|Tuesday, January 11, 2000,
Rural India still sliding
OF PARLIAMENTARY VALUES
Vajpayee tame the RSS parivar?
January 11, 1925
Rural India still sliding
NATIONAL sample survey is an economic census with every round focussing on one aspect. The latest, the 54th, was on expenditure and was conducted in the first half of 1998. (The delay in releasing the findings is because of the extensive statistical tabulation and analysis.) The survey has not thrown up anything sensational but there is much cause for dismay. Compared to 1991 when a similar exercise was conducted, rural households spend slightly less now, indicating clearly that poverty is getting entrenched there. Each individual in Indias teeming villages on an average spends Rs 382 a month. Some may think that this amount must be exclusive of those goods and housing available free or at a highly reduced prices, making the Rs 382 go a long way. This is not the fact since the survey converts everything anyone consumes, whether he gets it free, buys or pays for, into its rupee value before working out the all-India statistics. There are two other features worth noting. It is the national average and covers even the rich land and orchard owners. After due adjustment, what jumps out is the abysmal poverty in certain states. Punjab tops the states in terms of rural expenditure with a healthy figure of Rs 614 with Haryana being a close third (Rs 546) after Kerala (604). As is to be expected, Bihar brings up the rear (Rs 284) with Orissa keeping company (Rs 301). In these two states rural poverty is biting and in some pockets the standard of living is too shocking to even contemplate. What is striking is that this is in current prices, with inflation and all, and in constant prices (adjusted for inflation) there is a slide in rural spending by as high as 6.7 per cent compared to 1991. Simply put, rural poverty has worsened during these years of economic reforms, and there is no sign that this negative trend is about to end.
The average per capita
monthly expenditure in urban areas is Rs 684 for the
nation as a whole. Punjab and Haryana are the only two
states where the spending pattern in both urban and rural
areas is not wide apart. In the first case the difference
is only Rs 66 and in Haryana it is even less at Rs 45.
These figures for cities and towns hide the harsh
disparities in income. Since the rich dominate these
areas and tend to spend lavishly, the statistics make a
sharp climb. Maharashtra leads with Rs 889 and
surprisingly the whole of the North-East lumped together
for this survey purpose records an astonishing Rs 1085.
(Some may see in this the effect of foreign funds brought
by Christian missionaries!) During the seven years
between 1991 and 1998 urban spending has ballooned by 85
per cent (up from Rs 370) but that for the rural areas as
a whole only by 56 per cent (up from 244). Nationally,
nearly 60 per cent of the expenditure goes to buy food
items. This is the average and the urban poor are known
to set aside as high as 80 per cent of their income on
food. Incidentally, the survey is conducted by the
Ministry of Planning and Programme Implementation and
enjoys a solid reputation for compiling and analytical
Escape from Tibet
THE escape of 14-year-old Orgyen Trinley Dorji, the 17th Karmapa Rinpoche (Living Buddha), from Tibet and his surfacing in Dharamsala has thrown up issues which have local, national and international ramifications. The Dalai Lama was the first Buddhist spiritual leader of eminence to have found a home away from his traditional holy abode in Lhasa when he led a large number of his followers out of Tibet in 1959. Although he has emerged as the most powerful votary of the doctrine of universal peace and brotherhood, the gradual control by the Tibetan refugees of huge chunks of local trade and commerce in Dharamsala has now become a source of localised friction. Some years ago when the situation threatened to get out of control the Dalai Lama had to personally intervene to restore peace between the local residents and the Tibetan settlers in Dharamsala. The presence of another Buddhist spiritual leader may not make the local population as hospitable and comfortable as it was when the Dalai Lama set foot in Dharamsala. Reports of friction between the followers and opponents of the Karmapa has added a new dimension to the issue. According to agency reports, a section of the followers of the Karma Kagyu sect, of which the Karmapa is recognised as the spiritual head by one faction, have warned the Indian Government against giving support to the Chinese Karmapa...the Dalai Lama was supporting the Chinese Karmapa for political reasons. The leader of the rival faction Sharmapa Rinpoche does not recognise the Karmapa as the head of the Karma Kagyu sect and has even said that an innocent boy should not be used as a political instrument.
