Sonia-Rahul Duo Crack The Whip Testing Time For Manmohan
First Anna Hazare and then Baba Ramdev. For the Manmohan Singh government it’s been trial by fire. A fire which has singed senior ministers in the government including the Prime Minister himself. At the same time the real story behind the face-offs is the unhappiness of both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi with the leadership of the Prime Minister leading to the mother-son duo taking matters in their own hands and virtually directing the government to stop dilly-dallying and act tough.
Along with this a significant aspect of this tale is the manner in which both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have been turning to Pranab Mukherjee in times of crisis and expecting him to take the lead in resolving issues, rather than depending on the Prime Minister, who has been unable to act decisively, said a senior leader in the UPA, who has been watching the developments at 10 Janpath closely.
It is also significant that Rahul Gandhi had a long meeting with Pranab Mukherjee on Monday, two days after Baba Ramdev was airlifted and dropped in Dehradun, where the two discussed the political fallout of the incident, how to contain the forces of Hindutva, which were on the rampage in a bid to take political advantage of the situation. Accordingly, Pranab Mukherjee has directed the AICC on what steps should be taken to counter the BJP propaganda and what line of argument to deploy to damage control the situation, since the BJP and its sister organisations have been working up a sweat to impress upon the people that democracy has been hijacked.
By now it is no secret that the decision of the Prime Minister to send four senior union ministers to the airport to talk to Baba Ramdev and to negotiate with him to end the fast, was not made after consulting the Congress president or her close aides. She is learnt to have made her displeasure clear to Pranab Mukherjee asking him why he had gone to the airport. He is learnt to have pointed to the Prime Minister saying he was asked to go. Sonia Gandhi was obviously of the view that a person of Pranabda’s seniority should have exercised his own wisdom rather than comply with the diktat of the Prime Minister. It certainly speaks volumes of the present political equations in the party and the government. Pranab Mukherjee was said to be of the personal opinion that Baba Ramdev should have been arrested at the airport itself and sent back to Haridwar rather than be allowed to set up a fasting shop in Delhi like Anna Hazare, creating a huge headache for the government.
‘HONEST’ MAN MAUN SINGH
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had always been perceived as a man of great intellect and one with a clean background. Terming him as the best example of integrity, Mr Khushwant Singh once said: “When people talk of integrity, I say the best example is the man who occupies the country’s highest office.” However, for the past few years the media has put him in a tough spot.
Faced with broad criticism of his government and his own performance, Prime Minister Singh said in a televised new conference: “We have a functioning government, and whatever some people will say—that we are a lame-duck government, that I am a lame-duck Prime Minister—we take our job very seriously.” How much of it is true, only time will tell.
In 2007, when the PM signed the nuclear deal with the US, it brought home a fresh wave of criticism. Simmering distrust of the US had broken into a full-throated protest in the Indian Parliament, as members of the Opposition pounced on the government for its “landmark nuke deal”. Prime Minister Singh had defended the deal as being good for India’s strategic and economic interests. However, many called the agreement “a betrayal”. They also accused the government of being “sycophants” to the US. The left had opposed the deal, less over the details of the accord than over the principle of closer ties to America. “We do not share the optimism that India can become a great power with the help of the United States,” said Prakash Karat, the general secretary of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
The UPA government has been troubled by scandals, infighting and unmet expectations. Prime Minister Singh—who has long enjoyed a reputation for being one of the most honest Prime Ministers—has found himself on the defensive in the 2G spectrum scam, as critics blamed him for failing to intervene with the country’s former Telecom Minister A Raja. When asked why he reappointed A Raja as telecom minister in 2009, even as allegations of wrongdoing were spilling into the media, Prime Minister Singh said: “In a coalition government, you can suggest your preferences,” adding that ultimately, the decision rested with the leader of Raja’s party.
Nitin Gadkari, president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, criticised the Prime Minister’s comments: “He has expressed his own helplessness. He has completely failed in checking corruption. You cannot justify corruption in the name of coalition politics.” Holding PM Manmohan Singh responsible for the crackdown on Yoga Guru Baba Ramdev and his supporters, Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi called it a “black day in history. The nation will not forgive this”. Terming the Congress-led UPA II a “failed and incompetent government”, senior BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said: “Be it national affairs, economy and foreign matters, the Congress-led government has been totally failed on all fronts.”
Caught in these endless battles of controversies and criticisms, it seems that the PM and his government have forgotten their primary duty to govern. Several bills have lapsed since 2004 and over 50 critical bills that would deliver reforms across sectors are pending. Critics say that a government that forgets to govern, or finds itself unable to take critical decisions, has no business to remain in power and that Prime Minister Singh should realise that no excuse is good enough to justify his inaction.
However, a recent survey across 14 cities, polling 10,126 people reveals that there are still a few silver linings for Singh and his team. Majority of the people in the survey feel that not enough is being done to fight corruption and inflation, but they still prefer the UPA to the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance and the Left.
By Tulika Rattan
Sources say that it was after the talks with Baba Ramdev by the ministers and the fact that he was unwilling to honour the commitment made by him in writing that Sonia Gandhi asked the government to expose the Baba, after which Kapil Sibal held a press conference releasing his letter to the media, where he had promised to end the fast even before he began it, a commitment he went back on, once he was in Ramlila Grounds.
