ndsharma's blog

BJP has declared Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi its Prime Ministerial candidate. This is the first time that a party is contesting the Lok Sabha elections with a Prime Ministerial candidate. In the past the presumption was there most of the times as to who would become the Prime Minister if a particular party came to power but never had a political party formally announced its Prime Ministerial candidate.

There is no law that prevents a political party from declaring anyone its Prime Ministerial candidate. But the concept of PM candidate militates against the spirit of Parliamentary system that we follow in this country. A direct election of the head of the government is held only in the Presidential system. The Presidential candidate, say, in the US, is directly elected by the entire nation and stays in office for four years. Sometimes the President belongs to one party while another party has a majority in the Legislature and a clash, too, occurs between the two over certain issues. But the Legislature cannot remove the President except through impeachment which is a pretty cumbersome process. The President has certain overriding powers.

In our parliamentary system, there is no provision for the direct election of the Prime Minister. He or she has to be one of the 543 members (which is the present strength) elected to Lok Sabha or one of the 233 elected members of Rajya Sabha. The executive powers, in theory, vest in the President who is also head of the Legislature as well as the Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. In a unique arrangement, the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary in our country derive their respective powers from the Constitution.

The Constitution provides that “The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister” and that “The Ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the President”. The Constitution also lays down that “The Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People” which gives precedence to Lok Sabha over Rajya Sabha which is referred to as the House of the States.

In other words the Prime Minister belongs to the party, or an alliance of the parties, which enjoys majority in Lok Sabha. In theory as well as in practice, he or she is the leader elected by the members of the party (or an alliance of the parties) having a majority in Lok Sabha. The majority party (or alliance) can change its leader (or the Prime Minister) any time. This did happen a few times in the past.

The Constitution provides a lot of flexibility in this regard. The majority party (or alliance) may elect its leader even from its members of Rajya Sabha, though the Prime Minister will stay in office only as long as he or she has the majority support in Lok Sabha. The present Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, is a member of Rajya Sabha. (He has, in fact, been never elected to Lok Sabha). Moreover, the Constitution allows the majority party (or alliance) to elect its leader (to be appointed Prime Minister) even if he or she is not a member of the either House, with the condition that he or she should get elected to either House within six months of being appointed Prime Minister. The late P V Narasimha Rao was not a member of either House when the Congress Parliamentary Party (CPP) elected him its leader in 1991.

While the President in the Presidential system is elected by the entire nation, the Prime Ministerial candidate is not. He or she will represent in Parliament only one of the 543 constituencies and cannot, therefore, be considered as the choice of the nation. This poses a few questions also. What if the party of the Prime Ministerial candidate gets a majority in Lok Sabha and the elected members decide to elect someone else as their leader? Can the Prime Ministerial candidate insist that he only should be elected? Or, what will happen if the party gets the majority and the Prime Ministerial candidate loses?

Besides, the nomination of Prime Ministerial candidate undermines the party as well as its president. After declaration of the Prime Ministerial candidate, Rajnath Singh has been virtually reduced from the BJP president to baggage career of Narendra Modi. Not a healthy development.

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has some of the best investigators and the agency has done really commendable job in the investigation of crimes. However, when it is assigned a politically sensitive case, its officers from top to bottom compromise their integrity and honesty. At least in Madhya Pradesh the CBI has not handled even a single sensitive case with honesty and efficiency.

The most scandalous and shameful performance of the CBI in Madhya Pradesh was in what had come to be known as the Malik Makbooja case. The agency was not even required to do much investigation but only to collate the evidence and prosecute the culprits. That, though, was the crux of the problem. The culprits included senior IAS officers and political leaders.

The case also saw an IAS officer, having already reached the pinnacle of his career as the chief secretary of the State, stoop low to please the chief minister so that his undeserving wife could get a sinecure in the State Human Rights Commission. Incidentally, the wife drew the house rent allowance from the Human Rights Commission by submitting the house rent receipts signed by none other than her husband with whom she lived in their own house.

Malik Makbooja, narrated in a simple language, was like this:  the law prohibits the sale of a tribal’s land to a non-tribal. What the rogues did to circumvent this provision in law in Bastar was to persuade a tribal to sell his land to another chosen tribal.  It started like this. “A” was paid a meagre amount of money and made to sell his land to “B”. Both were tribals and poor and illiterate. A certain politician or trader paid a few lakh of rupees to “B” and took, for all practical purposes, the possession of the land. There were 200-300-year-old precious teak trees on the land but the revenue officials had shown the land in the records as barren land, with only a few shrubs. The IAS officials, appointed there as Commissioner, Collector, Assistant Commissioner and in other capacities, as well as the lower level revenue officers, facilitated the illegal transaction.  The politician or the trader behind the deal would then cut down the trees and make crores of rupees from the timber. The government officials also benefited from the transaction. This had gone on for decades.

