Sep 22, 2023
Sep 22, 2023
On January 24, 1950, the Constituent Assembly was holding its last session to adopt the Constitution of India. A scholarly, quiet man who had sat listening to the deliberations of the wise, lacking the aura of Nehruvian charisma (and flamboyance) stood up to address the House. His name was Dr. Rajendra Prasad. Yes, the same man who had presided over the Constituent Assembly proceedings day after day. He submitted:
I would have liked to have some qualifications laid down for members of the Legislatures. It is anomalous that we should insist upon high qualifications for those who administer or help in administering the law but none for those who made it except that they are elected. A law giver requires intellectual equipment but even more than that capacity to take a balanced view of things to act independently and above all to be true to those fundamental things of life – in one word – to have character….
Our great democracy passed a Representation of the People Act which allowed criminals to contest elections, get elected and rule over our destinies. We couldn’t do anything because all political parties valued muscle power which such convicted MPs had aplenty. Now our Supreme Court (but for which ours would have been a banana republic) has struck down Section 8(4) of the Representation of the People Act that allowed convicted law makers the loophole to get a stay of the conviction and sentence, and thereby merrily carry on.
The Court has also ruled that MPs, MLAs and MLCs would be disqualified from the date of conviction. While the political class has welcomed this ruling, though somewhat cautiously, this is bound to go down very well with the public which has increasingly been disillusioned with the criminalisation of politics.
At long last, after decades of dithering, it is here. We are tempted to berate the government for having taken so long to plug the much-abused lacuna. Nonetheless, the occasion calls for some felicitation.
I cannot think of any compliment more suitable than the profoundly meaningful Farsi proverb: Der Ayad, Durust Ayad. Yes, it has come late, but thank goodness it has arrived.
Years ago Atal Bihari Vajpayee then only an ordinary MP, exploded a bomb. He confirmed the glaring gap between what an MP spends and what he declares to have spent contesting the election to the House. He told a parliamentary committee that “every legislator starts his career with the lie of the false election return he files.”
Poor Gopinath Munde, the BJP Lok Sabha MP from Beed, is in the dock for telling the truth – by openly acknowledging, what has been public knowledge all along. Yes, Munde’s ‘confession’ at a recent public event in Mumbai that he had spent Rs. 8 crore on his poll campaign in 2009 stands out for its cynicism. The spending limit for a Lok Sabha constituency that year was Rs. 25 lakh (it is now Rs. 40 lakh). The former Deputy Chief Minister of Maharashtra admitted to spending 40 times the amount he put down in his poll accounts. No wonder our holier-than-thou law enforcers are hauling him up.
The fact is we are on the American highway of converting – according to many we’ve already done – our democracy into a plutocracy – a government of the rich by the rich to loot the poor. The citadel of world democracy, the United States of America spent during the last presidential election $ 3 billion. Less than two per cent of Americans are millionaires, but the pundits tell us 56 per cent of Senators and 47 per cent of members of the House of Representatives are.
Can you and I even dream to enter an electoral contest? Forget about winning it. Unless there’re thorough poll reforms – extremely unlikely under the present regime – what future do you see for the Republic?
Relations between Russia and the United States are anything but friendly. However they aren’t any more defined by the Cold War calculus as per which just anyone who would declare himself as the enemy of the American establishment would automatically become a friend of Russia. These days Russo-American relations are more complex. Putin won’t just deliver to America what the White House wishes. Nonetheless he knows that keeping Snowden is a permanent annoyance.
The situation is fast becoming a diplomatic impasse. And as it happens in such cases there might emerge a sudden solution. And of all possibilities it could be a matrimonial alliance. That too of all the people with Anna Chapman who herself was repatriated to Russia in 2010 in a “swap”. Interestingly, it is she who proposed on Twitter that Snowden marry her. Her personal experience makes Chapman natural sympathizer with Snowden, as it were. Few know how far her old legendary charms survive. In any case, it would be, stripped of all trappings, what the French call mariage de convenance.
The historical irony here is that during the last few Soviet decades, marriage was a common way to avoid the tight constraints on freedom of travel. In the nineteen-seventies, when the U.S.S.R., under international pressure, allowed Jews to emigrate, marrying a Jew helped many to escape from the confines of the Communist world. Some marriages were real, but many were fictitious. As a cynical joke of the time had it, “A Jewish wife is also a means of transportation.” For Snowden it may be a good way of breaking the Sheremetyevo limbo.
Some week ago I told you of the various ways of acquiring real estate in Delhi. Having seen things for yourself thereafter you don’t think I was exaggerating. No, not all; I never do.
Here is another method which is widely practised. Unfortunately, you have to be a government servant to deploy it. You’re holding a certain post; anywhere in India. Manipulate to come to the Centre on deputation for a short while. Manage to get official accommodation allotted. I learn there’re some eight various types depending on your rank in the Government hierarchy.
Supposedly, you have to surrender the accommodation if and when you are transferred. Now starts game-playing. Continue to delay on one pretext or another. There are experts available to guide you.
Do you think I’m exaggerating? Recently, the Supreme Court which seems to be running the Government these days, deplored the resistance – mark the expression – of government employees, ministers, MPs and other dignitaries – (is there any dearth of them in our system?) – to vacate government houses after retirement or demitting office and issued guidelines to curb overstaying. The list of such officials includes Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan, Goa Governor B V Wanchoo and nearly 20 IAS officers.
Don’t bother what the Court says. There are experts to guide you to circumvent any new order. You just hang on.
Thank the Good Lord. The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has after seven decades and seven years won, on the seventh day of the seventh month of the year 2013 of our Lord’s grace – just one short of seven if you add up – has won the Wimbledon men’s single title. The last time this happened was in 1936 when Fred Perry won the title for the first time. To celebrate the great event the Spaniards started a civil war. Jesse Owens dared defy Hitler that non-Aryans can excel at the Berlin Olympics. Margaret Mitchell published her unforgettable historical romance, Gone With The Wind.
Meanwhile, for seventy-seven years world’s great tennis player had to come to England every summer to prove that they are the world champion. But this year is different. The Bard’s
This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden
is the champion. And not only that, probably a century hence the world may recall the year 2013 doubly auspicious: Murray’s victory and the birth of the future King/Queen of England that the Duchess of Cambridge is expecting any day.
Telling lies is something we all do from time to time. Doesn’t matter whether it’s a well meant white lie or an out-and-out, with a porker face. Life can be difficult to navigate without some degree of dishonesty.
“A world without lies would be a terrible world... A world without lies would be a world without fiction,” remarked Ricky Gervais at the premiere of his film The Invention of Lying.
While lying is sometimes necessary, there are of course degrees to which lying is acceptable and to call someone a liar is still an insult which carries enormous weight. In fact the word liar is so controversial in British politics that the use of it is still banned in Parliament.
Once you have been branded a liar it’s enormously difficult to shake off the stigma. And while lying is common to all of us, it is particularly stupid if you are high profile or carry a great deal of responsibility.
Some people will never learn. And there are a number of extremely high profile politicians, world leaders and businessmen who have been caught out in telling some pretty major whoppers. Remember Richard Nixon!
“The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
said William Butler Yeats, the great Irish poet who wrote the introduction for Gitanjali when it was first published.
Is there a greater tragedy in public life than this?
More by : Sakshi