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Daily Take: Making a virtue of necessity

April 24, 2004 01:57 IST

Communism was great. In theory. That is perhaps why communists are so good at putting theoretical cloaks over practical problems.

Take Sitaram Yechuri, the younger face of the Communist Party of India, Marxist. He thinks it is unethical of a party or alliance to project a particular candidate as prospective prime minister.

"A leader of a party or an alliance should only be decided after the completion of the election and its result is out," he said in Ranchi on Friday, April 23.

Why? Because, sometimes, the leader himself may lose the election, resulting in much embarrassment for the party or group that had chosen him beforehand.

All fine in theory. But not too many even in the CPI-M will believe this is the reason why the Congress and its allies have not decided on a prospective leader.

Sonia Gandhi has shifted from Amethi to neighbouring Rae Bareilly, and the BJP is trying its best to defeat her there, apparently using threats and strong-arm tactics while the supportive Samajwadi Party government in Uttar Pradesh looks the other way. But even they are not yet claiming that they will be able to vanquish her.

So the 'defeat of the leader' theory doesn't quite hold water. Unless Yechuri was thinking in terms of naming Comrade Harkishen Singh Surjeet for the position.

If anything, in these days of fractured mandates, it is unethical for coalitions not to name their leader in advance, and to trade different posts after the results.

But the Bharatiya Janata Party well knows that the Congress-led alliance cannot afford to name its leader just yet. And it will never let go of an opportunity to drive this point home.

That is exactly what BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu did when he made his party's election campaign telecast on Doordarshan. He said the National Democratic Alliance had a vision and a leader, while the opposition had neither.

Interestingly, Naidu appealed to the electorate to vote the NDA in for another term rather than just the BJP. Only a few days ago, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee himself had expressed fatigue at having to steer such a big conglomerate of parties and hoped that the electorate would send in a more compact coalition if not the BJP on its own.

Obviously, the thinking in the BJP must be, better the NDA than nothing at all.

Every now and then you get a situation that shows how tough conducting an election in India can be. There are as many problems as there are regions, each looking more difficult than the other.

In Assam, the authorities are now battling the elements,  no less, to ensure that the elections are held on time. Six of Assam's 14 Lok Sabha constituencies went to the polls on April 20. The remaining eight are to vote on Monday, April 26.

But in the interregnum, the southern Barak valley of the state has received unceasing rains, raising the level of the Barak river and its tributaries, inundating vast areas and even damaging polling stations in many places.

Polling in two constituencies, Silchar and Karimganj, now appears uncertain. All parties except one have urged the Election Commission to reschedule the polls in these two constituencies.

The sole exception is the Congress, the ruling party in the state. Either it has something planned to get its voters to the polling stations on the appointed day. Or it has no real hope in these two constituencies and so does not care.

Whenever a prominent personality, particularly a politician, in India is arrested, he promptly takes ill and goes to hospital rather than to a lockup. This has become such a routine practice that no one takes any notice of it anymore.

But such illness is never serious enough to prevent these politicians from campaigning for elections. Thus, Mohammed Shahabuddin, Rashtriya Janata Dal nominee for re-election from Siwan in Bihar, has been running his election campaign from his hospital room in Siwan town, even venturing out from time to time for rallies and meetings.

Shahabuddin should rightly have been lodged in prison. He is supposed to be in judicial custody in connection with the suspected abduction and murder of a Communist Party of India, Marxist-Leninist, Liberation activist some years ago.

But that is not how things work in Bihar, especially if you belong to the ruling party.

But at least one organ of State is not taking these things lying down. A division bench of the Patna high court observed on Friday that criminals should have no role in politics and that their rightful place is in jail and ordered the state government to send all such people back where they belong. To ensure that the order is obeyed, the court has told the state government to file an 'action taken report' by Monday, April 26.

Of course, Shahabuddin is not the only prisoner contesting elections in Bihar. There are several others, the more noteworthy being Lok Janshakti Party general secretary Rajesh Ranjan 'Pappu' Yadav, independent MLA Rajan Tiwari, and outlawed Ranvir Sena chief Brahmeshwar Singh.

But as long as the courts at least are doing their job conscientiously, there remains some hope for Bihar. The same high court bench is also considering a public interest petition challenging the candidature of all those currently in jail and whose voting rights are suspended under the Representation of the Peoples Act, 1951.

Earlier Editions:
Daily Take: Against the popular will
Daily Take: Rajni has spoken
Daily Take: India flexes electoral muscles
Daily Take: Congress makes Dharam garam

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