It is learnt that the main issue on which Sonia and Rahul stuck their neck out and asked the government to get tough with Baba Ramdev was the very obvious involvement and backing of the RSS-VHP-BJP combine to bolster up the numbers for the Yoga Guru. With rabble-rouser Sadhvi Ritambhara sharing the dais with Baba Ramdev, there was growing worry after the RSS gave a call to its cadres to increase the strength at the Ramlila Grounds by another one lakh on Sunday.
Baba Ramdev had begun to openly say that if he sat on a fast for three days he would bring down the Manmohan Singh government. AICC general secretary Hari Prasad said the aim was to create a Godhra-like situation, which could have led to inflamed speeches and riots, since all the adjoining areas of Ramlila Grounds are inhabited by Muslim population.
A senior leader said the government could ill-afford for the situation to get out of hand and very last thing they needed was a trigger-happy sadhu and Delhi engulfed in communal riots. All in the name of corruption, particularly when there are a large number of questions on the manner in which Baba Ramdev and his Nepali ADC Balkrishna have built up a huge empire in the last 12 years.
Both Baba and Balkrishna are under investigation including the trust deeds, the donations made, the land they have acquired, the companies they have built, the big business and industrial houses which patronise them, income tax, money laundering, etc. The list is long and Baba is understandably worried at what he has let loose in the name of fighting corruption.
While AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh has been shouting from the rooftops of the involvement of the RSS-BJP combine behind Ramdev, Rahul and Sonia Gandhi have also been clear that the time for soft options is over. If the government does not crack the whip, the Manmohan Singh government can also enroll in a yoga class in the months ahead, feel senior leaders who have now openly begun to question whether Manmohan Singh has the acumen to handle political crisis of this nature.
Continuing in the same vein, the government is all set to continue with its tough line and a strong reply is being sent to the Supreme Court in reply to a notice sent to the government questioning the police action against Baba Ramdev. The question to be asked is, whether the Supreme Court would have taken responsibility if the situation at Ramlila Grounds had gotten out of hand in the midst of lakhs of people congregating there.
Sources say that seeing the writing on the wall, Rahul Gandhi, who has so far kept himself aloof from matters of the parent Congress Party, made it clear in a meeting on Sunday held at 10 Janpath that the party and government should speak in one voice as it was sending a completely wrong message. This came after Sonia Gandhi’s assertion that the party would back the government on taking tough decisions as the time to dilly-dally was long gone.
THE DEATH OF DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN INDIA
Beginning midnight June 4, 2011, the capital of India, Delhi, witnessed the barbaric actions of the government exerted upon hundreds of thousands of peaceful Satyagrahis assembled at that time, sleeping in the Ram Lila ground tents. The brutality of the police towards thousands of innocent resting people, including children and women, revisited the atrocities committed by British rulers at Jallianwala Bagh.The people assembled were gassed, lathi-charged and trampled by thousands of policemen. Baba Ramdev was taken away to an unknown destination by the police.
The people who had come from villages, towns and various long distances were asked to leave the grounds immediately, at 2 o’clock in the morning. This cannot be a Democratic India; this cannot be Mahatma Gandhi’s India; this is not India governed by of rule of law and a democratic constitution, ensuring the fundamental rights of all.
These were the actions of people in power who do not believe in Indian values, the values of Mahatma Gandhi, and the declaration of individual human rights. India, which always gave shelter to the needy and helpless, was humiliated by the devilish acts of ignoble and arrogant rulers of the day. It was an act of treachery upon Baba Ramdev and his followers, who had come to present their demands against rampant corruption in India.
These cruel actions reminded us of the days of the 1975 emergency. Unfortunately, these brutalities were committed upon unarmed and resting people within close proximity of the Mahatma Gandhi Samadhi. We, the people of Indian Origin all over the world are deeply depressed, embarrassed and pained by this vulgar display of naked power. No justification of any kind can condone these vicious actions.
The Indian Diaspora condemns it. We urge everybody to join in the movement to restore democracy and civility in India. Let us be united in expressing our disgust and anger about the death of democracy and human rights within the country. We hope Baba Ramdev ji is not further harmed in any way.
By Bhishma K Agnihotri
(The New York-based author is Chairman of Bharat Swabhiman Overseas)
A fallout of this is the strong message that the government conveyed to Anna Hazare and company that the government would draft the Lokpal Bill with or without their presence in the committee and if they wished to boycott the proceedings, they were free to do so. Kapil Sibal made it clear that the government does not appreciate being called names, the way Team Anna was doing and it was time they put a stop to it. Soon after this, Anna Hazare clarified that they would be attending the committee meetings and had no intention of boycotting the proceedings.
For a government, which has spent the last two years floundering on various issues such as Telangana, the Naxal attacks, corruption, resignation of its ministers, the Commonwealth Games fiasco and now the public tamasha over fasts, a Supreme Court which is out and out hostile and a media which continues to find virtue in only the BJP, it’s been trying times for UPA-II.
It is also time for Sonia Gandhi as the leader of the Congress and the UPA to sit back and take stock of her government: whether she wants to continue the floundering process for the next three years or whether she wants to put correctives in place now, including the issue of the leadership of the government. Because at stake here is not just the survival of a government but the political career of her son Rahul Gandhi.
By Renu Mittal