of defections will recede in the backgroumd. So TMC may have overplayed its hand by name-calling the Congress, refusing to attend meetings called by it, and by defiantly announcing that it is only the TMC, and not Congress, that can take on the BJP.

Strategy is fine, but there is nothing like hard work on the ground and reputation of being a good administrator. It does not help the TMC’s case when Kolkata is named as the worst city in the country for providing jobs and economic growth, as shown by the first Sustainable Development Goals Urban Index released by Niti Aayog last week. Also, how can there be any national leadership role for a regional party without grassroots presence in more than one state? But then the strategy is based on the hope that there will be a fractured mandate in 2024, and a party with 40-45-odd seats will manoeuvre its way to power, upstaging the Congress. Only time will tell how effective this strategy is.

Continue Reading

Opinion

Aggressive TMC to jostle with Congress for Opposition space

Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee, after her party’s decisive victory in West Bengal Assembly elections, has become aggressive and is now aspiring to dethrone the Congress from playing a leadership role for the entire Opposition.

Published

on

Parliament’s winter session commenced on Monday. Although it is hoped that the rancours of the Monsoon session would subside since the issues that the Opposition cited for their ire no longer exist, an aggressive Trinamool Congress itching to play a larger opposition role may play spoilsport and create problems of floor management.

There are other parties too that would be keen to send a signal that they are not far behind if it comes to a street fight. The Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress would use this session to reposition themselves for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh due early next year. All these parties are likely to try to achieve Muslim consolidation by raising related issues.

It would be interesting to figure out if the Parliament can discuss the Citizen Amendment Act (CAA) issue. Those who are trying to compare the farm legislations with the CAA are grossly mistaken since this would mean taking away the rights of the people already granted to them. In the case of farm legislations, nothing was being imposed and no section was negatively impacted by withdrawal. If those who wanted to benefit would have come on the streets in favour of the legislations and against those farmers agitating against the three legislations, this would have created a difficult situation.

These parties would also like to keep raking issues related to farmers. With his increasing isolation, Rakesh Tikait is becoming more aggressive. He has been abusive and challenging the government. The opposition parties may find it politically expedient to give fodder to him and keep alive the issue and try to wean away farmers from the BJP. From the perspective of the Opposition, the agitation must continue at least till the Uttar Pradesh elections. From the BJP’s perspective, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has already extended the velvet glove by withdrawing the three legislations. Tikait has already said that he would work to defeat the BJP. The government is being challenged to act tough and use force which it has been avoiding.

An interesting discussion would be on the issue of the MSP. Opposition parties have demanded that it should be made legal. Can the government do it? What are the issues impacting this and is it helpful for the country? What is the purpose of MSP and how it should be administered? The government has said that the MSP regime would continue as before. Should we not wait for the Prime Minister’s decision to set up a committee to make the MSP more effective and transparent. What is the hurry? The government has shown its commitment to the MSP by spending more money (about Rs 85,000 crore) than ever before on purchasing Rabi crops (wheat). This time money was sent directly into the accounts of farmers under DBT. A dispassionate debate would make the issue clear for people.

Nobody is in doubt that TMC leader Mamata Banerjee, after her party’s decisive victory in West Bengal assembly elections, has become very aggressive and is now aspiring to dethrone the Congress from playing a leadership role for the entire Opposition. The TMC deciding not to attend a meeting of Opposition parties called by Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday intended to send this message loud and clear.

Instead, the TMC is holding its national coordination committee meeting at the residence of Banerjee in Kolkata on the same day. During her visit to Delhi last week, she did not pay even a courtesy call to Gandhi and when asked, she asked bluntly if this was needed or compulsory. TMC leaders are certain that now it is Banerjee vs Gandhi tug of war on who would be the Opposition’s face.

Of late, the TMC mouthpiece Jago Bangla has been critical of Congress and its leadership. It has described the Congress as incompetent and incapable and has charged Congress leaders as being interested merely in armchair politics rather than fighting for the people on the street. It spelt out that Banerjee and not Gandhi was the real face of the Opposition.

