In the usual course of events, I would have shown least interest in the by-election for Hisar Loksabha constituency, in Haryana, scheduled to be held on October 13th. But, as the President of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) says, "The by-election on Hisar seat is no ordinary one. It is historic for the politics of this country".
I agree with Mr Gadkari. This election has been made historic by events that would of course be seen by me and Gadkari in different lights. He sees an opportunity to defeat Congress, riding on the support of Anna Hazare and his Team, India Against Corruption (IAC). I see a threat to the Indian democracy from the call of IAC to boycott Indian national Congress (I) candidate and to vote any other candidate in the election.
The danger that I see arises from the following factors:
IAC has positioned itself as an apolitical movement of Indians; using the national flag of India throughout their programmes.
Having mobilised Indians on an apolitical platform (allowing that the RSS claim of propping it up is false), now Anna and his Team are surreptitiously delivering the same to the benefit of certain political parties and against certain parties.
I would have still held a view that the above actions are legitimate political activity by a group of citizens. However, there are certain issues underneath these seemingly innocuous activities of IAC. Let me explain:
IAC has made it the sole condition that a Party give written commitment to support the Jan Lokpal Bill in the Parliament. Their support will not take into consideration even the track record of the candidate. Even if the candidate in someone who is deep in the corruption they will not oppose him. In other words, even Koda, Raja and Kalmadi can get their support by pledging their commitment to the IAC Bill.
IAC has managed to obtain commitment letters from certain parties, notably BJP, wherein they have committed to voting in favour of JanLokpal Bill prepared by IAC. In the words of Mr Gadkari, BJP is “fully committed to the Jan Lokpal bill prepared by Anna Hazare and his team".
We have on record, from senior leaders of BJP that they have reservations on certain issues, including the inclusion of MPs’ behaviour inside Parliament and Higher judiciary under purview of the Lokpal, in the Jan Lokpal Bill of IAC. However, here is the President of the Party giving it in writing to fully support the same Bill.
Either, BJP does not have any intention to honour their written commitment or their stated views on the Bill itself are merely to misguide the public.
That apart, is it politically, legally and ethically correct for a Party to give and a Group like IAC to demand such written commitments from the political parties, on matters of legislative Bills pending before Parliament? What is the sanctity of parliamentary procedures and its deliberations, including in the Standing Committee concerned?
For the purpose of getting some votes, if a political party is willing to commit its position in Parliament on any specific issue or Bill, even before that issue or Bills has crystalised, how is it different from the actions of some MPs where they accepted monetary consideration (bribes) for asking questions in Parliament? Does this not amount to bartering the Parliamentary supremacy for getting votes?
I know some of my readers will raise counter questions like, MPs / Parties already do such things etc. But remember, even if they do, it is never in this organised manner and never on such moral high ground.
With this kind of black mail tactics, IAC is opening a Pandora’s Box for future elections. What if another group with similar ability to mobilise people start making demands related to less pious causes? Can we then differentiate merely based on our relative perceptions?
Well we cannot stop groups like IAC from making such demands. It is within their democratic rights. But we must be aware of the political parties that are willing to give blank cheques and willing to surrender their legislative responsibilities for votes.
Congress could also have given such a written commitment to IAC and saved this boycott call. After all, they could not have been held to that commitment since the voting in Parliament cannot be subjected to any restrictions. However, I am very happy that Congress as a national Party withstood the temptation and decided to face the electoral consequences than surrendering the supremacy of Parliament or their own responsibilities towards nation.
Now look at Hisar. This seat was held by the Haryana Janhit Congress (HJC), a regional party promoted by the former Chief Minister, Mr Bhajan Lal. It is not a sitting seat of Congress. In fact Congress was in third position in the last election in Hisar. This by-election, necessitated by the demise of Mr Bhajan Lal, is being contested in alliance by HJC and BJP. That means, there is already a very bright chance that the BJP sponsored candidate will win the Hisar elections. If that is to happen, who will take the credit- Anna and IAC of course?
Such a win would then be ‘marketed’ as the defeat of Congress and a vote for a draconian legislation like Jan Lokpal Bill. Pressure will be mounted on the Parties including Congress to succumb to the black mail of IAC and give in with their demands, before the coming Uttar Pradesh elections. We, as a nation might end up with a half cooked law that can have serious impact on the whole country and its institutions.
Therefore, with all its negative points, I would prefer to support Congress in Hisar and see that it wins. That will put a stop to the undemocratic pressure tactics of Groups that are often funded by foreign governments and agencies and are trying to dictate policy decisions on the elected governments of the country.
This is time for all of us concerned citizens to think above the narrow party lines to ensure that our legislative processes are not held to ransom. In that sense I agree with Mr Gadkari when he says that this election is “historic for the politics of this country”.