|Tuesday, February 29, 2000,
|Problems before Unified Command in
by P. K. Vasudeva
MILITANTS, unfortunately, have been dominating the scene in Kashmir after the Kargil crisis ended last year. Initially they started suicidal attacks targeting the security forces within and outside Srinagar. Now it is the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that are being used as the most potent weapon in the militant weaponry.
with politics of ruse
THE verdict of the people in what can be called a mini general election has made Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee promise a thorough analysis of the factors which went against the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance. Of course, Mr Vajpayee is obviously more unhappy with the performance of the BJP than with that of the entire alliance. Bihar has delivered the cruellest blow to his dream of installing a saffron Chief Minister in Patna. But more than the BJP it is the Congress which should logically press the panic button going by the electoral verdict against it across the country. The most famous "bahu" in contemporary politics has failed miserably once again in working the Nehru-Gandhi magic for the Congress. When a veteran of the stature of Mr Sitaram Kesri was dubbed as an "old man in a hurry" and delivered the humiliation of being stripped of the presidentship of the oldest political party in the country the responsibility of leading the Congress to the political glory of yore was thrust upon a seemingly diffident Mrs Sonia Gandhi. Even unwilling Congressmen were forced to see the image of Indira Gandhi in the new Congress President. But what has she achieved in concrete terms as the captain of a sinking ship? If anything, the "old boat" seems to have sprung more holes than there were when it was handed over, without oars, by Mr P. V. Narasimha Rao to Mr Sitaram Kesri. The party has been badly mauled in the four states where assembly elections were held. In Orissa the Congress had to go because of the inability of its leaders to forget the infighting and reach out to the people at least in their moment of distress exemplified by the most destructive cyclone in the history of the state. The installation of three Chief Ministers in one year in Orissa merely exposed Mrs Sonia Gandhi's lack of control over the organisation. In Haryana she took political incompetence to new heights by first supporting the tottering government of Mr Bansi Lal and then withdrawing support which actually paved the way for the triumphant return of Mr Om Prakash Chautala. In Bihar it was again the "yes, no" of the central Congress leadership in doing political business with the Rashtriya Janata Dal which exposed Mrs Sonia Gandhi's lack of understanding of even elementary nuances of politics and control over the party.
Mrs Sonia Gandhi's
contribution to Indian politics too does not extend
beyond making her detractors start what on hindsight
would appear to be a seemingly meaningless debate on the
right of a person of foreign origin to become President
or Prime Minister of India. The debate is meaningless for
the simple reason that the present Congress President is
not likely to get anywhere near the offices sought to be
put beyond her reach through amending the Constitution.
The miracle of a "person of foreign origin"
becoming Prime Minister is not likely to occur even in
the distant future. And the chances of another
"person of foreign origin" emerging out of
nowhere with dreams of becoming Prime Minister are as
bright as the rising of the sun at night. The
Nehru-Gandhi name may once upon a time have been a
blessing for the Congress. Not anymore. The Congress is
in need of new faces and fresh ideas today more than ever
before if it has to survive as a viable political entity
and succeed in winning back the trust of the people. In
retrospect it may not be wrong to say that the Congress
leadership made the first serious political blunder by
showing the door to Mr Sitaram Kesri. He was in the
process of establishing some kind of political
understanding with leaders like Mr Laloo Prasad Yadav, Mr
Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mr Kanshi Ram for getting at
least a toe-hold for the Congress in Uttar Pradesh and
Bihar when the Sonia brigade literally threw him out of
the AICC office. Her detractors now believe that had the
Sonia loyalists allowed Mr Sharad Pawar to negotiate with
"like-minded parties" after Mr Vajpayee lost
the trust vote in the Lok Sabha last year, there may have
been no need for holding fresh elections which saw the
Congress win fewer seats than it had managed under Mr
Sitaram Kesri. The message for the Congress in
verdict-2000 is that it needs to be protected from the
baneful influence of the leaders who project themselves
as the saviours of the party.
