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Saturday, December 21, 2013

Politics Of Corruption: The Mystery Of The Adarsh Scam!

Nagpur: The final Report of the Two-member Inquiry Commission appointed in January, 2011 to look into the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society scam was tabled in Maharashtra Legislature by a hesitant Government yesterday. The Report names three ex-Chief Ministers of Maharashtra in same roles, one former CM in the role of revenue minister and two existing cabinet ministers in the roles of urban development ministers for giving political patronage to the Adarsh society in Mumbai. It names about twenty top existing and retired bureaucrats for illegal ownership of flats, nepotism and favouritism, and blatant violation of housing rules. Citing the classic saying that ' a man needs just five and half feet of land finally' the Report terms the Adarsh as a tale of absolute greed and corruption and the most shameful act for a progressive state like Maharashtra.

The high drama and suspense leading to tabling the Report started, in fact, from 19th of April, 2013 when the Commission had submitted its final Report to Maharashtra Government. Pressure had been mounting on the Government since then to table the Report in Legislature. Opposition political parties had been keeping no stone unturned to corner the Government at every opportunity. The Government had avoided the burden saying it needed time to prepare an action taken report. The winter session of Maharashtra began on 9th of this month-a day after main Opposition BJP had spectacular election victories in four states. This single fact made the Opposition emboldened and extremely attacking from the beginning.

During the session Bombay High Court issued a directive to Maharashtra Government to present the Report positively in this session. BJP claimed credit for this saying one of its party-men moved the PIL in the High Court. Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan assured that the Report would in fact be tabled during this Nagpur session. Opposition parties alleged that the Report would be kept for the last day so that discussion could not be initiated.

Meantime in another twist to the Adarsh story Maharashtra Governor denied CBI permission to prosecute Ashok Chavan-one of the tainted ex-Chief Ministers in the Adarsh scam. Agitated Opposition members smelt conspiracy in this too.

On the final day when tabling of the Report was expected any time the confusion got compounded by one more twist. Around noon news of Maharashtra Cabinet rejecting the Adarsh Report in a special morning meeting in Nagpur was raging across news channels. Out efforts to confirm this from CMO office failed as officials confirmed only the meeting and not the decision which they said would be announced during the tabling of the Report.

However, the ambiguity prevailed even after the winter Session concluded. Even as the Speakers in both houses of Maharashtra Legislature continued to disallow discussion on the Report leading to repeated adjournments the Government still did not spell out why it had rejected the Report or if rejected at at all. Much later it was more or less revealed in the four-line Action Taken Report submitted in the house that said the Government had rejected the Report. Opposition protests reached huge dimensions as angry members tore up the Report outside the assembly house. They charged that the Government was trying to protect its corrupt Ministers and top bureaucrats. The Opposition had in fact been relentless in its fight against former and present tainted Cabinet Ministers disrupting the house for days as the Anti Corruption Lokpal Bill was debated and passed by the Indian Parliament, with BJP supporting.

Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, in his press conference immediately after the Maharashtra Legislature got adjourned till Budget Session in Mumbai from 24th February, 2014, decided to keep mum on possible reasons for rejecting the Report saying it would be discussed at the appropriate time. Prithviraj Chavan has been known for integrity and clean image. Now Opposition parties are raising serious questions on him while Congress party-men continue to repose faith in his decision.

Knowledgeable sources offer the argument that since the Maharashtra Governor refused permission to CBI to prosecute Ashok Chavan the Cabinet perhaps found it inappropriate to accept the Report. Whatever, the mystery around the Adarsh scam only deepens at this moment. The story looks far from being a closed chapter with the anti corruption spirit engulfing the country in a most positive and unprecedented way. And of course, with the General Elections-2014 just round the corner.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Politics: A Day Of Historical Acts!

Anna Hazare Breaking His Fast
Fight against corruption in India got the long sought after boost as Lok Sabha, the lower house of the Indian Parliament, passed the Lokpal Bill today afternoon. The Anti Corruption ombudsman Bill or the Lokpal Bill has almost become an Act pending the President's nod. Anna Hazare, the crusader against corruption, has given up his 7-day long fast and his followers at his native village Ralegan Siddhi and all over the country are celebrating. After disastrous defeats in four assembly elections the Congress led UPA Government has something now to draw inspiration from. Maybe it was already inspired by the certainty of it as the Government countered the US in a telling manner following the most peculiar case of Devyani Khobragade. A diplomat humiliated, and a lady harassed and insulted by American cops. Thanks to the sheer absurdity the conspiracy theory is gaining ground in India. A big apology from Uncle Sam is what the whole of India want now.

