A million mutinies

The Congress is united under Sonia Gandhi, and the BJP may unite under Narendra Modi if he wins in Gujarat, but who will unite the 40-odd regional parties?

With TV channels in the country beha-ving more and more like the tabloid press in the West, the Salman Khurshid episode was waiting to happen. Competition builds its own peculiar pressure and someone somewhere loses control at some point.

This is what has happened, and a criminal investigation into the sting operation by a news channel concerning an NGO, the Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, headed by the Union law minister’s wife Louise Khurshid, is in order. The allegations against the NGO involve misappropriation of government funds.
I am happy to see the Khurshid couple challenging the sting operation. The evidence presented by them was clear and now it is the turn of the TV channel to get its facts right. There is still rule of law in the country, which means it is the courts of law that decide what is right and wrong. This case will also be a trendsetter in the sense that the electronic media will come under increased scrutiny, as “excesses” are not appreciated by anyone. The BJP has trodden cautiously so far, fulfilling its role as the main Opposition.

We have two Lok Sabha by-election results in Uttarakhand and West Bengal. While the Congress won in Jangipur, West Bengal, by a narrow margin of 2,526 votes against the CPI(M) candidate, its loss in Tehri, Uttarakhand, by a margin of 23,000 votes is a setback to the Congress and chief minister Vijay Bahuguna is on shaky grounds.
The state Assembly elections in the two states were lost by the BJP due to internal dissent by a single seat and there is a lesson in this for both parties. The West Bengal trend will swing in the favour of the Left, as a split vote will hurt both the Trinamul Congress and the Congress. The Uttarakhand trend does not look as clear, and we may see a new regional party coming up here, as both the Congress and the BJP have strong divisions in their ranks.
As I continue to work on the likely trends in coming Lok Sabha elections I predict the Congress Party at 150 seats (down from 206 seats in 2009), the BJP at 150 seats (up from 116 seats in 2009) and the Others at 240/250 seats (up from 220 seats in 2009). The current position is that.
The UPA-2 and the NDA do not any more exist in their original shape. The Congress and the BJP are both placed at 150 seats each while the third front and the neutral “fourth front” with issue-based support would total 240 seats.
The Congress is united under Sonia Gandhi, and the BJP may unite under Narendra Modi if he wins the Gujarat Assembly election, but the question is who will unite the 40-odd regional parties. By the time the Lok Sabha poll comes in 2014, these 40 regional parties could well become 60 as parties are breaking up in terms of region and caste groups; the polity is splintering in all directions.
There is an increase in the number of small regional outfits as minority groups won 66,000 votes in Jangipur in West Bengal, and now we have three new political formations coming up in Orissa, a dozen small outfits float the OJS (Odisha Jan Samukshya) and then we have the Biju Swabhiman Dal. Considering that there are too many mining barons in Orissa, is the Indian Against Corruption floated by Arvind Kejriwal going to be left behind?
Looking at the big states like Andhra Pradesh (42 seats), Maharashtra (48 seats) and Tamil Nadu (39 seats) and trying to count the numbers of parties and the factions within the political parties how will the vote of the nation splinter and what will be the reaction?
The political situation in the country is fluid and picking winners and losers a year before the event is a difficult task. If the Congress and the BJP as well as the regional party leaders are to get their act together, then they will have to lead from the front.

Anna Hazare has retired hurt, and Baba Ramdev keeps hurling missiles from Hardwar but has much to answer for. The remnants of Team Anna — now known as Team Kejriwal — burn electricity and water bills, use abusive methods and incite violence to get attention. We are told that the new team has formed a political party and that they will contest 542 seats. But all we see is the “mob” and some young and old angry individuals, bitter in approach and resentful of anyone who does not listen to their twisted logic. Law and order will be a major issue in the days to come as frustration grips the movement. Look at the social media, particularly Twitter, and see the desperate messages.
We are making everyone a target on moral and ethical grounds. As a test case make a list of 50 top performers in every profession ranging from the politicians, bureaucracy, judiciary, lawyers, tax experts, film and TV actors and anchors, top plastic surgeons, builders, architects, sport superstars, business tycoons and bankers and take their income and assets (self and family) over the past 10 years and do not invoke a “million” privacy laws to protect them as no such privilege exists for those under scrutiny under draft audit and vigilance reports (which, though, can be mass-produced for selective action). And under our one million laws and their interpretation by clever lawyers with a political agenda everyone can be proved guilty in the media but few, if any, will stand in the court of law.
We do not have a perfect system of governance (no such thing exists) but it is time we stopped going after the corrupt and fixing the venal system at this rate. If we don’t, we’d go nowhere, muddling perpetually through what V.S. Naipaul called “a million mutinies”.

The writer is a former Union minister

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