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Posts Tagged ‘Kamal Nath

Election Commissioner O P Rawat surprised his admirers and detractors alike by his outburst at the blatant use of money and misuse of government machinery in the elections.  This was not the Rawat I had known from his days in Madhya Pradesh, where he served in various important positions in the government; he was never known to speak publicly, and that too, in a harsh language, about what he was thinking on an issue. His detractors had, in fact, dubbed him as a ‘ghunna’ (one who keeps his strong feelings about something or somebody within himself).

That even Rawat should have lost his calm can only mean that the electoral process has reached such a low as to require immediate drastic measures to keep the people’s faith intact in the elections. Democracy thrives, Rawat observed, ‘when elections are free, fair and transparent’. Rawat shared his distress in his keynote address at the consultation on electoral and political reforms organised by Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in New Delhi in August.

He said, ‘it has come to the notice of the (Election) Commission that paid operators run by PR firms are being actively deployed to shape public opinion online. It appears to a cynical common man that we have been scripting a narrative that places maximum premium on winning at all costs to the total exclusion of ethical considerations. In this narrative, poaching of legislators is extolled as small political management; strategic introduction of money for allurement, tough-minded use of State machinery for intimidation, etc, are all commended as resourcefulness’.

He said, ‘the winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing over to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all the guilt as also possible criminality. It is this creeping new normal of political morality that should be the target for exemplary action by all political parties, politicians, media, civil society organisations, constitutional authorities and all those having faith in democratic polity for better election, a better tomorrow’.

Rawat pointed out that ‘although money was necessary for political parties and candidates, experience has shown that there is a real and present risk that some parties and candidates, once in office, will be more responsive to the interests of a particular group of donors rather than to wider public interest. Policy capture occurs when the interests of a narrow group dominate those of other stakeholders to the benefit of that narrow group’.

Referring to the Election Commission’s objection to the Electoral Bonds introduced by the government, he observed that it might lead to the use of black money in electoral politics. Rawat said, ‘the recent amendments in the election and income tax laws make it clear that any donation received by a political party through an Electoral Bond has been taken out of ambit of reporting in the Contribution Report which political parties have to submit to the EC. Implications of this step can be retrograde as far as transparency is concerned. Furthermore, where contributions received through Electoral Bonds are not reported, a perusal of contribution reports will not make it clear whether the party in question has taken any donations in violation of Section 29B of the Representation of the People Act, which prohibits political parties from taking donations from government companies and foreign sources’.

Amit Shah reacts

The Election Commission had, he said, expressed apprehension that the abolition of relevant provisions of the Companies Act of removing a cap of 7.5 per cent of profit for political donations can lead to money laundering ‘by setting up of shell companies for diverting funds for donations to political parties.

Rawat’s plain speaking came apparently in the light of the developments during the Gujarat Rajya Sabha elections in which blatant use of money, government machinery and intimidation was witnessed. BJP president Amit Shah was hailed as the ‘manager’ of the election strategy.

Shah did not take note of Rawat’s speech at ADR event directly. But he reacted to Rawat’s observations in his own way. During his three-day visit to Bhopal a few days later, he opted to have his lunch at the house of Narottam Mishra to the exclusion of all other party leaders. Narottam Mishra, Minister of Public Relations, Legislative Affairs and Water Resources in the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government, is on a stay after he was found guilty of ‘paid news’ by the Election Commission in June and disqualified as well as barred from contesting elections for three years. The stay against the Election Commission’s order did not come to him easily. His prayer for a stay was rejected by the Gwalior bench of Madhya Pradesh High Court, by a single bench of Delhi High Court (where the matter was transferred by the Supreme Court), by a division bench of Delhi High Court where he had appealed against the single bench order. He then went to the Supreme Court which returned his appeal to the Delhi High Court. Eventually a division bench of Delhi High Court granted him stay.

Shah was later reported to have told party men that the BJP had to win all the 29 Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh anyhow in 2019. He was said to have particularly named Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia who, he said, had to be defeated ‘at any cost’. His reported advice to the members of the cabinet: Never do any work of Congressmen, make them uncomfortable and lure them to the BJP.