The Karmapa, not
surprisingly, has reportedly made a formal request for
being granted asylum in India. And keeping in view the
rich Indian tradition the Government, obviously, cannot
apply a different yardstick than the one it used over 40
years ago when the Dalai Lama crossed into India to
escape the wrath of Communist China which wanted him to
renounce the Buddhists claim over Tibet.
Nevertheless, there are certain politically embarrassing
questions which only the trinity of Prime
Minister-External Affairs Minister-Defence Minister can
answer. The answers may put them in a Catch-22 situation.
For instance, when, where and how did the Karmapa along
with his elder sister and a small band of followers
manage to gain entry into the Indian territory? If they
were assisted by those manning the border outposts on the
Indian side, China may raise legitimate doubts over
Indias public posture on the need for starting a
new chapter of Sino-Indian friendship and cooperation
unhindered by the unhappy incidents of 1962. If the
Karmapa and his party managed to gain entry into India
without being noticed by the border patrol, it would
raise questions concerning the security of the country.
In 1962, the Chinese army had simply walked into India
like the Karmapa and his followers seem to have done now.
The Karmapa is, perhaps, the only Buddhist spiritual
leader who is recognised by both the Chinese leadership
and the Dalai Lama. But his flight from Tibet, in spite
of official patronage, has made Beijing look small in the
eyes of the global community. The Karmapa was given the
exalted position to reinforce the official claim that
Buddhist Tibet had no problem in existing as an
autonomous part of China. But the
Karmapas reported decision to seek asylum in India
has exposed Beijings claim on Tibets
integration with China as hollow. The dragon had turned
nasty 40 years ago when India gave to the Dalai Lama the
respect he deserved. Will the Karmapas escape from
Tibet wake up the dragon once again?
Fake currency racket
AMIDST the commotion caused by the hijacking of the Indian plane, the racket involving fake currency notes has not attracted the kind of attention that it should. The expulsion of a Pakistani Embassy official in Kathmandu, who was caught red-handed while dealing in fake high-denomination Indian currency notes, should wake up the Indian security agencies to the gravity of the situation. These are suspected to have been brought into Nepal in a Pakistan International Airline flight to Kathmandu. The arrest and the subsequent deportation of the official as a persona non grata shows that not only the ISI but almost the entire Pakistani government machinery is engaged in the operation aimed at weakening the economic structure of India. The other aim seems to be to cause panic among the people. Now come credible reports that Pakistan has a full-fledged facility in Peshawar to print such notes. Not only that, senior officials of the Nepalese Central Bank believe that the notes are printed in the Pakistani Security Press itself. Perhaps that is the reason why their quality is as good, if not better, than those printed in India. It is believed that notes worth millions of rupees have already been injected into the Indian economy in a clandestine manner during the past few months. These have been in circulation in almost all parts of the country. Since these have apparently been printed with the blessings of a regular government, at times even bank officials are not able to make out the difference between the real and the fake ones. The well-oiled operation is conducted through regular conduits in India, Nepal and Bangladesh. Unwary people travelling on Samjhauta Express and those hoping to go from Bangladesh to Pakistan and back are believed to have been used as carriers. But the active participation of embassy officials adds an entirely new dimension to the sinister campaign. Ironically, even if the person arrested in Nepal did not have diplomatic immunity, it would not have been easy to launch legal action against him because Rs 500 notes are not legal tenders in Nepal.
It is such aberrations that have to be eliminated. The unfortunate part is that the response of the Indian authorities has not been commensurate with the gravity of the situation. The border continues to be woefully porous. The few security officials that are present are not exactly paragons of honesty. There are allegations galore that with suitable greasing of palms, they don't mind looking the other way while large consignments cross the border. Such smuggling was harmful enough all along. It has become simply intolerable at this stage when Pakistan is using the border to send in not only fake currency notes but also terrorists and weapons. Given the nature of the terrain, policing it effectively is not going to be an easy task. But even one terrorist activity like the plane hijacking costs the country more than what employing an adequate force would.
