The stage is set, thanks to Rahul Gandhi, for one of the most dramatic political events in the days to come. The Congress-led state government in Maharashtra is compelled to revisit the issue of the highly controversial Adarsh co-operative housing society, to rescind the action taken report (ATR) laid in the state legislature recently. The ATR was based on the observations of report by a two-member inquiry commission.
It is not going to be easy for the Congress-NCP government to face the consequences, as a few powerful leaders and a bunch of serving and retired bureaucrats are likely to face action. The Congress might face the heat from supporters of leaders such as Sushilkumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan, and the powerful bureaucracy. But, Congressmen think Rahul’s approach will help the party restore its fast eroding image to a certain extent.
A few questions arise here. This is the ninth month since the Adarsh inquiry commission report was submitted to the state government. It was lying with Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan and it will be naïve to believe that he has not discussed it with his party leadership in Delhi. There is ample space to believe that he had shared key findings of the report along with the possible fallout if the state government accepted or rejected it.
It is also a known fact that Chavan shares an excellent rapport with All India Congress Committee chief Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi. So, if Rahul was so keen on going with the findings of the report, he could have given instructions to his party CM well before the report was placed in the State Legislature along with the ATR. There was no need for the public admonishment he offered on Friday, even though the language was mild.
This is not the first time he has spoken publicly against his party government’s stand. A few months back, he spoke against the UPA government’s ordinance aimed at protecting tainted legislators. His words shocked many; he could have simply asked his party PM to not go ahead with the ordinance. Even though his demeanour was strongly objected to, no voice against it came on record except that of Union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar, the NCP chief.
Almost as if the NCP was expecting a similar approach by Rahul on the decision to reject the Adarsh commission report, it made no qualms to announce quickly that it would support the CM if he were for a review of the decision. Politicking apart, such delinquencies do not augur well for the future of democracy, even if the present atmosphere is vitiated, especially after a series of scams that shook the public mind and various instances of ineffective governance. It is mainly because of the follies of a few people and not because of the institutions of our democracy.
While denouncing the ordinance, the importance of the union cabinet and the office of the President of India, whose approval is constitutionally binding on it, were undermined. In the Adarsh case, the importance of the state cabinet’s decision and the state legislature, where the ATR was laid down, has been lowered. Even if the state cabinet withdraws the earlier ATR, and puts it afresh before the state legislature, the political jigsaw in the recent past will not help democratic institutions restore their image.
Rahul’s actions and words signify that the decisions by the elected government were incorrect and it is he who is correcting them as the party high command. But, will he answer if someone questions the reason for his silence on the treatment meted to IAS officer Ashok Khemka by his party government? Khemka unearthed some of the most controversial land deals in Haryana recently.
It is not that Rahul has been the only politician who is undermining the importance of democratic institutions overzealously. The same is happening in Uttar Pradesh and a few other states. But, of late, it has become the easiest way to attract public attention and win sympathy. Even the late Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray believed in such things.
On many occasions, he said, “I don’t believe in what you call a democracy.” He used to admonish his ministers publicly. During the Shiv Sena-BJP rule, he created a sensation when said he could remove his chief minister at one go. The statement came after his party CM Manohar Joshi reacted angrily, when an official from Enron Power went to Matoshree and delayed a scheduled appointment with him at Mantralaya.
It’s a fact that most political parties active in our parliamentary democracy do not practice democratic norms within the party organisation. For instance, while our democracy believes in freedom of speech, political parties do not allow its office bearers to reveal intra-party matters or differences of opinions in public.
Parties take strong action against leaders who speak against its decisions or have a differing opinion. Ironically, senior leaders of political parties give sermons on democratic values to people. They expect people to follow democratic norms while venting their ire against the government and the system that has made the citizens’ lives miserable.
- The writer is Political Editor, MiD DAY