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Though there is no word from the Congress High Command as yet, the buzz in Madhya Pradesh is that Jyotiraditya Scindia will be the party’s face in next year’s Assembly elections. Member of Lok Sabha from Guna constituency, Scindia has increased his visits to the State. In the aftermath of the police firing on farmers in Mandsaur district in early June, Scindia held a three-day Satyagraha in Bhopal. Most of the State party leaders, including AICC General Secretary and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh, attended it. Later Scindia held a one-day demonstration at Khalghat in Khargone district on the farmers’ issue. Veteran Congress leader Kamal Nath, who did not come to Bhopal, attended it there. Scindia has since held several programmes in the State to highlight the travails of the people in the BJP government of Shivraj Singh Chouhan, with main emphasis on the plight of the farmers in the State.

Appearances apart, the disquiet among Congress chieftains of the State at the emergence of Scindia as the possible chief ministerial candidate is much too palpable. Some time back, Kamal Nath had started attacking the Chouhan government with unusual regularity following media reports that he was soon going to be named as the PCC chief in place of Arun Yadav and was going to be the chief ministerial candidate. After Scindia’s name started doing the rounds, Kamal Nath’s belligerency has waned. Leader of Opposition in the Assembly Ajay Singh is not seen in the current (monsoon) session of the Assembly in the same ebullient form which he displayed the last time as the Leader of Opposition. He was himself aspiring to lead the party in the elections.

Digvijaya Singh is a case apart. Once he had seen in Ajay Singh the next Chief Minister. At another time at a party function at Chhindwara, he had favoured Kamal Nath. Chhindwara is Kamal Nath’s Lok Sabha constituency. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that he does not like Scindia, nor, for that matter, did he like Scindia’s father, late Madhavrao Scindia. In fact, the only Scindia he liked was Madhavrao’s late mother Vijayaraje Scindia. Vijayaraje, one of the seniormost BJP leaders, fully reciprocated Digvijaya Singh’s sentiments and often praised the Congress leader publicly, to utter chagrin of the late BJP leader Sunderlal Patwa.

At the farmers’ rally organised by Jyotiraditya in Lahar in Bhind district early this month, Digvijaya Singh left the party workers aghast when towards the close of his speech, he looked at Scindia and said: ‘go and fight BJP and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, NOT ME.’

Digvijaya Singh has reiterated that he is not interested in Madhya Pradesh politics. He will now undertake spiritual parikrama of river Narmada from October 1. It may take several months to go round the river on foot.

Interestingly, Rubina Sharma Singh, wife of Digvijaya Singh’s younger brother Lakshman Singh, has pleaded for Scindia. In a Facebook post she says: ‘Jyotiraditya Scindia is making a great effort to resurrect the Congress Party here in Madhya Pradesh. Now, the rest of the Party leaders need to genuinely support him and stop this ego tussle they have with him.’ A similar appeal was made by Digvijaya Singh’s son Jaivardhan Singh (who is Congress MLA) at Scindia’s Bhopal Satyagraha in early June.

The BJP leaders, too, have concentrated their attacks on Scindia. To which level they can go to malign Scindia is shown by an incident. A trauma centre was to be inaugurated by Scindia in Ashoknagar in his Lok Sabha constituency where local BJP MLA Gopinath Jatav, a Dalit, was also invited. Jatav, however, pre-empted it and inaugurated it a day earlier. Congress leader and Scindia’s representative Amit Tavre promptly issued a statement that the trauma centre had been contaminated by the touch of a Dalit and would be washed with gangajal. The Congress leaders were stunned by this unauthorised statement. District Congress Committee president Gajram Singh Yadav promptly expelled Tavre from the party for six years. Scindia removed him from the responsibilities of his representative.

BJP leaders denounced Scindia’s feudal attitude and his prejudice against Dalits. On a directive from State BJP president Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan, the BJP workers burnt effigies of Scindia at district headquarters all over the State on July 24.  


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“Behind every great fortune there is a crime”, originally attributed to 19th-century French writer Honoré de Balzac.

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