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Look Ma, Democracy has No Clothes!
by Dr. Rajinder Puri Bookmark and Share

After the Constitutional deadline had expired for the Maharashtra government to be sworn in the UPA-NCP alliance advised the Governor that they would do the needful within forty-eight hours. Okay, said the Governor indulgently. Heck, a few hours delay won’t ruin the Constitution. The BJP demanded President’s rule. Stop worrying about Maharashtra and focus on Karnataka, sneered Congressmen. 

What ailed government formation in Maharashtra? It was the division of portfolios. Home, Energy and Rural Development were the plums sought by both alliance partners. Were the parties so deeply interested in the subjects looked after by these ministries? The street would laugh at the suggestion. Energy and Rural Development are very lucrative. Home allows the incumbent to bully the vulnerable and to protect the guilty. The financial potential of the ministries concerned was freely commented upon by sections of the media and talked about in the street. And as for protecting the guilty by Home is concerned one can’t be too careful these days, can one? Former Chief Minister Koda jailed for mega corruption is small fry compared to the big fish ruling the land.  

But let’s not get obsessed with Maharashtra. Think of ailing Karnataka. Two mining tycoons in the government want to change the chief minister because he is impeding their business. So they organized rebellion. The crucial strategic ploy was of course to mobilize those members of the central high command of the party who were already against the CM.

The street believes that money exchanged hands. Websites even mentioned the exact figure. The BJP high command failed to remove the CM. The street speculated: if the high command didn’t deliver would the tycoons spill the beans? The high command was in a quandary. That’s why the crisis turned into paralysis. To garner additional support against the CM who commanded a majority in the legislature the savvy masterminds in the high command resurrected an old issue about a woman minister unpopular with many MLAs. Stories were planted to revive the controversy in friendly media outlets. With the CM under new pressure the paralysis continued to linger. 

In contrast to the Byzantine intrigues of Karnataka politics the Haryana assembly paralysis is refreshingly straight forward. After the recent poll the sitting CM retained his post despite being in a minority and despite party rivals baying for his blood. He was sworn in. But for days on end he remains the only incumbent in the government. He managed victory with the support of 7 independents. Naturally each must be given a ministerial post. You can’t call this corruption because it doesn’t involve money. Unfortunately that leaves just about 13 portfolios to be distributed among his hungry party MLAs. But worry not; sooner or later all this will be sorted out. 

Constitutional and legal impropriety is hardly a topic to attract attention. Two Supreme Court Judges have removed themselves from a case because belatedly it dawned on them that they faced a conflict of interest. They had proximity to the business tycoons whose dispute they were hearing in court. How could they agree to sit on the Bench in the first place? Ah well, we are a tolerant society aren’t we? And such minor indiscretions are all that our poor Judges allow themselves. Their private assets recently disclosed under sustained public pressure exposed them as being too impoverished for becoming suitable targets of criticism. 

What slightly worries the street is the collapse of governance along the entire west coast. The Kerala government is in the midst of a faction war over corruption, Karnataka and Maharashtra are paralyzed over government formation, and Gujarat has a chief minister facing accusation of being complicit in communal riots even as he ails from swine flu. But people in the west coast can cheerfully point out that they are better off than people in eastern India where Maoists are waging a war against the state even as our redoubtable Home Minister repeatedly and vainly invites them for peace talks. There are of course serious threats of terrorist violence from across the borders. However the FBI will look after that. 

Critics might carp over the lack of governance, the trampling of Constitutional and legal norms, the brazen corruption, and the mounting threats of terrorism and insurgency. They should look at the bright side. Ideologues tell us that maximum transparency is best for democracy. So what’s wrong with naked democracy?

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