One more historical Act from Nagpur. The Maharashtra Legislative Council has passed the Anti Superstition and Black Magic Bill late tonight. The contentious Bill has been debated for over 15 years without getting passed into a law and the brutal murder of Narendra Dabholkar in August this year forced the state Government to act and act fast. The lower house of the Maharashtra Legislature had already passed it with a voice vote on Friday, the 13th of December leaving the opposition political parties a lot red faced. They alleged that the Government passed it in a hurry without giving enough time for discussion. However the progressive spirit of Maharashtra finally won. The state Government assured that the Act will not hurt religious sentiments of any community and will only strive to prevent evil practices or rituals ranging from human sacrifice to frauds looting people in the name of divinity. Now Maharashtra becomes the first Indian state to have an anti Superstition or anti Black Magic Act.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

And Rajya Sabha Passes The Lokpal Bill!

After a day long debate when political parties shook off their ideological differences Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament, passed the Lokpal Bill or the Anti Corruption ombudsman Bill this evening. Getting it passes here was the most difficult and crucial part due to the number game, and now passing it in Lok Sabha seems to be a formality, most probably tomorrow itself. Therefore we are likely to finally have an anti corrupt law. And Anna Hazare is set to call off his fast the moment history is made.

The Indian government has accepted all recommendations made by the joint select committee to make way for a strong bill. However the debate between Lokpal and Jokepal Bill continues. No human being is perfect, so how could a Bill be perfect. And in India you may have the absolutely perfect plan, but implementation in this god forsaken country is always typically imperfect.

Anyway, we can still celebrate with the fact that we do at least have a law against the corrupt. How many of them are going to be punished nobody knows. Neither Anna Hazare nor the Aam Aadmi Party.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Politics Of Corruption: Lokpal Bill Vs Jokepal Bill!

If the Anti-corruption Ombudsman Bill or the Lokpal Bill is passed by Rajya Sabha on Monday and it finally becomes a law who will get or take or claim the credit? An interestingly competitive game seems to be picking up fast. On the positive side due to this game the Bill is almost sure to be passed.

Politics of the most unprecedented or even weird kind is unfolding in Delhi. Normally after almost winning an election members of the concerned political party start fighting between themselves for the prime posts and indulges in horse trading to get the magic majority. But this time in Delhi no party is willing to take the plunge. BJP, just 3 short of majority, refused to try form the government saying it would support Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) that stuck to its principle of not extending or taking support of any party. Congress offered unconditional support to AAP last evening. Today Kejriwal did go to meet the Lt Governor after being invited to discuss formation of government. And in one more unpredictable act he asked for ten days. He questioned why big political parties are willing to extend 'unconditional support' and what could be the real motives? Kejriwal showed letters written by AAP to Congress and BJP listing out 18 points asking if 'unconditional support' meant Congress and BJP would support AAP on all these. He also said that in these ten days AAP would hold hundreds of public meetings trying to find what the citizens want AAP to do. AAP called the present form of the Lokpal Bill as Jokepal Bill. Is Kejriwal trying to milk his moment of glory rather too hard or trying to be the worthiest propagator of the 'real' Lokpal Bill?

Anna Hazare, on the fifth day of his fast, calls the to-be-passed Lokpal Bill as the right one. In fact, there was an open spat between him and AAP in a public meeting at Ralegan Siddhi yesterday when Anna asked an AAP elected member to get out for interrupting someone's speech. Well, if anyone needs to be given the final credit it must naturally be the anti-corruption crusader. That he is increasingly feeling insecure is the inevitable result of this pulsating brand of politics of corruption.

Meantime Congress has announced its strong resolve to get the Bill passed come Monday. BJP, attacking Congress as it must do always, is also making preparation to extend the necessary support for passing the Bill.

We, the hapless beholders of the holiest democratic traditions, must not bother who gets the credit and how. We should only bother about history being made finally or if at all.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Fight Against Corruption: Anna Hazare Back In Fast Action!

Anna Hazare congratulated his erstwhile chief lieutenant in the movement against corruption, Arvind Kejriwal for the latter's spectacular debut political performance in Delhi assembly election. He said that Kejriwal would have become Delhi Chief Minister if he had his continued support. Anna also reiterated his earlier observation that elections could be won without tons of money. But then, Anna would never become politically aligned or support any political party. We saw how pained he was when Kejriwal decided to form a political party and how he almost gave up his movement. However, it is obvious the crusader against corruption took some positives out of this development. Anna decides to resume his mission.

Anna Hazare announced his resolve to continue the fight for the much debated Anti-corruption Ombudsman or Jan Lokpal Bill. And today, the mass leader began one more of his famous fasts unto death at his native village Ralegan Siddhi in Maharashtra. Other reasons are also there for his decision. After BJP's 4-1 triumph in the state assembly elections-2013 the Congress led ruling coalition is reeling under tremendous pressure and the winter session of the Indian Parliament is underway.

Kejriwal's party remains true to its commitment of not forming government with or support any 'corrupt' political party. BJP, the single largest party in Delhi, says its first priority is to make Delhi administration corruption free. Now with added pressure from Anna Hazare and General Elections looming over the horizon Indian citizens could realistically hope for some action on corruption. It is really immaterial whether political parties fight corruption by choice or by being forced.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Election Politics: Congress Makes It 1-4 Now!