AN embarrassing diplomatic skirmish has broken out between the USA and Pakistan. It started in the news columns of the Washington Post which said that there is an inherent threat to President Clintons security in Pakistan. Relying on official sources, the report pointed out that sympathisers of Islamic fundamentalism and admirers of Osama bin Laden have heavily infiltrated the army and security forces in Pakistan and this poses a danger to the personal safety of the present and future Presidents of the USA. Not only while on a visit to Pakistan but also elsewhere. Substantiating the somewhat alarming assessment, the respected newspaper revealed that during the Presidents visit, the local police takes 95 per cent of responsibility for security leaving proximity protection to the US Secret Service. This means that the secret information of the entire drill of warding off any attack on the visiting President is shared with the host country. Anyone with access to the highly sensitive files can pass on the information to militants and other anti-American individuals in Pakistan and elsewhere. In other countries the number of such negative policemen is extremely small and intense screening helps keep them out. In Pakistan moles and double agents crawl all over the place and it is not possible to sensitise those parts of the city or cities Mr Clinton may visit. In sum, a section in the US State Department deeply suspects the capability of the host country to provide a foolproof security cover and hence wants a thorough review of the matter. This is not an attack only on the bad elements thriving in the security set-up but on the country itself and just before a much desired and keenly expected visit by the US President.
For all its explosive
content and analysis, the report was not earth-shaking
and could have been ignored. But the Pakistan embassy
managed to make a dispute out of it and also magnify it
by dashing of a stiff letter to the State Department
demanding a clarification or, as it expected, a denial.
That would have been the diplomatic fig leaf to cover the
loss of faith. But, no, the State Department apologised
for the leak, thus confirming the core of the news. So it
became official that the US Administration is giving a
serious thought to the influence and presence of
pro-militant men in the Pakistan government. It is just
one small step short of finding the country a terrorism
supporting one. However, it is possible that Washington
may not take the small step for years, as everyone from
Mr Clinton downwards has been saying. This has come at a
time when the USA is getting ready to slot a brief visit
to Pakistan so as not to further isolate the military
rulers. If President Clinton skips that country during
his visit to the subcontinent, it will be a severe snub
and the Generals, untrained in the ways of soft politics
and subtle diplomacy, may think up some silly schemes
like Kargil. The thinking in Washington is to extract
firm promises on the two vital issues of nuclear
non-proliferation (in this case a freeze on making
nuclear bombs) and a return to civilian rule. Pakistan
has already announced that it will hold election to local
bodies soon and has tried to pass it off as the starting
point of revival of democracy. But the security debate
has soured the mood and put ideas in crazed militant
minds. It is a tough task for the straight-talking
mandarins of Foggy Bottom, as the State Department is
often referred to.
PAKISTAN is practising the arrogant craft of military extermination close to the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir. Indian spokesmen, as is evident from the gruesome case of the murder of at least eight soldiers in the Noushera sector in the early hours of Sunday, are doing the expected "condemning" the beheading of one jawan and the burning of three soldiers. The rest were, perhaps, killed by close-range shots. Armed Forces personnel do not commend or condemn the enemy. They teach him a lesson. Pakistani troops crossed the LoC, "surrounded" an early-monitoring post "surrounded" by three Pakistani posts and indulged in wanton killing and arson. Our casualties are known; the punishment the aggressors got has been put in the realm of guesswork. Media persons were, for strange reasons, not allowed to have a look at the ravaged post and the glaring evidence of the brutality of the Pakistani soldiers. What makes this incident more than ordinary is the fact that a strategically located warning position with solid bunkers and Maratha Light Infantry guards was easily overrun and almost destroyed. No element of surprise is involved in this loss of men and material. The crossing of the LoC was preceded and supported by heavy mortar and rocket fire. Nothing can send louder reports than such a meticulously executed assault. There may be something wrong with the protective process of our forward positions. Do we have more "Ashok LPs"? The investigating Brigadier at Nagrota did unconvincing explaining and, by preventing media persons from seeing the site, left much to imagination and interpretation. The following words are disturbing: "....The other Indian armymen at the post came to know about the attack only after the Pakistanis blasted two of the bunkers."
