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A tale of two judgments

A tale of two judgments
Highlights

Two verdicts were delivered on Wednesday. One was by the people of Karnataka and the other by the apex court of the country. The second one was not...

Two verdicts were delivered on Wednesday. One was by the people of Karnataka and the other by the apex court of the country. The second one was not exactly a judgment, but an opinion of a judge on two very important institutions: the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO). While the mandate given by the voters on May 5 in Karnataka Assembly elections was for a stable government, the comments passed by the learned judge of the Supreme Court on the CBI and the PMO have the potential to destabilize the government at the Centre. At least, the Minister of Law Ashwini Kumar has to go first.

The knockout punch delivered by the people of Karnataka sent the BJP reeling. It was not something that was sudden or unexpected. The urban local body elections held in March gave enough indication of the disaster in store for the ruling party. Karnataka had three BJP chief ministers in two years. The most powerful leader in the State, BS Yeddyurappa, former BJP Chief Minister, now a vengeful spoiler, was bent upon teaching his erstwhile party a lesson for treating him shabbily. His own party, Karnataka Janata Paksha (KJP), may have won only 6 seats but it must have caused loss of scores of seats to the BJP. We will know when the pattern and voting details are analysed.

The apex court has faulted the CBI for yielding to the government and making critical changes in its report to the court, at the behest of Union Law Minister Ashwini Kumar and two joint secretaries of the PMO and Coal ministry. The court has concluded that the Minister has read the report and made substantial changes. The matter was adjourned till July 10, before which the Union government was asked to file an affidavit informing the court how it planned to give full freedom to the CBI.

The judge made scathing observations against the government and the CBI. He said the court had given freedom to the CBI 15 years ago to stand like a rock but it chose to behave like sand. The judge also commented that there are many masters for one "caged parrot", the CBI. The remarks are truly sensational though it is too early to say how the final judgment is going to be.

The argument that the CBI is being used by the UPA gets strengthened by these observations. The submission of the CBI lawyers that it would take four to six more months to complete the investigation of the charges of disproportionate assets against YS Jaganmohan Reddy sounds untenable in the light of what the CBI Director Ranjit Sinha told the court.

He confirmed that there had been interference by the government. The SC is slated to give its decision on the bail petitions of Jaganmohan Reddy and Nimmagadda Prasad and also on the plea of the CBI to cancel bail to Vijay Sai Reddy on Thursday. This assumes importance in view of the developments on Wednesday.

The hypocrisy of our political leaders has been on full display throughout the day. Those who watched the TV news channels must have been worried and amused by the audacity of our leaders who indulged in falsehood and bluffed with a straight face. After all, the Congress and the BJP are the only national parties which could form and sustain coalition governments at the Centre. The days of single-party governments were over long ago and they are not likely to return in near future.

The two national parties have been attacking each other basing on the two verdicts. The habit of looking the other way when it comes to corruption is not a peculiar trait of the BJP. Both parties thrive on it. For that matter, every political party in the country, from national to regional, condones corruption within its fold while it resorts to no-holds barred condemnation of other parties on the same grounds.

Even before the Karnataka Congressmen started celebrating their victory, leaders at Gandhi Bhavan in Hyderabad were making noise exuding confidence that Rahul Gandhi is going to lead UPA-3 without a shred of doubt. P Sudhakar Reddy, AICC secretary, who camped in Karnataka for election campaign, was calling the BJP government in Karnataka the most corrupt.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi described Karnataka victory as a result of joint efforts by the national leaders and State leaders. Congress leaders in various State capitals spoke of the general election and expressed their considered view that their party is sure to form the next government in Delhi.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh gave credit to Rahul Gandhi. If the credit for Karnataka win should go to Rahul Gandhi the blame for the party losing miserably in UP and Bihar also should attach to the Nehru-Gandhi scion. The Mouni Baba, as our Prime Minister is called derisively by his detractors, did not say a word about Rahul's failure in UP.