EROSION OF PARLIAMENTARY VALUES
NOW that the Indian Airlines hijacking episode is over, it is appropriate to reflect on the recent performance of Parliament which, as an apex representative institution in the country's constitutional set-up, invested with high authority of people's sovereignty, is the barometer of contemporary societal values and mirrors the strength of the leadership guiding the destiny of the nation and profoundly influences the quality of governance.
The 1999 winter session of Parliament had less than 20 sittings. It set a record of sorts in our parliamentary history by approving 22 Bills in such a short time, especially when many of them sought far-reaching changes in the economic policies of the country, and it could do this in addition to questions and other usual business, including that during the so-called zero hour. Floor managers of the Government and the Opposition may very well take credit for this wonderful achievement! The session would have ended with this impressive population or computer-like turnout but for the scenes witnessed in the last two days when some members by their disorderly and indecorous behaviour created a pandemonium leading to frequent adjournments of both Houses.
The Rajya Sabha, conceived by the Constitution framers as the "House of Elders", the "House for Refinement" the "Revising Chamber to apply a brake on hasty decisions of the Lok Sabha", and turned chaotic when an honourable member used abusive remarks against a particular community. Another member went to the podium to protest to the Chair against the remarks. The chairman, as the media reported, "sought to pacify the visibly upset member who was in tears and insisted that he had not allowed any such remarks to go on record" and adjourned the House "since the uproarious scenes continued with Opposition members strongly protesting against the member's conduct."
"The Lok Sabha", according to The Statesman, "was plunged into turmoil today (December 22) when a Samajwadi Party member moved menacingly towards the Agriculture Minister, Mr Nitish Kumar, following a verbal duel between Mr Mulayam Singh Yadav and the minister forcing abrupt adjournment of the House." The report further stated, "Samajwadi Party members, who have been rushing to the well of the House for the past two days on the Women's Reservation Bill issue, went a step further today and almost attacked the minister." A number of BJP members too left their respective seats to protect the minister. The Prime Minister was also seen persuading ruling party members to return to their seats. However, the Speaker's timely intervention saved the situation. Describing the situation as "ugly", Speaker Balayogi remarked, "I am constrained to observe that such behaviour on the part of the member concerned was the derogation of established norms of decent parliamentary behaviour. Such incidents are not only a reflection on the parliamentary conduct of the member but also erode the dignity of the whole House". The Speaker also urged party leaders and leaders of groups in the House to ensure "decent parliamentary behaviour from the Members".
The 85th Constitution Amendment Bill, 1999, commonly called the Women's Reservation Bill, was introduced in the Lok Sabha on the concluding day of the session amidst oral and physical obstructions by its opponent members as well as tearing off of copies of the Bill and slogan-shouting. Unlike in 1998 when the members opposed to the Bill could successfully stall its introduction by snatching the copy of the Bill from the hands of the minister and tearing it off, this time the Law Minister could introduce the Bill although history was sought to be repeated in the same manner. In fact, certain political parties had been stating publicly that they would oppose the introduction of the Bill "at all costs" and their acts in the Lok Sabha truly conformed to their forewarning. These incidents received naturally the headlines in the national dailies "Decency takes off in Parliament", "Unruly behaviour mars both Houses", and the like.
The members sitting in these august Houses seem to have invented their own meaning of parliamentary behaviour and parliamentary functions for they easily and invariably get away unpunished for each and everything said and done on the floor, which would be sufficient under the Indian Penal Code to put a common man behind the bars. Whenever such incidents in Parliament or a state legislature occur, the common man, groaning under abject poverty and deprivation of even basic needs, feels greatly exercised and asks himself a question whether, under the Constitution given by the people unto them, this is the kind of Parliament envisaged and if this farce is not too expensive and too frivolous. Asks the common man, particularly from the younger generation, are there no rules for our representatives? If the rules exist, why are they not enforced?