This is the fourth major
flare-up along the LoC in the Jammu region during the
past two months. Pakistani troops attacked an Indian post
in Pallanwala on January 22; they lost 18 men. January 29
saw the death of five Pakistani soldiers in the Akhnoor
sector. Five Indian jawans were killed in the Mendhar
belt on February 5. The next attack was repulsed; the
enemy retreated facing utter humiliation. Only five days
earlier, the Pakistanis had accused Indian soldiers of
intruding into their territory and killing 14 of their
men. We took less time in denying the Pakistani
propaganda than in announcing our losses on Sunday last!
Transparency, accountability, credibility,
scrupulousness, fairplay, honesty, fearlessness and
decisiveness in giving silencing replies are the known
qualities of the leadership of our Armed Forces, which do
not participate in muddy polity like the military in
Pakistan. It would be proper for the Defence Ministry to
make prompt statements and ideal for our sentinels
to keep track of the plans and monitor the activities of
their wily adversaries on the other side of the LoC. The
latest intrusion and barbarism must not go unanswered
ethically. And there should be no let-up in vigilance and
intelligence-gathering. Valour gives awe, and promises
protection to those who want to defend their nation
and themselves. After going through the report of
the Kargil committee, no Indian wants to hear of
Pakistani sneaks into his territory. Nousheras and
Pallanwalas are eminently preventable.
DEALING WITH PAKISTAN
HOWEVER disappointed those of us who hoped to live in friendship and peace with Pakistan may feel with it, there is no question of wishing it away. It is there and it is going to be there forever long. But it has become our greatest headache. Ever since its birth, it has been not a pinprick but a stab in our body, bleeding us and its own hands hurt. It does not, and cannot, threaten our existence but it is a constant migraine. Most of our policies economic, developmental and security are conditioned by what it does. If Pakistan was not there, we would have been at peace with the world. Posing as a threat, it drains our resources. Pakistan touches us widely and we cannot ignore it. Its one point of policy is to beat India back. In doing this, does it help itself? No, but it does not care.
It goes round the world painting us black. If we want to be elected to a world organisation, it opposes us. As if that is its only purpose in life. It has taken over half of Kashmir and handed a part of it to China. It believes that Kashmir should belong to it because it is overwhelmingly populated by Muslims. It forgets that Indias Muslims are more in number than its own entire population. It refuses attempts to settle the problem, turning down easy solutions that you keep what you have and we keep what we have.
We are tired, sorrowful and dejected at having such a neighbour. At the time of Partition when Pakistan was born we thought let the past be, we would live as the United States of America and Canada do, not interfering, peaceful and happy with each other as neighbours. But it has not been so. Pakistan has been troublesome and frustrating in our everyday living, like a toothache or a skin disease, leaving us no time to sit back and consider how we can relax and enjoy life.
It is like our living in a roadside house and having a neighbour full of complaints against us, a psychological case, who feels very jealous of us, and comes on the road opposite and keeps shouting at us, saying how badly we are mistreating him for no fault of his. You try to win him over but he does not relent. You try to discipline him by raising your eyes and he throws stones at you. Because of the way he shouts, he gets the sympathy of the passersby. The people who hear him feel that he must have a genuine grievance; otherwise how else should such a fellow tire out his lungs like that. Many try to comfort him, like the USA saying that it has no proof whether Pakistan was involved in hijacking the Indian plane. This pains us, but why after all would America go deep into the issue which hardly concerns it? America is not the country which will pick cudgels for you. We dont understand this and that is why it pains us.
If you ask Pakistan not to make a nuisance of itself, it raises a hue and cry and obviously gets a lot of attention. At the best of times you retreat into a room and try to forget about the neighbour. But at night when you are asleep the pelting starts. Or he sends in a dog to create filth or even bite you. You say that it is part of our bad luck. But how can you live with this all the time? You wish that he would grow up and make friends with you. But that does not happen.