S R Hiremath, president of National Committee for Protection of Natural Resources (NCPNR), who has done a commendable job in the field of environment conservation in Karnataka, got concerned with the plunder of Bastar in the early 1990’s. With the help of Ekata Parishad, which was active in the Chhattisgarh region of Madhya Pradesh, Hiremath approached the Supreme Court through an interlocutory application (No. 60 of 1997) in writ petition No. 202 of 1995, with a prayer to put a check on the wanton destruction of forests and exploitation of poor tribals by a nexus of bureaucrats, politicians and timber merchants in Bastar district which had larger area than that of Kerala State. (It has since been divided into seven districts).

800 Cases

The apex court directed the Madhya Pradesh Lokayukta to get the matter investigated. The Lokayukta constituted a committee comprising retired district and sessions judge R C Sharma (chairman), retired forest secretary to the MP Government Prakash Chandra, and retired Chief Conservator of Forests K.K.R.Naidu. The three-member committee did an excellent job and produced a 236-page report giving precise details of nearly 800 cases: how much the seller of the land was given, how much was paid to the chosen buyer of the land, how much the real person behind the racket made out of the sale of timber on the land and who were the IAS and other revenue department officers involved in the deal and what illegalities they committed.

The committee found no evidence of any organised gang or group of persons or Mafia involved in the illegal activities. It said that the sale and purchase of lands and felling of trees “are being done by different persons of different class and category, whosoever got opportunity, for their individual benefit. Some families have made it their regular business”. It pointed out that the nexus “between the persons, including persons in politics, and the merchants, with local bureaucrats at all levels is apparent. The role of officers is a major factor in promoting these activities which make the task of exploitation of forests standing on private land (Malik Makbooja land) easy, by granting permission to cut the trees, frequently and liberally”.

The Lokayukta submitted the report to the Supreme Court which asked the Madhya Pradesh government of Digvijaya Singh (Chhattisgarh was still part of it) to initiate action against those indicted in the report. The State’s chief secretary K.S.Sharma, however, submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court expressing the State government’s inability to proceed against the Malik Makbooja culprits. In January 1998, a division bench of the apex court comprising Chief Justice J.S.Verma, and Justices B.N. Kirpal and V.N. Khare directed the CBI to institute criminal cases against them and prosecute them. The CBI made a big show of registering a few FIRs and the case died down there. (K S Sharma’s wife Shakuntala Sharma was later appointed on the State Human Rights Commission).

On the eve of the election of Madhya Pradesh BJP president towards the close of 2012, Prabhat Jha was reassured by chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan of a second term and asked to leave everything to him. The next day, Jha could only fret and fume as the entire party under the guidance of Chouhan supported Narendra Singh Tomar for the post.

Later at the delegates’ meeting held to felicitate the new incumbent and bid farewell to the outgoing party chief, Jha could no longer contain his pique and all but called Chouhan names, describing him artful to the core. Jha said that Chouhan held with him the “remote” of both the government and the organisation. As Atal Behari Vajpayee kept his cards close to his chest at the time of the Pokharan explosion, so did Chouhan about getting Tomar elected in his (Jha’s) place as the party president, he added. Chouhan sat on the dais grinning, as the central observers, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Ananth Kumar, looked a bit uncomfortable.

It is a pity that Jha cognised only too late the qualities of Chouhan’s head and heart. At the helm of affairs since November 2005, Chouhan has displayed little ability or even inclination for providing a reasonably good administration to the State; he has,  nevertheless, emerged as the ace player in the game of politics inasmuch as he is now being considered, at least in the media, as Narendra Modi’s competitor for the top position. His manipulations in politics and bureaucracy would seem legendary.

With a permanent grin on his face and his hands always half-folded, this mild-mannered, soft-spoken, self-effacing foot soldier of the BJP patiently waited for his time. His opportunity came when Uma Bharti wanted back the post of chief minister which she had relinquished in the wake of the non-bailable warrant issued against her by a Hubli court. Babulal Gaur, who had stepped into Uma’s shoes, was not inclined to resign. The BJP leadership faced a veritable crisis as Uma threatened to march to the Raj Bhavan with her supporters in the BJP legislature party to demand what she considered her due.

Chouhan, then president of the State BJP, volunteered to mediate with the high command by keeping the hopes of both, Uma Bharti and Babulal Gaur, alive. He did persuade the high command for a change, but only in his own favour. Both Gaur and Bharti were dumbstruck when they came to know of this but by then it was too late. Then BJP vice-president Rajnath Singh and general secretaries Arun Jaitley and Pramod Mahajan were deputed to oversee the change. When Chouhan’s name was proposed as the new leader at the legislature party meeting, Gaur took it stoically but Uma could not. She, along with her supporters, walked out of the meeting, making all sorts of allegations against BJP leaders. She eventually formed her Bharatiya Jana Shakti party. Describing the formation of the BJP government in 2003 as her own baby, she always referred to Chouhan as “Bacha-Chor” (child-lifter). That is, till she returned to the BJP.

April 2014
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Non-violence and Physical force

Non-violence is backed by the theory of soul-force in which suffering is courted in the hope of ultimately winning over the opponent. But what happens when such an attempt fails to achieve the object? It is here that soul-force has to be combined with physical force so as not to remain at the mercy of tyrannical and ruthless enemy.

------------Shahid-e-Azam BHAGAT SINGH

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