The rule book given to the members on the very first day of their entry into Parliament devotes almost a full chapter on the rules to be observed by members. Rule 349 enjoins that a member "shall not interrupt any member while speaking by disorderly expression or noises or anything in a disorderly manner; shall maintain silence when not speaking; shall not obstruct proceedings or interrupt, and shall avoid making running commentaries when another member is speaking; shall not shout slogans in the House, shall not tear off documents in protest, shall not utter defamatory words; shall not use his right of speech for the purpose of obstructing the business of the House."
There is a specific rule which says, "Whenever the Speaker (or the Deputy Speaker or any other member presiding) rises, he shall be heard in silence and any member who is then speaking or offering to speak shall immediately resume his seat." The rule book also provides the procedure to deal with violations of the rules and established traditions of the House to ensure orderly conduct of business. When a member whose conduct, in the Speaker's opinion, is grossly disorderly, the Speaker may direct him to withdraw immediately from the House and any member so ordered shall do so forthwith and shall absent himself during the remainder of the day's sitting. For defiance of the Chair or abusing the rules of the House by persistently and wilfully obstructing the business, the Speaker may name a member and on a motion being made forthwith, he shall put the question that the member be suspended from the service of the House for a period not exceeding the remainder of the session. The abuse of the procedure and wilful, persistent disregard or defiance of the authority of the Speaker are considered grave offences of breach of privilege and contempt of the House. In such cases, admonition or reprimand is not considered enough to express the displeasure of the House and the punishment of suspension and even expulsion may be decided by the House.
In the British House of Commons, pursuant to their Standing Order 43, May's book of Parliamentary Practice and Procedure states: "Any member persistently and wilfully obstructing public business without just and reasonable cause is guilty of the contempt of the House and is liable to punishment, whether by censure, or suspension from the service of the House or commitment, according to the judgement of the House". May further states: "Good temper and moderation are the characteristics of parliamentary language. Parliamentary language is never more desirable than when a member is canvassing opinions and conduct of his opponents in debate. The expulsion by the House of Commons of one of its members may be regarded as an example of the House's power to regulate its own constitution, though it is, for convenience, treated here as one of the methods of punishment at the disposal of the House. Members have been expelled for a wide variety of causes."
Thus the Speaker in the House has enough powers to discipline errant members and the need is to enforce them. A strange practice has developed over the past several years to resort to frequent adjournments of the House and not allowing patently unparliamentary expressions and even acts of violence not to go on record, thereby finding an easy escape route instead of taking hard decisions to punish erring members. Unparliamentary utterances and not infrequently abusive or insulting language for other members, ministers and even the Chair have been brushed aside merely by ruling that "Nothing will go on record". This has resulted in the decline of behaviour in Parliament, erosion of the authority and dignity of the Speaker and Parliament and in the process making Parliament inefficient, if not irrelevant. In contrast, the British House of Commons being always zealous of its privileges view seriously any attempt to show contempt to the House and take prompt action to discipline an erring member.
Once when the writer of this article was watching Commons' proceedings from the Visitors' Gallery, a Labour member created disorderly scenes and soon the Speaker named that member and on a motion moved by the Leader of the House, the erring member was suspended from the service of the House. More than 40 members of the Labour Party to which the member belonged supported the motion of his suspension. The then Deputy Leader of the Labour Party, when queried by the writer as to why the Labour members had supported the suspension motion against their own member, replied poignantly: "In matters of privileges we do not go on party lines". Quoting an instance from May's book, "A member, who damaged the mace immediately after the House was adjourned and who on the next day declined to make a personal statement in the form previously agreed with the Speaker, was on the following day suspended from the service of the House for 20 days and held responsible for the damage he had caused following the House's agreement to a motion to the effect moved by the Leader of the House."