Nothing has worked with Pakistan. Nehrus and Sardar Patels decision to accept Partition so that the blood-letting in the subcontinent would end didnt work. Shastris policy on Hajipir after the 1965 war did not end the conflict. Indira Gandhis decision to release 90,000 Pakistani prisoners and 5,000 square miles of territory for nothing in return didnt help either. Atal Behari Vajpayee took the bus to Lahore only to find later that at the same time Pakistani soldiers were positioning themselves in Kargil.
How do you get on with such a neighbour? Does Pakistan feel that India has not reconciled to its existence? Does it feel that India is a Hindu fundamentalist country which will destroy Muslim Pakistan? Does it think that Indias 12 million plus Muslims are secular showpieces? The sad truth is that some of the learned men and women in Pakistan, given to God, also believe this. That is why it is very difficult to make most Pakistanis think otherwise.
People there believe that Muslims in India are treated badly. They only think of Kashmir as a territory and until it is denied to India, Pakistan should not sit back. They have been told to believe that Partition has left an unfinished business which can be ended only if Kashmir goes to Pakistan.
It is not easy to live in silent estrangement with Pakistan, like two neighbours living in indifference with each other. Myanmar (Burma) does it with most of the other world. But how long can India do that with Pakistan? It is not possible because of the very live connections we have with it language, history, relationships, old togetherness, etc.
In the meantime, people are being killed and there is so much bloodshed. You turn your shoulder and ask what kind of a life this is.
Perhaps it will be wrong to try to teach Pakistan a lesson. This has been tried earlier through wars and compromises but it has not worked. The defeat of 1971 did not help it to abjure violence. The Simla Accord, which did not do much good to India, should have set the two countries on the road to peace. But the gods worked against it. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto was soon nowhere after supposedly making many promises. The situation became such that his daughter, in order to rule, saw a way out only in being virulent against India. You have to be violent and virulent against India in order to rule in Pakistan. That is the tragedy of the Indo-Pak relationship. Pakistan decided that if a war does not help, a proxy war might. It created a great deal of distress and ate up the energies of both countries.
In the present mood, with General Musharraf at the helm, Pakistan is not going to leave off militancy. He could, given his temperament and dislike for India, even decide to go on a war. He is so tough-minded a leader that he could take to anything, from a proxy war to a limited duration war or to a nuclear war. His main problem is to prove something to his own people. This is to tell them that he would get them what the civilian leaders could not. That is why he wants Kashmir.
We congratulate ourselves that the West has turned against the dictatorship in Pakistan. Let us be very clear about it: the West will do business with whoever rules Pakistan. The American attitude on the hijacking is proof of that.
We have to have our own
policy and not rely on help from others. We should see to
it that a war does not break out because it will cause
untold misery to both. Every attempt that Pakistan makes
to disturb our peace we must severely beat back. But we
should not be at fever pitch and lose our cool. We should
hit it hard whenever it misbehaves. But we should be
friendly to its people. Most of them are like us and we
do like them. Only they should know that if they do not
treat us with respect, we can be swift and hard in
teaching them to behave. So far as militancy is
concerned, we should fight it tooth and nail, whatever it
might cost us. Do that, and yet know that Pakistan can
some day shun its belligerent attitude to live as a
COME February, and you think of blooms. Also of the Budget. The two have nothing in common. But as they happen to be in the same month, they come to xx your mind almost together.
With spring on the way, February is full of flowers. You plan to go to your colony park daily and visit some of the better-kept city gardens. Then there are flower shows where the accent is on colour, variety and display.
The Budget comes later at the end of the month. But while you think of the flowers or plan your garden visits, thoughts of it come in from nowhere. In fact, the Budget looms large in your mind.
Flower thoughts are understandable. For you see some or more flowers wherever you go. Even on your way to work you glimpse them along the roads or on traffic islands.
If you are the poetic type, they (as the daffodils did to Wordsworth) flash upon that inward eye when, later, you lie on a couch or relax in an easy chair.
But there is no immediate reason or provocation for the Budget thoughts. Or is it the ad you read in the newspaper that tries to press or persuade you to xx beat the Budget by buying the cooler or fridge it is about?
