It is truly amazing, this staggering decision of the United Progressive Alliance government to dissolve the Bihar assembly on the specious plea, to quote Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, of preventing 'horse-trading of the worst type.'
A pious pontificator who is meticulous in pointing out the sins of others while pretending he is the sole repository of rectitude in public life, Dr Singh has also informed the nation that it is 'the Constitutional duty of the government to see that such nefarious practices do not spoil the good name of the country.'
Dr Singh's fulsome concern for 'the good name of the country' will move only those who are either complicit partners in this latest assault by the UPA on democratic processes and constitutional practices or naïve about the ease with which the Congress can jettison all pretences of fair play the moment it discovers that it is not on the winning side.
If the prime minister had been genuinely concerned about 'nefarious practices' blotting the 'good name of the country,' then he would not be presiding over a government some of whose key ministers have earned for themselves the reputation of thugs and thieves. This is not about practising 'coalition dharma' and cohabiting with undesirable partners. It is about stoutly defending individuals who are a blot on India's image -- both at home and abroad.
Those who value honour and honesty above power and pelf stay away from tainted politicians like Lalu Prasad Yadav. Not so the prime minister -- he is perfectly comfortable with protecting, some would say mollycoddling -- the man who is singularly responsible for pushing Bihar into its present lalten era of poverty, violence and all-pervasive corruption. It is a national shame and a blotch on our collective conscience that Yadav, who has been charged under Section 420 of the IPC, shares the high table of governance with Dr Singh.
That is not all. The prime minister has acted on the basis of a report filed by the governor of Bihar, Buta Singh, who has spent the better part of his life paying obeisance to the Nehru-Gandhi household, a politician who excels in the art of 'horse-trading.' Public memory is notoriously short, but not short enough for people to forget that it was Buta Singh who was accused of bribing Jharkhand Mukti Morcha MPs to manufacture support for P V Narasimha Rao's Congress government.
Perhaps the prime minister would like to refresh his memory by recalling that the trial court had found Buta Singh guilty of the bribery charges levelled against him, that he was sentenced to three years' imprisonment, and, that he was fined Rs 2 lakh. The sentence was set aside on appeal, but that is another story whose details reflect the true state of our official crime busting and prosecuting agencies.
The outpouring of moral outrage that we are witnessing is, therefore, nothing more than cockamamie sentiments that have no place in the world of cynical politics whose best practitioners are leading lights of the Congress. The dissolution of the Bihar assembly had little to do with preserving values and protecting probity in public life. It was all about preventing the coming to power of a dispensation in which none of the allies of the Congress would have a share.
And more. Till such time Ram Vilas Paswan, who was hailed as the kingmaker after last February's Bihar assembly election resulted in a fractured verdict, but has ended up as the biggest loser, was successful in spiking all possible non-UPA political permutations and combinations that could have formed a government in Bihar, it suited the Congress and its favourite ally, Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, fine.
With the state assembly in suspended animation, and a pliant governor occupying the Raj Bhavan in Patna, Yadav was able to re-establish his control over Bihar. His wife Rabri Devi may have lost the chief minister's office, but that was at best a temporary setback. Within three months, Yadav was back in business, doing what he does best --working the system to his advantage.
The prime minister would perhaps like the nation to believe that it was to 'protect the good name of the country' that the governor was instructed to transfer two honest and upright officers who had stood up against lumpens on Yadav's payroll. The district magistrates of Siwan and Gopalganj had made it difficult for RJD goon squads to rig elections and run a parallel 'administration' based on extortion, kidnapping and murder. Both have been unceremoniously shunted out.
Those who preach probity to others obviously do not rate men of integrity very high. For them, officers who wear their loyalty to Yadav on their sleeve are the preferred choice to be appointed as advisers to the gvernor. So much for the prime minister's concern for 'the good name of the country.'
What if the cookie had crumbled the other way? Would the prime minister have acted with such alacrity to protect the 'good name of the country' if legislators elected on the symbol of Paswan's Lok Janshakti Party had switched their loyalty to Yadav? Or, would he have had his home minister instruct the governor to swear in Rabri Devi as chief minister? The answer is too obvious to merit elaboration.
Apologists who are given to arguing that more often than not the prime minister is pilloried unfairly because he has no other option but to yield to the pressure of allies are doing a great disservice to him as well as the "good name of the country."
It now transpires that the midnight Cabinet meeting that was ostensibly called to assess the security threat posed by explosions in two cinemas but was in reality an exercise in paving the path for dissolving the Bihar assembly was the result of intense pressure from Mr Yadav and his die hard champions in the CPI(M).
This is entirely possible. The CPI(M) is utterly unscrupulous when it comes to political morality. Nothing else explains why the Marxists should so wholeheartedly support a venal politician like Yadav who has been charged under all possible sections of the IPC that deal with cheating and pilfering public funds. The CPI(M) is capable of threatening to bring down the UPA Government unless the RJD strongman's turf is protected from intruders bent upon saving Bihar from marauders masquerading as messiahs of the downtrodden.
If what Yadav aspires for is to rule Bihar by proxy irrespective of whether or not the people want him and his party in power, the Marxists seek to rule India by proxy irrespective of their strength in Parliament. Yadav has had his way by arm-twisting the prime minister; the Marxists have demonstrated that they call the shots when it comes to the UPA government taking crucial political decisions.
The sum total of what happened on Sunday night is abject capitulation by the prime minister. Rather than stand up to disgraceful blackmailing by Yadav and his Marxist friends, and prove that he is indeed a man of honour, he chose to toe the line of least resistance. He may have thus demonstrated that his survival instincts are no less stronger than those of whom he accuses of 'nefarious practices,' but he has also lost the moral high ground to berate others for political amorality.
Let's face it. This is not about protecting 'the good name of the country.' It is about protecting the UPA government by sacrificing all notions of probity and rectitude. If in the process Bihar and India have lost, so be it.