How differently the Rajya Sabha acted in respect of their member who made abusive remarks against a particular community? The Indian Express report says, "Rajya Sabha Chairman Krishan Kant today reprimanded Shiv Sena M.P. Sanjay Nirupam for his conduct yesterday in the House. However, Nirupam remained unrepentant. "I have been reprimanded for an offence which I have not committed' he told the daily, but since it is the Chairman's decision, I will accept, he added. Earlier, the report indicates that Nirupam was summoned by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan and was given a four-line apology to read it in the House. He was told that either he would have to apologise or he can be suspended from the Rajya Sabha. Nirupam refused to read it out. Finally, it was decided that he would be let off with a reprimand by the Chairman of the Upper House".
Older ones recall that in the past, too, many more controversial Bills like Preventive Detention, States Reorganisation, MISA and TADA were brought before Parliament but were debated for long hours in plenary sessions as well as committees and adopted by the House after going in for divisions on almost each and every clause. The scene then in Parliament was sombre; members were anxious on debating and trying to convince others of their opinions; arguments were heated but without rancour and bitterness; excitement visible all round but with no sign of hypocritical demonstrative hysteria, let alone violent gestures.
It is indeed a pity that in India we do not follow healthy traditions. Leaders of parties invariably remain passive spectators when their members misbehave and put the House to ransom, just as the wise elders did in the presence of King Dhritarashtra at the attempt of Duryodhana and Dusshasan disrobing Draupadi. It is high time the tendency of members creating disorderly scenes for narrow political ends was curbed and any violation of established rules and traditions so vital for the health of democracy as oxygen for life was dealt with by way of suspension or expulsion from the service of the House. It is for serious consideration whether the Constitution and the Representation of the People Act may be amended to provide for the vacation of a seat and disqualification from any election in the event of a member having suffered the punishment of a series of withdrawals and suspensions from the service of the House. This will act as a real deterrent and restore the prestige and dignity of Parliament and state legislatures facing serious erosion for quite some time.
It may be trite but true that the attitude, approach and conduct of the leaders who include legislators greatly influence the common man in imbibing discipline, dedication to duty, commitment to moral values and, above all, a sense of sacrifice for a higher cause. The mood of Parliament and its members discharging their role and duties with dignity and commitment proving true to the oath to which they solemnly subscribe while taking seat instantly flash a message to the people of the country on commitment, dedication and the spirit of sacrifice. Victory or defeat in war, whether it is armed conflict or fight against subversion and deceipt or a struggle against socio-economic negative forces enveloping the weak and the poor, depends essentially on the strength of the inner spirit and not on having or not having destructive weapons as has come out clearly in recent events.
The irony of this country is that one government after another has failed to pay attention to the basic requirement of human resource development, and the system pursued by it and its own behaviour breed inefficiency, corruption and moral depravity. For today's politicians, remembering Gandhi and his principles of truth, morality and sacrifice except, of course, for vote grabbing may be rank stupidity. But the stark reality is that if we want to survive as a nation, there is no alternative to the path shown by him. The paramount need is for a paradigm shift in the mindset and the conduct of our rulers. Joining the mad race of consumerism in echoing slogans like "hi-tech" and the midnight celebrations of the new millennium will not make India self-reliant and strong.
Continuing with mod culture, we are in for further erosion of values, decline in strength and more loss of face and prestige. Showmanship may be a good source of entertainment for a while or for a front story with a catchy headline and any odd gesture in a box, maybe for creating mass hysteria to allure people for vote grabbing, but it does not work all the time. Honourable members, please do reflect and reform, if not for the sake of a billion population, at least for your own survival, for if the country perishes, all of us also perish.
The millennium resolution
1999 was a year of worries. I myself was untypically a worried guy in 1999. The first half was not so bad but as the yearend approached my pain and anguish increased along with my pulse and heartbeat and the general perspiration that accompanies a truly worried state. Well, before you draw any conclusion on my poor worried state let me outline it since like me a lot of simple humble homosapiens were having pangs on restlessness and anxiety.