Or it may be your wifes telling you that she did not get the brand of cooking oil she had gone to buy. This could be by chance or by the dealers design creating shortage and making extra profit before the Budget.
Soon there are direct reminders. The first thing you read in the morning is the news of hike in the cooking gas price. Or the report that wheat and sugar xx cost more.
These are pre-Budget shocks. Official spokesmen try to explain or justify the increase. But you know that they mean to cushion the bigger blow which is in the offing. Wasnt it hinted that the Budget would be tough?
Is that, on the roadside, an oversize tree-lamp from a temple? No, a silk-cotton tree in bloom. With its many large red flowers, it looks all aglow.
Mid-February. Pink blooms cover the bare peach tree branches. And spikes of golden flowers push up on the mango tree.
As you revel in the beauty of the trees, it is Railway budget time. You may not be much of a traveller. Yet it makes you pause and think.
Freight affects everybody. For most of the things come by train. The higher charges are included in whatever you buy.
The Honble Minister promises more facilities. But you are still troubled. The chartered bus by which you go to your office wants you to pay more. The taxi fare may also go up.
The big day draws near. By now some more things are in short supply.
Your smoker friend tells you that his favourite cigarettes have vanished from the market. But the vendor produces them, as if by sleight of hand, when he pays more.
What pains you is the pound of flesh the shopkeeper demands. But no Portia comes to argue your case. You have to do it yourself and in vain.
In fact, this is at the root of your February phobia. It haunts you from the day the month begins, if not before. Not all the beauty of the February flowers can banish this fear.
Problems before Unified Command
MILITANTS, unfortunately, have been dominating the scene in Kashmir after the Kargil crisis ended last year. Initially they started suicidal attacks targeting the security forces within and outside Srinagar. Now it is the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that are being used as the most potent weapon in the militant weaponry. A landmine explosion recently in a South Kashmir village left 11 persons, including 10 security men, dead and five critically wounded. This was within 24 hours after a similar blast had blown up Fayaz Afghani, chief of the pro-India Ikhwan-ul-Muslimoon, along with two of his guards in a North Kashmir hamlet.
Militant resurgence and widespread reports of locals joining their ranks afresh after the announcement of New Delhis pro-active policy and the formation of the unified command prove that there is a lack of long-term strategic planning by the government. These incidents also falsify the state governments stand that the elected government has helped peace to return to J & K. The security forces, operating from a panicky defensive angle under severe stress, have restarted over-reacting to attacks, killing sometimes innocent civilians also. Civilians get the worst of retaliations, which is contributing to the otherwise stagnant process of mass alienation. Since violence is directly in proportion to the state of human rights, any increase in militant activity will result in more reports of excesses, which should be guarded especially when the visit of US President Bill Clinton is drawing near.
On paper, the proactive package announced by the central government for Kashmir looks attractive and effective, but in actual practice it is only another rhetoric. Because without a clearly defined command and control mechanism and proper coordination between the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Cabinet Secretariat, the Unified Command Headquarters (UHQ) cannot function. However, the present loosely knit organisation will further cause confusion and casualties due to its inbuilt weaknesses.
India, as part of its reactive policy and not its proactive policy has launched unspecified operations with the help of ex-servicemen and VDCs (village defence committees). What type of operations will be launched and what their mode will be are not known. Pakistan has a number of camps in the occupied Kashmir (POK) area and elsewhere on the Pak-Afghanistan border for training Kashmiri militants and inducting them into the valley. What action the government will take in eliminating these known camps will not be indicated in the proactive package.
Pakistan has created a war-like situation in Jammu and Kashmir by attacking the police, Army and Rashtriya Rifles headquarters. In other words, insurgency is taking the shape of guerrilla warfare, which cannot be tackled by the centrally administered paramilitary forces (CAPFs), because they are neither trained nor equipped for such operations. This is no more an internal security matter. Therefore, UHQ has to be headed a by a senior Army Corps Commander and coordinated at the highest level. The CAPFs need to be put under the command of the Army for looking after the law and order situation and for handling casualties and prisoners of war (POWs). In the proactive package, this aspect is missing.
