Chauhan’s Swarnim folly
Posted May 18, 2010on:
What Sonia Gandhi could not do has been done by Shivraj Singh Chauhan: uniting the warring factions in the Congress in Madhya Pradesh. It was a sight to behold the Congress chieftains, who had been picking apart against each other mainly through media for years, marching side by side in the scorching heat with mercury hovering around 43 degrees Celsius and holding day-long dharnas — for four days consecutively — to expose the corruption-ridden regime of Chauhan.
The provocation was provided by Chauhan’s insistence on going ahead with a special session of the Assembly to exclusively discuss his concept of “Swarnim (golden) Madhya Pradesh” – irrespective of the rebuff from President Pratibha Devisingh Patil who was persuaded by Chauhan and Assembly Speaker Ishwardas Rohani to address the special session but had, on learning the nature of the session, sent her refusal.
The Congress Legislature Party (CLP) has claimed that this type of session is not sanctioned by the Constitutional provisions and the Rules do not permit suspension of normal business of the Assembly, like Question Hour, Calling-Attention notices and discussions on urgent matters of public importance, for the entire session: only the House has the power to suspend a scheduled business on some special occasion.
Chauhan, however, believes, like Hitler’s minister of propaganda Paul Joseph Goebbels, in iterating and reiterating something so incessantly that his audience loses perspective of the real issues. In the present case, the chief minister went on harping on his concern for the development of the State and on the necessity of a special session of the Assembly for preparing a roadmap of development. How else could the State be developed? Chauhan also wrote a letter to Congress president Sonia Gandhi requesting her to direct her party’s MLAs in Madhya Pradesh to attend the special session for the development of the State. Wide publicity of the contents of the letter was ensured in the media.
The voice of those who raised questions about the Constitutional validity of the special session or tried to cite the deplorable record of Chauhan’s four-and-half-year rule was drowned in the clamour for special session for development. Not only the BJP leaders and activists but others also joined in the clamour. Some intellectuals, who had enjoyed privileges during the Congress regime of Digvijay Singh, started giving advice to the Congress through newspaper columns to cooperate with Chauhan for the development of the State.
Sponsored stories started appearing in the Bhopal print media that the CLP was divided on the issue: while some were opposed to the special session, the others were in favour of joining it as the interest of the State was involved. As the date of the session neared, it became clear that it was part of Chauhan’s propaganda machinery and that his bluff was not holding this time. Some ministers, who figure in the lists of the Lokayukta, were deputed to persuade Congress legislators to attend the special session. They apparently did not succeed.
The Congress devised its own strategy at the CLP meeting to counter Chauhan’s attempts at self-glorification by diverting the public attention from the pressing problems of the State. In the absence of Leader of CLP Jamuna Devi because of her prolonged health problems, deputy leader Rakesh Singh Chaudhary presided. Rakesh Singh has of late been giving a lot of trouble to the Chauhan government, not only during the Assembly sessions (where Speaker Rohani had unashamedly been flouting the Rules and established norms to bail out Chauhan) and also through his queries under the Right to Information Act (RTI). The BSP MLAs also decided to go along with the Congress.
As the special session of the Assembly started on May 11, the Congress MLAs marched from Birla Mandir to the Assembly building and sat on dharna near the Mahatma Gandhi statue on the Assembly, shouting slogans against the corrupt BJP regime which has failed to address to the people’s problems. They also shouted slogans that a session was meaningless unless the problems of drinking water, electricity, law and order and corruption were allowed to be discussed. It was a rare unity seen in the CLP which has hardly ever displayed a semblance of unity on any issue.
More significant was a protest demonstration on similar issues organised by the Congress party under the leadership of PCC chief Suresh Pachauri in the city. Pachauri has marked aversion for some of the senior party MLAs and the sentiment is suitably reciprocated. To chalk out a party programme to synchronise with the CLP programme was something unheard of during Pachauri’s leadership. But on May 11 the Congress activists formed a human chain and held meetings in protest against the growing corruption in the State. In his speeches Pachauri fully supported the decision of the CLP to boycott the sham special session of the Assembly.
After the Assembly hours, the Congress legislators gathered at the Iqbal Maidan and held mock Assembly there where the problems of the people were discussed while the Pachauri-led organisation held corner meetings to highlight the distress of the people during the BJP regime. Pachauri launched a State-wide signature campaign against Chauhan’s corrupt regime. The CLP and the Congress organisation have chalked out their programmes for the four days the special session lasts.
The protests by a seemingly united Congress against Chauhan’s misrule seemed to have jolted the BJP leadership. By the close of day 2, Chauhan was a shattered man, as were his well wishers like Speaker Ishwardas Rohani. Their extreme frustration was reflected in a censure motion the “House” adopted against a Congress MLA on a somewhat innocuous issue.
While the ministers and ruling party MLAs were discussing Chauhan’s concept of development inside the “House”, the Congress and BSP MLAs were sitting on dharna outside. As BJP MLA Lalita Yadav, who was slightly late, was passing by the dharna site, Congress MLA Kalpana Parulekar remarked how would there be a Swarnim Madhya Pradesh if she came so late. Panchilal Meda, another Congress MLA, commented she might have been delayed at the beauty parlour.
Lalita went inside and all seemed normal. Just before the day’s sitting was to be over, suddenly there was a ruckus among BJP MLAs over the gross insult to the honourable member by a Congress MLA and demands for lodging an FIR and also bringing a notice of breach of privilege against the “erring” Congress MLA were raised. The chief minister promptly moved a motion censuring the “erring” Congress MLA and it was adopted by the House unanimously. After that the House was adjourned.
Later in his chamber, Speaker Rohani called a video cameraman and started sobbing in front of the camera over the hurt he had felt because of the humiliation of the woman MLA.