On the eve of the Winter session, Banerjee gave a wake-up call to the Congress by inducting former Chief Minister Mukul Sangma and 11 other Congress MLAs from Meghalaya into the TMC and, thereby, making her party the main opposition in the state. She also welcomed former Haryana Congress president Ashok Tanwar and Congress leader Kriti Azad into the party during her Delhi visit. Already many other Congress leaders have joined the TMC in Goa. Sushmita Dev has joined the TMC in Assam.

One need not be too intelligent to understand the message Banerjee has given to the entire opposition and other Congress leaders who are unhappy with the leadership of the Gandhi family. She is no longer shy of claiming that she and her party can lead the opposition and not the Congress.

This newfound power and assertiveness will force it to flex muscles during the Winter session that has 20 working days. She will chart out an independent course and try to get maximum mileage through her street fighter image and no holds barred fight inside Parliament in full media presence. This is exactly what the TMC had done during the last Monsoon session where TMC MPs were at the forefront in disrupting Parliament functioning. They were involved in pushing and shoving parliament security staff.

The TMC would be more aggressive also to hide its failures in Tripura. Despite the heroics in Delhi last week, the party is bruised because of its abysmal performance in the municipal elections in Tripura. The BJP has won 329 of 334 seats. In Agartala Corporation, the party has won 51 out of 51 seats. Neither the Left nor the TMC could open their account. The Prime Minister has said this is a result of good governance.

TMC general secretary Abhishek Banerjee drew solace that it had got a substantial percentage of votes but could not explain its failure to give a fight to the BJP. He has alleged that the BJP has “butchered democracy” in Tripura. So sad that the party that has made violence its tool to achieve political supremacy in West Bengal is talking in these terms. The TMC has already sounded out that it would raise the issue in Parliament. The issues that the Opposition claimed provoked them were farmers’ agitation and Pegasus spyware controversy. Both the issues no longer exist. The farmers’ agitation has lost the punch after the government decided to withdraw the three farm legislations. The Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha have already passed the repeal bill on the first day of the winter session as per the promise made by the government.

The issue of Pegasus is being looked into independently by a three-member expert committee under retired Supreme Court Judge RV Raveendran. The committee has been set up by the Supreme Court and hence the Parliament, by standard convention, would do well not to discuss the issue which is being considered by the Court. The government’s stand is clear from day one that there has been no illegal snooping.

At an all-party meeting with the government, opposition leaders showed their inclination to raise various issues such as legal guarantee on the MSP, price rise, divestment of PSUs, CAA, Coal situation, and Lakhimpur violence. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, present from the government side, urged the opposition that leaders should ensure smooth functioning of parliament so that members can have healthy debates.

Union Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Pralhad Joshi said after the meeting, “There have been many suggestions. The government is ready to discuss all issues under the rule, without disruptions. The government hopes that there will be a good discussion in the Parliament.” The Prime Minister has already said before the start of the session that the government was ready to discuss all issues and answer all questions.

But the healthy debate is the biggest casualty when the opposition tries to create optics for public mobilisation outside. The common man on the street would like to watch the debate and listen to the arguments of both the government and the opposition. This makes them understand whether the government is on the right track. The Opposition also gets a chance to present their arguments and earn support. Parliamentary debates are the opportunities to put the government on the mat.

The crucial issue is whether the opposition will do this or they will fritter away the opportunity by raising demands that the government would not be keen to accept. By creating ruckus or by disrupting proceedings using other means would not help. They must appreciate that the government has the majority to get any legislation passed. An informed debate would help the cause of people. Creating ruckus does not help the Opposition’s cause.

The writer is the author of ‘Narendra Modi: the GameChanger’. A former journalist, he is a member of BJP’s media relations department and represents the party as spokesperson while participating in television debates. The views expressed are personal.

Banerjee is no longer shy of claiming that she and her party can lead the opposition and not the Congress. This newfound power and assertiveness will make TMC flex muscles during the Winter session that has 20 working days. She will chart out an independent course and try to get maximum mileage through her street fighter image and no holds barred fight inside Parliament in full media presence.

Continue Reading

Trending