On January 22, Pakistani soldiers attempted to capture an Army forward post in Pallanwala in Akhnoor district, but the attack was repulsed by the alert Indian troops with about 18 enemy soldiers dead, including an officer. Indian troops should have crossed the LoC and destroyed a couple of more enemy posts immediately, without giving any chance or time for the Pakistanis to react. That would have been proactive action. However, killing the attacking soldiers is only a reactive and defensive action, because there was no other alternative.
Unconfirmed reports indicate that two Indian posts in the Batalik sub-sector of Kargil have been captured by the Pakistani troops. According to state government reports, the Pakistani troops have captured an Indian post in Dah village called Haryali post atop the Batalik hills. Government functionaries are of the view that Pakistan has grabbed these posts on finding the two unmanned. What is the Indian army doing if the reports are correct? It should have immediately recaptured the two posts and grabbed a few more by crossing the Laxman Rekha (LoC) so that the enemy does not dare attack any of the Indian posts. Then it would be called proactive action. Israel is the only country in the world that practices a proactive policy.
It is surprising that such a high-level meeting has been held and decisions taken without any recommendation of the National Security Council (NSC), which has a definite role to play in formulating a long-term strategy for countering terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir. This shows that enough thought has not been given to the proactive package. The NSC has the Joint Intelligence Committee (JIC) as its headquarters. The JIC is also not functioning for proper coordination of various intelligence agencies, and timely percolating the information down to the formations and the units concerned.
Al this clearly shows that India does not have any credible think-tank for strategic planning. The Estimates Committee of Parliament in its 20th report on the Ministry of Defence (MoD) regarding policy making and the system of higher direction has deprecated the lack of strategic planning and thinking at the national level. It has pointed out that directions and tasks must necessarily flow from a well-defined policy, or else the armed forces, guided by adhocism, will flounder. The USA also commissioned a study on Indian Strategic Thought in view of the improved Indo-US relations. Mr George Tanham of the Rand Corporation, the prestigious think-tank of the USA, concluded that India has no strategic culture or tradition. It is an inward-looking country, and its history, geography, culture and civilisation have shaped this tradition. The main cause for the failure of the operations in J & K is the lack of coordination between the MoD, the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Cabinet Secretariat.
There is no clear-cut fixing of the responsibility and accountability of counter-insurgency operations between the Army and the CAPFs. For any failure, the blame is passed on to each other.
A tug of war is on between the CAPFs and the Army on the crucial issue of who will command the CIO in J&K. Though after the Kargil conflict a separate corps of the Army has become functional in Leh, the responsibility for all the operations in the valley lie with the Badamibagh Corps. What is causing resentment among senior officials of the Home Ministry is the Armys alleged big brotherly attitude of treating the CAPFs, particularly the Border Security Force (BSF), in a casual manner. The contribution of the CAPFs to the maintenance of law and order and internal security in the state cannot be brushed aside, but their role in the counter-insurgency operations has raised many questions. The contention of senior BSF, CRPF, and Indo-Tibetan Border Police force officials as well as that of Home Ministry officials that the Army should hand over some of the districts or sectors to them does not justified.
The Union Government also wants the civilian control to remain firmly in place as an elected government is in power in the state. Meetings of the Unified Command Headquarters (UCHQ) are presided over by the Chief Minister, but in his absence the Army wants the Corps Commander to head the UHQ set-up, a move not to the liking of the Centre and the CAPFs.
If this controversy between the MoD, the Home Ministry and the Cabinet Secretariat persists, there is no hope of the militancy in J & K coming to an end soon. The Army has to be given an independent control of the CIO in the valley, and the Rashtriya Rifles need to be expanded further. The CAPFs should be put under the command of the Army to carry out internal security duties for which they are trained.
(The writer, a
retired Colonel, is an established defence analyst).
Living with politics of ruse
THE fortnight-long election campaign and the first weeks Budget session have further confirmed the falling level of our political debate. Gone are the days when before every session parliamentary groups of political parties discussed the issues and problems to be highlighted. Now the whole emphasis is on how to corner the adversaries and what sort of diversionary tactics to be adopted. Even the senior leaders publicly talk of their prowess in charting out game plans to outwit the rivals.