Of the five Indian states that went to poll counting for the north eastern state of Mizoram was taken up today. And the intensely introspective Congress party managed to make it 1-4 as a saving grace. On the momentous day yesterday BJP roared back to power in Rajasthan with three fourth majority, swept Madhya Pradesh and managed to retain Chattisgarh too.

Only Delhi has a hung assembly with BJP being the single largest party. There is lot of uncertainty here as Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) cannot afford to ally with any party on principle of fighting corruption. And it cannot have full faith in its winning candidates because the lure of political power and money might tempt them to defect to BJP. Therefore AAP is not taking any chances now.

In this much touted Semi Final for General Election 2014 BJP defeated Congress 4-1 and is getting emboldened to take the ruling coalition and all Congress ruled states like Maharashtra by the throat. Meanwhile in south Africa it would be very interesting to watch if Team India could also make it 1-2 against the hosts!

BJP Beats Congress 4-0, South Africa Beat India 2-0!

It was expected though not entirely predictable--in both cases.

Over the last few years Congress came to be identified with corruption thanks to various scams of the ruling coalition. Anna Hazare started the movement against corruption and rocked the whole of India--particularly Delhi. The BJP constantly attacking Congress on corruption and moving around Anna not exactly supporting or opposing him somewhat escaped being clubbed with corruption or Congress. Then BJP launched Narendra Modi as the Prime Ministerial candidate. Add to it the unabated inflation. For the four states that went to Assembly polls in November-December, 2013 these factors possibly led to a wave for change with record voting percentage in most states and BJP beat Congress 4-0, almost. It was a sweep in BJP ruled Madhya Pradesh and a grand comeback in Rajasthan. BJP ruled Chattisgarh was also retained after a tough Congress fight that happened largely due to the recent Naxal attack on its leaders. Arvind Kejriwal who broke away from Anna Hazare in the right time to become political created waves in Delhi poll capturing the second position and thus depriving BJP a clear majority. Congress that ruled Delhi for 15 years came a miserable third. Counting was taken up on Sunday, the 8th of November, with BJP leading 4-0 in a sort of run up to General Election-2014.

Touring South Africa with 6 successive Series wins to boot India lost the second one day international cricket match against South Africa too. Yet to find answers to South African pacers India again lost by a huge margin chasing a total of 280/6. South Africa beat India 2-0 in Durban on Sunday, the 8th of November to win the ODI Series.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Nelson Mandela (1918—2013): Our Gandhi No More!

We, talking about our generation specifically, grew up with the history of Mahatma Gandhi—how he made India independent through complete non-violence a movement based on truth and how the greatest Indian leader of all time was assassinated on the fateful day of 30th January, 1948. We grew up with Nelson Mandela hearing about his movement against the racist policy of Apartheid in South Africa based on the same Gandhian ideals, later watching him go about his noble ways and hearing his inspirational speeches—in India and everywhere. How he finally won like Mahatma Gandhi ending Apartheid and becoming the first black President of South Africa in 1994. He has been our Gandhi live and heart wrenchingly we lost him on Thursday evening, the 5th of December, 2013—losing a continuous source of leadership, indomitable spirit and inspiration. Of course, we knew that he had not been keeping well for the last few months being in and out of the ICU, and that he had reached the ripe age of 95. But you never actually want to lose anything that is good and lastingly good.

The world became one in paying tributes to Nelson Mandela, the Nobel Peace Prize winner, in the deepest spontaneous respect and admiration. As the news hit India early morning on Friday it became the top story in all media channels and in all the newspapers today. His rousing speeches earlier recorded in India went on air. The Indian Parliament on Friday adjourned for the week paying tributes to Mandela. The Government of India announced five-day state mourning with all top dignitaries and leaders giving moving condolence messages. Nelson Mandela has been as relevant for India as for South Africa and the world. We salute the great leader for humanity and justice.

The same night on Thursday mighty Team India fell in tatters losing the first one day international cricket match in Johannesburg against the hosts South Africa by a shattering 141 runs. India won the toss, had the first opportunity to use the fresh track and also avoided the possibility of the dew factor later in the night. But the Indian bowlers failed the team miserably as the top South Africa order fired relentlessly to set an almost impossible target of 359 runs for India. There were explosive knocks by HM Amla (65), Quinton de Kock (a brilliant century of 135 off just 121 balls), AB de Villiers (77 off just 47) and JP Dumini (59 not out off just 29 balls). Such was the domination of South Africa batting and poor Indian bowling that the Indian fielders started losing heart and mission opportunities. In the forgettable Indian chase there was just one half century by captain Dhoni who managed only to prolong the misery.

In fact there was some uncertainty about the India-South Africa cricket Series going further. As some of the match dates clashed with prayers and homage programmes of Nelson Mandela Cricket South Africa (CSA) sought the advice of the government regarding the future of the Series. However, after supposed consultations CSA confirmed last night that the Series as well as most sporting events would go on as scheduled.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

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