No, the worry was not Y2K though in this modern world of palmtops and laptops, I still write in the old fashioned, inefficient style in long hand on plain white sheets. Anyway, I believe that Y2K was a problem created and hyped up by computer-savvy people and companies to get self importance and fleece simple straight guys like me by putting in them the fear of the millennium. My worry was of simpler substance but of a similar nature: to come up with a perfect new millennium resolution.
Throughout my life I have religiously made New Year resolutions and have broken them with the same impunity. There was even a time when I used to make 12 New Year resolutions so that I could break at least one each month. This way one or two had a chance of succeeding if in case my usual lazy self forgot to break one. But for the new millennium I wanted it to be a new dawn. A new dawn in which not only would I make a special resolution but also stick to it.
Somewhere in October I started scanning my scant brain for a perfect resolution for the new century. Slowly I compiled the various heads or groups of the types of resolutions people generally make. The list is too comprehensive and whimsical to be published in such an elegant and respected newspaper like the Tribune. However, the major types and species of the different New Year resolutions made on the planet earth are as follows:
Self-denial resolutions: These are the most popular form a New Year resolutions especially among us Indians who have been taught that giving up something will bring success and prosperity. As God didnt make anybody perfect, least of all we humans, the majority of us make a promise to contain one of our many vices. Promises to quit smoking, drinking, nonveg food or something of the like are classic examples of the self denial New Year resolutions. The longevity of such resolutions is also the least and in most cases the promises have been broken by the time January comes to an end.
Please somebody resolutions: The second most popular category of New Year resolutions are the ones made with the specific view of pleasing somebody e.g. wife, girlfriend, boss, etc. In a lot of cases such resolutions are made under compulsion or threat from the opposite party. Some good examples of such resolution include: Promise for holiday or similar favour, to improve working habits or maybe to start a sport etc. These kind of resolutions have a better chance of succeeding than self denial ones, though in any type of resolution the success rate does not exceed an odd 25 per cent.
Self improvement resolutions: Generally taken up by highly ambitious and driven persons. Such resolutions are about learning something new e.g. a musical instrument or a sport or buying a house or a car or achieve a specific professional goal. Such resolutions are the least ones opted by people, but have the greatest chance of succeeding.
Odd and naughty resolutions: Another major category consists of resolutions which are slightly on the stupid side. These might include growing a beard, driving the car at a crazy speed or promising to trouble someone e.g. a teacher. These are the easiest to achieve as these are the destructive type of resolutions at which mankind is quite good.
The list of resolutions is endless and even all the above types of resolutions have a lot of overlapping which added to my confusion as to my own new millennium resolution.
Anyway, by November I had shortlisted around 50 respectable resolutions which I thought had a fair chance of survival. They wore an air of dignity for being called the Millennium Resolution. To tell you honestly December was one of the most tiring months I have ever had in my life. Everyday I poured over the list and dismissed a few which I realised were not truly sustainable by my weak will. And by December 30, the respectable, dignified list had simply disappeared with Not Sustainable written out against the majority of them. The millennium was celebrated under a cloud for not having found The Resolution.
Finally in this first
week of the new millennium I have found a resolution
which cuts across several groups. My lazy self has
decided to write regularly a column: this would ensure
some self improvement, would bother people and waste
their time and maybe contribute a little to public
knowledge as well. And the best part is that in case some
day it too becomes Not Sustainable I can
always blame that my Editor has taken a disliking for me.
Can Vajpayee tame the RSS
AFTER The BJPs Chennai declaration last month, it was widely perceived that Atal Behari Vajpayee has finally been able to assert his total control over the entire ruling party. It was also presumed that the big brother could not have taken to the new political and ideological posturing without the endorsement of the RSS establishment. The various outfits of the RSS have an intricate inter-relationship. In the normal course, this makes it necessary for them to evolve a broad understanding while opting for a major policy shift.