The term game plan itself is illustrative of the 21st century Indian politicians disdain for the electorates understanding and rustic wisdom. Obfuscation, deception and pure war of nerves have become the main political tools. Last year, a Gujarat MP had in Parliament premises lamented the difficulties in fooling three lakh people and come here. He may be crudely plain. But the strategy planners of political parties and their backroom boys base all their game plans on this very premise. When image, and not substance, becomes all-important, simulation of favourable political atmosphere gets top-most priority. In this game of power what is crucial is the end, not means.
The whole business of politics seems to have achieved a high degree of sophistication. Watch Sonia Gandhis dharna at the Gandhi statue against the Gujarat Governments decision on the RSS and moves for saffronisation of education and culture. It was fixed for the day on which the Congress was expecting really bad news from Orissa, Bihar and Haryana. There have been reports of grumblings among sections of party leaders against Sonia Gandhis leadership. There were talks of a resurrection of Narasimha Rao and some renewed hopes in the Pawar camp. At this crucial moment, an aggressive initiative by Sonia Gandhi to bring the party into the limelight is the right way to silence her critics within the party.
As is well known, the other purpose of the anti-saffronisation campaign is to cause a wedge between the BJP and its NDA allies. During the UF rule, the BJP too had raised such uncomfortable issues like the Bofors to widen the schism with the supporting party. The two major political players are merrily engaged in borrowing all tricks in the trade to outsmart each other. In this single-minded pursuit of power hypocrisy is the name of the game. Take corruption. It has different uses for different political groups at different times. What counts is the ability to precipitate the allegations against the sworn political rivals with the right media support.
There have been allegations against so many politicians. But Laloo Prasad Yadav got it worst because he had the most resourceful adversaries against him. The CBI has been exceptionally active against him. The man who headed the investigations was made a national hero. Judiciary was skilfully used make the official even to ignore his own superiors. Details of the investigations were selectively leaked out to create the right atmosphere. But even the CBI reports say that Laloo per se is not the main culprit in the Bihar fodder scandal. There has been an organised gang that has been active from the Congress days. True, Laloo has been a prominent beneficiary but then there were also those belonging to the Congress and the BJP.
It is nobodys case to defend a discredited person like Laloo. But watch the hypocrisy. The same people who had exposed Laloo have been meekly tolerating Jayalalitha who was described as mother of all corruptions by none other than George Fernandes. When in the BJP alliance, she became a highly respected lady at whose house they all waited for blessings. Vajpayee did everything to please the lady. His Ministers helped slow down the innumerable corruption cases against her. The Vajpayee government had even appointed her nominees all AIADMK activists as government advocates. The BJP rediscovered her corruption only after she had shut the doors on them.
The Opposition too cannot escape the charge of selective use of corruption. In the case of Laloo, most of them had at one time turned a blind eye. Even a person like G.K. Moopanar who has maintained a principled stand on such issues, has begun showing signs of compromise. Moopanars transformation warns us about the rapid spread of this cancerous growth in the polity and the said truth that in future no one, even the most principled politician, could escape from the syndrome of competitive opportunism.
Take the Central Vigilance Commissions initiatives. There was no serious protests from the politicians when Vittal put the corrupt IAS officers names on the net even before establishing their crime. But when the CVC ordered a CBI probe into the income tax returns of the hawala tainted politicians for corroborative evidence, hell broke loose on him. The BJP, the main crusader of corruption against Laloo and others, began castigating the CVC for his initiative.
BJP spokesman like Venkaiah Naidu came out with a volley of attacks. Naidu had even sent a veiled warning that the bill relating to the CVC was still in the process of finalisation and hence it is better for Vittal to behave. All this ire is understandable as four Union Ministers, including L.K. Advani, had figured in the hawala case. The party is so scared of a reappearance of the old ghost. In case the CVC dares to take note of the scandals emerged under the present regime there is a long list of them he is bound to face more official anger. Selective use of corruption is endless, the latest being a CBI probe into Vincent Georges dealings.
