Netas scrabble over seat-sharing, as state struggles

While Mumbai is writhing in fury and shame after the gangrape of a photojournalist, the slaying of rationalist Dr Narendra Dabholkar and the slashing and robbing on an American national, senior leaders of the ruling Congress-NCP combine were busy hammering out differences in a coordination committee meeting.

With camaraderie being touted as the need of the hour, it was argued during the meeting that, at least for now, ‘we must stop fighting among ourselves’, with the general elections just around the corner.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Union Minister Praful Patel, AICC state in-charge Mohan Prakash, Deputy CM Ajit Pawar and state unit chiefs of Congress and NCP, Manikrao Thakre and Bhaskar Jadhav, spent a significant time to decide the seat-sharing formula in Lok Sabha.

It’s unclear whether any time was spent discussing the attenuation of law and order: the swelling anguish over poor policing, falling standards of governance, worsening finances, rise of sand mafia, attacks on government officers and social activists. But there was a debate on the issue of 26:22 Lok Sabha seat-sharing formula.

NCP strongly feels that the formula evolved during the 2009 LS elections should be retained so it gets 22 seats while the Congress contests 26.

Before analysing the political arithmetic, one would agree that no matter how the numbers swing, things would not improve for Maharashtra and its people, not in the near future. Neither the parties in power, nor those in Opposition have anything significant to offer to people. It’s mainly because politicking has created a black void in the space for betterment of society. Even though political leaders alone cannot be blamed for the mess, they can certainly help the situation with sincere efforts.

Voracious for power, the institution of the police and other law-relevant agencies have been eroded beyond any hope of immediate correction. No politician can further his interests without the help of police, and the policemen are using this dependence to further their own interests. Even if people perceive Home Minister R R Patil as sincere and non-corrupt, the same cannot be said about cops. Ask any hawker, shopkeeper or businessman and they will share their taint-riddled experiences.

When policemen do not work with any zeal to keep R R Patil’s head high, why does he speak compassionately in favour of them? Patil’s supporters assert that no corruption takes place during transfer of policemen, then why is that men in khaki are often caught red-handed by the Anti-Corruption Bureau. Why do controversial officers stick to their chairs despite several instances of misconduct with their subordinates coming to light? What happened to Patil’s order to the ACB, asking for a list of the most corrupt police officers? Why does his department oppose Central Vigilance Commission’s proposal to set up a state vigilance body?

The system has taken a severe beating because politicos want police to shield their interests and police want favours in turn. While senior officers appear busy thinking how their tenure in Mumbai may be extended, their juniors run havoc in the name of policing. When it is common knowledge that a beat marshal is aware of every nook and corner of the area he is posted at, how did the use of Mahalaxmi mill premises for anti-social activities like drug abuse, gambling and crime go unnoticed? Do senior officers at the rank of DCP and above go out on rounds in their jurisdiction regularly? Unless sincere workers are rewarded and black sheep kicked out, Patil’s claim of heading the department with utmost honesty would be false.

Coming back to the game of power, one may wonder why the NCP is so keen on continuing with the seat-sharing formula. It is worried about remaining firm in the saddle and wants maximum number of Lok Sabha and state assembly seats.

The Congress wants renegotiations. But Praful Patel, the most trusted lieutenant of the NCP chief Sharad Pawar, is highly sensitive about the issue, saying that no discussion on seat sharing is needed since it has already been discussed in Delhi. Touchy about the issue, NCP is ignoring its performance in government. While discussing the issue with media recently, a leader trusted by Pawar said that the NCP supremo could enter the race for prime minister if the party bagged a credible number of seats and the Congress lost ground with a tally of 100 to 115 seats.

In that event, Congress may back Pawar to stop BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi from taking over. But for that, the party should be in a position to convince the electorate to vote in its favour.

-- The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY 

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