Some Vajpayee loyalists had hinted at such a prior blessing from the RSS while trying to convince the doubting Thomases at the national council at Chennai. However, events after the session show that as for the RSS, the issue is far from settled. In fact, just within days after the adoption of the new line, noises have been raised against committing the entire RSS parivar to the big brothers sattawadi (pro-power) line. There have been distress calls to the RSS top brass to move fast to insulate the organisation from the pseudosecular approach of the BJP. Also an influential section of the RSS leadership feels upset over the BJPs official decision to permanently jettison the Hindutva policy. The very advisability of the new Vajpayee line and its serious consequences on the RSS are being intensely debated.
There seems to be no dispute over two aspects of the Chennai decision. First, there has been no prior consultations within the parivar over what they call irreversible drift away from Hindutva. Even some critics of the dehindutvaisation of the BJP had at the national council lamented that the whole Chennai declaration was drafted by two men who do not hold any organisational position in the party. (This had happened in the first AICC session under Rajiv Gandhi at Talkatora stadium when the resolutions drafted by his friends had to be drastically revised by Pranab Mukherjee and Sanat Mehta). Thus it is being seen as an ideological coup detat by the Vajpayee loyalists to gradually wean away the BJP from the RSS and convert it into a personality-based independent party.
There is an element of truth in the allegation that the new super boss of the BJP has taken advantage of the compulsions of power to push his plan through the RSS throat. Second, every one concedes that the Chennai declaration goes well beyond the routine finetuning of the policies and programmes. At Palanpur, the BJP under L.K. Advani had taken the party deep into the Hindutva. What happened at Chennai was not a strategic course correction but introduction of an entire new policy parameter and organisational task to suit the birth of a new right of the centre party.
So far, the RSS hardliners and those who oppose the jettisoning of the original BJP ideals for the sake of power were led to believe that dropping issues like Article 370, common civil code and Ayodhya has been only a strategic, and not tactical, decision. Even at the Chennai session, senior leaders tried to pacify the vocal critics by assuring them that there was no basic change in policy. It was only a five-year freeze or until the time the BJP was able to get its own majority. The emphasis on own majority has special significance. Apart from professing continued adherence to Hindutva, it induced the RSS ranks and allied organisations to work hard towards the own majority target.
More than the Chennai declaration, Advanis interpretation at the fag end of the session makes it clear that the party has abandoned the Hindutva for good to suit its changing profile and immense growth beyond geographical and sectional barriers. He said: We should realise that it (dropping controversial issues) was not a temporary phase, and we will return to the old agenda once we come to majority on our own. He said the Jana Sangh too had dropped ideas like Akhand Bharat to suit the new situation. Considered as a hardliner, his brief appearance at the session helped silence the critics. However, while pacifying them, he took contradictory positions at times claiming there was no basic change in ideology and at times justifying the need to adopt new ideology and party culture to suit the role of a natural ruling party.
Advani even hinted at the futility of being an ideological party by citing how the Jana Sangh had failed to expand itself while an aggregate party like the Congress ruled the country. Now we too will have to follow aggregate politics, he asserted. The declaration itself asks the BJP workers not to stick to the old exclusivist approach. They should make inroads into the minority communities to win over their support. This, it points out, is necessary for a ruling party in a vast country like India. For the RSS and its allied outfits, this is the most contentious issue. This cuts at the very roots of its existence. Middle-level leaders have begun pressing the RSS establishment to get a clarification from the BJP leadership as to whether the agenda change is a transient tactic or a permanent strategy.
The problem for the RSS establishment has been that the BJP has outgrown so much that it is not in a position to discipline it if it comes to that. In the early 1980s when the BJP took to a similar Vajpayee line, the RSS had delineated its own independent approach. At places, it had even supported the Congress candidates. With a weak and ageing leadership, the RSS may not be in a position to take on it at a time when it depended too much on its political arm. Unlike in those days, the BJP is no more a sinking ship. The sheer lure of power and perk will tempt its leaders to stick to the BJP bandwagon even in the unlikely event of a parting of the ways. Moreover, the BJP leadership now enjoys the corporate might not just the petty traders. The former and the powerful foreign lobby can effortlessly subdue the RSS leadership.