A look at any ongoing controversy will reveal the adverse influence of competitive opportunism on political debate. Every charge levelled against the present dispensation is countered not by a firm no but a you-too-did-it. The BJP defended the parivar attack on Water by accusing the present Opposition with banning or proposing bans on communally sensitive books in the past. Even if there is an element of truth in it, two wrongs cannot make it right.
Even in the case of the Constitution panel, the BJP has a point when it said the Congress itself had tried it during the Indira era. Those like Vasant Sathe had championed the cause with a view to installing Indira Gandhi as a super boss. The BJP had then saw red in the proposal. Then it suddenly opted for the presidential system when various opinion polls gave very high ratings to Vajpayee over others. Thus both parties sought to use the perceived high ratings of their leaders to wrest maximum political clout and total power. This has been the genesis of the move for a constitutional review.
Every government at the Centre had faced threat of no-confidence motion. The BJP too had sponsored such motions. But when last year the Vajpayee Government was confronted with the combined strength of the Opposition, no-confidence motions suddenly became blasphemous. Obliging commentators came out with numerous proposals to give stability to the government. Similarly, it was only when the Vajpayee Government fell on the floor of the House that the need for the German model was realised. Under this, no-confidence motions should be accompanied by a motion suggesting an alternative government. Then came the proposals for giving a five-year lease to the MPs for providing artificial stability to Parliament. All with a view to changing the rule of the game to suit the player.
Political parties shift their attitude towards defection to suit their momentary interests. The BJP had ridiculed the JD and TDP when Narasimha Rao had spirited away their MPs in the early 90s. It was soon after the BJP-Rao deal on the presiding officers of the Lok Sabha. During the Vaghela rebellion, the BJP conducted a massive media campaign against defection. Political defection and criminalisation once again got acceptability when the BJP engineered massive defections from other parties in UP and made each one of them a Minister. Among them were those with recorded criminal background.
Over the decades, the Congress had the worst track record of misusing the post of Governors for political purposes. However, the BJP has displayed superior ability to use it the way it wanted. The party had blamed the Congress for appointing political Governors and did the same when it came to power. In Gujarat and UP, it raised a hue and cry when the respective Governors asked for their ministries dismissal. But the BJP too did the same in Bihar. When President K.R. Narayanan frowned on Romesh Bhandaris action, the party hailed it as strengthening democracy. Soon the same party did the same thing in Bihar and pointed an accusing finger at the President. On their part, the present Opposition did the same but in the reverse.
Name any issue, the major political formations have adopted utterly opportunistic approach purely for short-term gains. Out of power, the Congress blessed the Himachal Government employees strike. The BJP is doing the same in Rajasthan. The BJP which had scoffed at the JD coalitions, now finds virtue in sitting in the Cabinet with the same characters. On economic policies, the about turn is more stunning. Calibrated globalisation has given way to total opening up. Now that it is in power, it had dumped all its detailed guidelines for privatisation of the PSUs. Same is the case with the small industries or Bombay Club.
Opportunism is no more
considered an evil. Instead, it is being used as an
effective political tool to perpetuate power and engineer
public opinion. V.P. Singh could have continued in power
had he compromised on contentious issues of the day. He
had before him so many compromising formulas. Now, a
decade later the whole philosophy is to retain power
through whatever available means. Moopanars plight
is an indicator of the fact that no party can hereafter
be free from this rapidly spreading infection.
THE unanimous election of Sir Ibrahim Rahimatullah as President of the Bombay Legislative Council is at once a refutation of the view of the average Anglo-Indian official, to whom the wish is the father to the thought, that Hindus and Mussalmans are never so happy as when they can be at each others throats, and of the view of certain Muslims, especially in Upper India, that Hindus will under no circumstances vote for a Muslim candidate.
There are competent
Hindus enough in Bombay, and yet when a man of the
outstanding personality of Sir Ibrahim Rahimatullah
offers his services for a highly responsible job, all
others step aside to make room for him, and the fact of
his being a Muslim does not deter a single Hindu from
voting for him.
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