A sense of de ja vu overwhelms. Brutally reinforced by the revolving door politics witnessed in the last fortnight in Madhya Pradesh whereby turncoats are the flavour of the season again and power at all costs is the new black of political morality to the exclusion of ethical considerations. When gold and satta speaks all tongues are silent. Money hai to power hai!
Nothing underscores this than the brazen tug-of-war between the 15-month Congress Government led by Chief Minister Kamal Nath and the BJP in Bhopal for the Raj Gaddi. It all started with senior Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia joining the Saffron Sangh and 22 of his loyal MLAs resigning and flown to BJP-ruled Karnataka.
Predictably, Nath accused the BJP of forcibly holding his MLAs in a Bengaluru luxury resort and an obliging Assembly Speaker calling for a floor test on 26 March due to the ‘corona crisis’, giving the Congress breathing time to get its recalcitrant flock back. But the BJP moved the Supreme Court which called for a trust vote Friday. Left with no option the Speaker accepted the legislators’ resignation thereby whittling down the Congress strength from 114 to 92 MLAs in a 230 member Assembly and Nath resigned.
Naturally, the BJP is preening as it comes on the heels of a similar exercise in Karnataka where Congress-JD(S) MLA’s defected eight months ago resulting in the Saffron Party forming the Government. Today it controls a major chunk of India’s political landscape with its ‘mahagathbandhan’ of turncoats and the Congress’s stock crashing to a handful of States. Never matter if it further rips the facade of our democratic norms and functioning.
The issue is not about these two States alone, but it raises a larger question: Are they symptomatic of today’s polity? Yes, reminiscent of the 1967 Aya Ram Gaya Ram culture when Gaya Lal an Independent MLA in Haryana switched three Parties in 15 days. Followed by Bhajan Lal who hijacked his Janata Party Government to the Congress, thereby opening the floodgates of defection and institutionalizing it through Indira Gandhi’s 60s-80s.
In fact, between 1967 and 1983 there were 162 defections in Parliament and 2,700 in State Assemblies with 212 defectors being rewarded with Ministerial positions and 15 becoming Chief Ministers, according to a PRS Legislative Research. Several of them did so more than once, some of them even five times. One MLA was found to have defected five times to be a Minister for only five days.
Alas, this kind of politricking is all encompassing. Whereby, once we peel off our netagan’s mask one comes face to face with the Aya Rams and Gaya Rams all rolled into one to fulfil their lust for power. Who make it abundantly clear that they have no strong single-Party preference and are willing to switch sides to the highest bidder. Their purchasing price governed by the law of diminishing returns. Elucidated by JMM Suraj Mandal in the Lok Sabha in 1993, “Paisa boriyoin mein atta hai….Do saandh ke beech ek bachra kya kare?”
Bringing things to such a pass where every Party and its leaders have perfected the art of beguiling its hum zulfs and dushmans with aplomb. Instead of electing a representative Government, we are instead saddled with opportunitists and liars. Exposing as never before the out and out disdain with which our political class holds democracy and the aam aadmi.
This is not all. Politicians girgit-like transfer their loyalties from one Party to another based on winnability. The modus operandi is simple: Paisa and satta bargains are struck, depending on the value of legislators, who switch sides, ferried in chartered planes to luxury resorts and guarded till a elected Government is toppled. All, with clinical precision devoid of any pretensions of ‘meeting of minds’, ideology, principles or personal fondness.
Patronage, opportunism and a share of the power pie is the glue that keeps the swarm of hoppers together with its new benefactors and makes incongruent Parties come together whereby poaching of legislators is extolled as smart political management: money for allurement, use of State machinery for intimidation etc are commended as resourcefulness.
Succinctly, dubbed as survivors not defectors. Who are paraded as prized bulls and portrayed as safedi ki chamkan compared to their chor brethren who are unfit to rule, leave alone provide good and honest governance. The winner can commit no sin; a defector crossing to the ruling camp stands cleansed of all guilt and criminality.
There is no gainsaying that the Madhya Pradesh stunner has exposed the worst kind of politicking. Of cultivating low morality and high greed, donning different party robes, according to their whims and fancies — and the need of the hour. A power-play when personality-oriented malicious vilification seems to have became the hallmark of democracy. This pithily is aaj ki rajneeti.
Worse, in these artificially made alignments, we are persuaded to believe that ends justify the means. Alas, so caught up in the verbose of one-upmanship are all that none stops to think and ponder the implications of their actions. The tragedy of it all is that in this winner take-all-fight governance and people go for a toss. Satta batoan aur tamasha dekho! What matters is only the end game: Gaddi.
Thus, in this game of lies, deceit and deception, the BJP and Congress reflect the emerging truth of today’s India. Power is all. Arguably, one can say this is what democracy is all about. If arch enemies are willing to align with each other, then why have elections at all? Ideally, all should grasp the reality of parliamentary democracy. The people’s verdict should be honoured before they go in search for the aphrodisiac called power and talk formation of a new Government with all and sundry. Sans shared ideology and mutual objectives.
Sure, one can quibble that elections are won by Parties not individuals. In this market model of democracy it is a misnomer to believe that Parties are governed by ideology. Instead, there is a tendency to capture the imagination of the people by creating a spectacle alongside money which makes the clogged, polluted and corrupt political mare go around.
Questionably, in a milieu where defections undermine the foundations of democracy and where ‘stable’ Governments are formed through barefaced political immorality, no Party can claim the high moral ground. In this process, our leaders forget that they leave behind a toxic residue of hatred long after polls are over.
In the moral desert of politics and barren discourse the BJP has only perfected the art of defection and political over-reach from the Congress which holds the copyright. Consequently, such behaviour is likely to be commended as a sign of political ambition than censured as opportunism.
What next? Where do we go from here? No longer can we merely shrug our shoulders and dismiss it as political kalyug. Time our polity desist from employing their individual meanness in the name of public good. They need to re-think their priorities and desist from destructive mindlessness. And remember the adage: Nothing costs a nation more than cheap politicians! Gaddi and Gaddari must not go together.