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Our main political parties have become deaf and blind

November 28, 2011 14:11 IST

The Mayawati government's resolution for partitioning Uttar Pradesh and Manmohan Singh's move of allowing FDI in the retail sector are classic diversionary tactics to draw eyeballs away from the real issues that concern the people, says T V R Shenoy.

How do you turn your thoughts away from the nagging pain of a chronic headache? Simple, you drop a heavy concrete ball on your foot!

Don't laugh, that corny joke is driving the tactics of the principal political parties in India just now. Most Indians would say the leading issues of the day are corruption, seemingly unstoppable inflation, black money, and so forth. These, presumably, should have occupied the winter session of Parliament. But if you thought so you would be dead wrong.

But, for reasons of their own, whether the Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or the Bahujan Samaj Party, no party seems terribly interested in discussing any of these. Yes, there are other parties but I name these three specifically as they are among the chief antagonists in a whole slew of Vidhan Sabha polls coming up in 2012, in Gujarat, in Uttarakhand, in Punjab, and in the biggest apple of them all, Uttar Pradesh.

Let us begin with the Bahujan Samaj Party, which currently rules Uttar Pradesh without needing any allies. The Mayawati ministry is under attack from every quarter -- Samajwadi Party, BJP, Congress -- on the subject of misgovernment in general, and corruption in particular. I won't go into the specifics, but the Bahujan Samaj Party evidently fears that some of the mud is going to stick. And thus it has tried to divert attention from the migration by dropping the concrete ball of partition of the giant state.

Is the Bahujan Samaj Party serious? Let us look at the record. The Mayawati government, having been in power for over four-and-a-half years, waited to introduce the resolution in the Vidhan Sabha in the very last session before the election.

The resolution was 'passed' in a few minutes, without debate, by a voice vote, amid a ruckus by the Opposition benches claiming that the government had lost its majority. Once this was over, Speaker Sukhadeo Rajbhar announced that the House was being adjourned sine die, which sealed off all proceedings until a new Vidhan Sabha is elected.

But, however temporarily, the Bahujan Samaj Party succeeded in shifting the focus from corruption to the creation of Poorvanchal, Paschim Pradesh, Awadh Pradesh, and Bundelkhand. Chief Minister Mayawati followed up by announcing that it was now up to Parliament -- meaning her political foes in Delhi -- to ensure that the four states were created.

This, as she knows perfectly well, is all but impossible for a Congress that is a house divided over carving a Telangana out of Andhra Pradesh. If you can split Uttar Pradesh into four, what prevents dividing Andhra Pradesh into two?

If the Bahujan Samaj Party would prefer to put the issue of corruption on the back-burner, the Congress is scarcely better off. Rahul Gandhi might speak all he likes of middlemen making mountains of money in Mayawati's Uttar Pradesh, but is the Congress record any better?

The Commonwealth Games scam, the 2G scam, the Adarsh Housing scam... it is a seemingly endless procession of skeletons pouring out of the UPA cupboards.

I would argue, however, that the Congress's record of economic mismanagement is actually far worse than its history of tolerating corruption, and that the potential long-term consequences are far worse. The government led by the 'economist prime minister' has failed to curb deficits, failed to create jobs, and failed to raise infrastructure. And -- which is what pinches us all -- the Manmohan Singh ministry does not seem to have a clue as to how to tackle the scary inflation.

The Congress's floor managers must have known that they would find it difficult if Parliament discussed rising prices. Do you think it was coincidence that, just as a Parliamentary debacle loomed, the Union Cabinet dropped the concrete ball of increasing Foreign Direct Investment, FDI, in the retail sector?

Details apart, how is this any different from that of the Bahujan Samaj Party? The Mayawati government knew that partitioning Uttar Pradesh did not have the support of the other major parties in the state; the Manmohan Singh government knew the vexed issue of FDI in the retail sector is opposed by many of its own allies, including the largest, Mamata Bannerjee's Trinamool Congress.

These are classic diversionary tactics, not to be taken too seriously and intended only to draw eyeballs away from the real issues that concern people.

One might have thought that the BJP, at any rate, would see things differently. But, for whatever reason, it too is shying away from talking about corruption and black money.

Consider this peculiar behaviour -- with literally hours to go before the winter session began the BJP suddenly announced that it was going to 'boycott' the Union home minister.

Why? Because, the BJP says, of P Chidambaram's supposed role in enabling the 2G Scam.

Does this make any sense? The 2G Scam is already before the courts. On Thursday, November 17, Dr Subramanian Swamy received almost 500 pages of documents from the Central Bureau of Investigation (following a court order), and said he would make a submission before the special court after going through them.

Dr Swamy had already submitted documents to the Supreme Court itself in September, which, according to him, pointed to P Chidambaram's involvement in the scandal. Is there any reason why the Supreme Court and the special court should not be left to do their job?

As for the 2G Scam in general, does the BJP realise that it is being scrutinised by two parliamentary committees, the Public Accounts Committee and a Joint Parliamentary Committee set up for that specific purpose?

So, what exactly is the BJP hoping to achieve by its proposed 'boycott' -- apart, that is, from preventing Parliament from discussing rising prices and other such issues?

Anger and frustration are rising across India, from the captains of industry in Mumbai to workers surviving on subsistence-level wages, but the principal parties in Lucknow and in Delhi seem deaf and blind. And the concrete balls drop with sickening thuds even as we are paralysed by migraine.

T V R Shenoy