Can the BJP survive without the support of the Hindutva vote bank? This has been Vajpayees biggest dilemma ever since he became the Prime Minister. Two decades back, alienation of the RSS under Vajpayee had reduced the BJP tally in the Lok Sabha to two. Now despite all its expansion, without the RSS backing and Hindutva as a tool his party is bound to face a similar fate. In the foreseeable future, minority hatred and Hindutva will remain the BJPs effective constituency. Will all its talks of becoming an independent entity, it will face a severe setback once it loses power. It will take a long time to build up a dependable non-communal and plural support base as a substitute to the Hindutva constituency.
Vajpayee should also be aware of the limitations of his party which cannot expand itself without poaching into the territories of his own coalition allies. The moment he tries to do so, the regional allies will turn against the BJP as they did with their respective rivals like the Congress, the RJD and the Left. This explains the dilemma of Vajpayees BJP whose only survival strategy can be to do a tightrope walking between the RSS and the non-Hindutva allies. In the past few days, secular leaders like Chandrababu Naidu and Karunanidhi had frowned on the anti-minority outbursts by the Parivar outfits. His immediate worry is the assembly elections in states like Bihar, Haryana and Orissa where his secular allies are a dominant force. Therefore, the BJP is forced to sacrifice Hindutva to propitiate the power god. It shows the strength of aggregateness to quote Advani of the Indian polity.
It is too early to say how the RSS Parivar and Vajpayee will tackle the otherwise irreconcilable agenda. Early signals look not so optimistic. None other than RSS boss Rajendra Singh, who is known for his restraint, has come out with the sharpest of the criticisms against Vajpayees cowardice in meeting the threat posed by the hijackers. In a rather unusual indictment of the Vajpayee government, the RSS boss said his organisation had never supported the idea of setting free the arrested terrorists in exchange of hostages. Advanis own sharp differences on the issue was widely reported. In a belated defence of Vajpayee, Advani, however, said that the damage was essentially to the BJP as it had adopted a tough posture on the terrorism.
Almost as a challenge, the BJP government in Gujarat has firmly stood by the RSS by lifting the ban on government employees participation in its activities. The order came a week after the Chennai declaration. The Swadeshi Jagran Manch, a prominent RSS outfit which was silenced for championing economic nationalism, signalled that it was not bound by the Chennai declaration. Four days after the declaration, a resolution released by the SJM lambasted the government on Insurance Regulatory Authority Bill, foreign intrusion into the print media, law and chartered accountancy. It opposed Vajpayees decision to give counter guarantee on Cogentrix RSS joint secretaries K.S. Sudarshan and Madan Das attended the SJM meet and told its members that they were free to criticise the government.
While it is too early to
predict the outcome of this bitter war or nerves, it is
apparent that Advanis thesis aimed at mollifying
the no-changers suffers from major basic defects. It was
the Hindutva fuel, and not the image as a party of
the future, that had propelled his rocket to the
second stage. At present it is on a carefully mixed fuel
of religious spirit and allies support. Since its
own trajectory of aggregativeness is still
far away, switching off the Hindutva fuel will only lead
to its collapse.
WE have received a copy of a memorial submitted to the Government by the residents of a village in the Attock District, in which the memorialists make serious allegations against an honorary Magistrate. They allege, among other things, that they are the collaterals of the Magistrate and that there has been continuous litigation between him and them since 1861, and that, therefore, he has a grudge against them which he feeds by misusing his magisterial powers, threatening their tenants, trumping up false cases against them, and in various other ways.
The most significant
part of the affair is that the person complained against
possesses magisterial powers in his own village of which
he is also the zaildar and lambardar. If even a part of
the allegation contained in the memorial is correct, a
conclusive case has been made out for at least altering
the jurisdiction of the Magistrate, which, we hope, the
Government will do after satisfying itself by making the
necessary enquiry into the matter.
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