The comments of the Supreme Court judge do not seem to have been taken seriously by Congress leaders. We have Renuka Choudary, AICC spokesperson, in 'Times Now' talk-show, saying that there is absolutely no need for the law minister or railway minister to resign. She said the apex court never censured the law minister and the allegations against the railway minister are vague and without any substance. It amounts to saying that there is no need for one to resign unless the court asks one to do so. The celebrated panelists, including Vinod Mehta, a senior Editor, were nonplussed.

The same is the case with the BJP leaders. Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Javadekar were seen demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister and the two of his colleagues handling Railways and Law. They refused to talk at length about their stupendous failure in Karnataka, a State they gave to the Congress on a platter. They dilate only on the comments made by the SC judge. They express righteous indignation and talk of high moral values. To be fair to the BJP, for the moral stand taken in the case of Yeddyurappa, the party has had to pay dearly. KL Advani's stand on Yeddyurappa was motivated by high-minded principle that the BJP should be seen as a party with a difference. Opinion polls suggested at that time that people had supported the high command's move to sack the person who had brought the BJP to power in Karnataka.

Even though Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar said the Yeddyurappa factor was only marginal in the defeat of his party, he and others know only too well that the former Chief Minister, a BJP nemesis, had dealt a deathblow to the party. It takes a lot of time and effort to rebuild the party and the best way to do that would perhaps be to invite Yeddyurappa back into the fold. Some BJP leaders promise that he would bring Lingayats along with him. The voters of Karnataka might have considered local issues and their own miserable experience with the State government and decided to vote the BJP out. What will happen when general elections take place next year? It will be the UPA-2 which has to stand scrutiny.

The scams galore from 2G to Coalgate would come back to haunt every voter. We can depend on the robust electronic media to spread the information. The shameless manner in which tainted ministers are allowed to continue in the Cabinet and the brazen attitude of the ruling coalition, especially its leader, the Congress, towards an array of allegations are being silently observed by the people.

What happened in Bengaluru might as well happen in Delhi next year or even later this year if an opportunity is given to the angry and sullen voter. The BJP government in Karnataka was thrown out because of stinking corruption and inefficient rule. The same thing could happen to the UPA government for the same reasons. Arguing that it would be different is hoping against hope. Karnataka results may have come as a shot in the arm for the Congress which has been waiting for success. When elections are held for Madhya Pradesh Assembly, the BJP is certain to win again. What would the Congress leaders say then? Reading too much in the Karnataka results and saying that the same pattern will replicate itself in general election amounts to self-deception. The image of the NDA at the time of 2004 general election was far better than what the UPA-2 image today is. People were fed up with six years of Vajpayee rule. Can we expect them to feel differently with the 10 years of Manmohan-Sonia rule? But then, the Congress before the 2004 general election was in a far better shape than the BJP now is.

The dynasty forecloses all options for aspirants. A Till President Abdul Kalam said something mysterious which made Sonia Gandhi beat a hasty retreat and enact the drama of sacrifice to announce the name of the good old Manmohan Singh, none dared to think that anyone other than Sonia Gandhi would take the prime ministerial mantle. It was the bizarre context that made the most unexpected happen.

There have been unity and discipline in the Congress since Sonia took the reins from Sitaram Kesari. It was entirely different with the BJP. After Advani was made persona non grata by the Sangh leadership after his fateful visit to Jinnah's memorial in Pakistan, there have been more than three aspirants for the top job. Narendra Modi was more vociferous and scheming than the others in his claim to the throne. But by peaking too early he seemed to have alerted Advani and others who are sure to mobilize leaders opposed to Modi. If the BJP can sort out the leadership issue well before the general election, there is no reason why it should not emerge as the single largest party.

After watching the two national parties indulging in one-upmanship, plain bluff and deceit, the prospect of either party forming the next government in Delhi cannot be comforting. Any dispensation that has no moral moorings would be dangerous. The third or fourth Front remains only in the realm of dreams. The Left Front is not courageous or enthusiastic enough to provide a platform for non-Congress and non-BJP parties to come together and deliberate on the possibility of building a third alternative.

The inability of the Left and the arrogance of the regional satraps, on the one side, and the amoral politics of the two national parties, on the other, present a frightening picture for the future. It is a matter of great concern to every citizen.

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