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Congress-SP on collision course

Congress-SP on collision course

Author: Editorial
Publication: Free Press Journalist
Date: March 8, 2006
URL: http://www.samachar.com/features/080306-editorial.html

Whether the Samajwadi Party is paying for its decision back in 1998 when it had refused to back Sonia Gandhi's bid for prime ministership remember her statement in the forecourt of Rashtrapati Bhawan that `we have 272 MPs' -, or it is simply a case of political jousting for electoral space in UP, one will never know. But there is no denying that the Congress Party and the SP are headed for a head-on collision.

Ever since its surprise return to power in May 2004, the Congress-led coalition at the Centre has been needling the Mulayam Singh Yadav Government UP. The appointment of a former Intelligence Bureau chief, T. Rajeshwar, as UP Governor was an unusual move. Since Rajeshwar's appointment, the Lucknow Raj Bhawan had become the hub of anti- Yadav operations.

If in spite of the active encouragement of the UP Governor, the Yadav Government has somehow managed to hang on power, it is only because the Congress has been pushed to the margins the highly polarized UP polity. Yadav's SP is one pole of the caste-dominated politics in the country's largest State.

Mayawati's BSP brings up the other pole with the BJP struggling to retain some relevance somewhere between these two extreme positions. With fresh elections to the State Assembly due next year, the anti-Mulayam operation has acquired sharper edge in recent weeks. The Congress Party recently inspired a PIL in the Supreme Court which sought to highlight the alleged corruption the UP CM in acquiring wealth far in excess of his known sources income.

On the heels of the apex court order to probe the alleged corruption of Yadav, the SP boss suffered another jolt when the Allahabad High Court endorsed the BSP plea for action against 40 of its MLAs who had deserted it to join the UP Government. Though the UP Speaker is yet proceed against the `defectors' under the anti-defection law, there can little doubt that the Yadav Government has become further vulnerable after the court verdict.

Around the same time, the circulation of a CD containing illegally taped conversations that high-profile SP general secretary, Amar Singh, had with a host of people has further forced the party on the back foot. The CDs lay bare the `real' Amar Singh and leave him open the charge that he has used political power for personal aggrandisement.

If gutter-like talk exposes the real character of Singh, sleaze and deal-making duly buttress the oft-made charge that he has exploited the Yadav Government only to line his own pockets with filthy lucre. Singh might have succeeded in securing a temporary relief from the apex court, but the circulation of his free-wheeling conversations with all manner of people reveal him in his true colours as nothing more than a glorified guttersnipe unfit for decent company of any sort.

Now, the Election Commission has delivered a big blow to the SP. On petition by a Congressman, on Monday the EC recommended the disqualification of Jaya Bachchan as a member of the Rajya Sabha. The held that as chairperson of the UP Film Development Corporation, she was holding an office of profit and therefore liable to be disqualified as MP. Bachchan has been a particularly articulate and active member of the SP contingent in Parliament.

Unlike several other MPs from the Bollywood fraternity, she made a mark in the Rajya Sabha with her spirited interventions on various matters. But following a complaint by a UP Congress worker, the EC has found her in mischief of Article 102 which prescribes disqualification from the House as the only punishment.

The EC has sent its opinion to the President, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, who may trusted to act upon it soon, given that the Manmohan Singh Government wouldn't give a second chance to Bachchan who had more famously ridiculed Sonia Gandhi at a public rally some time ago.

Admittedly, Bachchan is not the first one to head a State government corporation. Why, only a couple of years ago the present Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee, headed the West Bengal Industrial Development Corporation. And in that capacity had gone abroad several times to woo investment.

Indeed, a Kolkata-based English daily had reproduced photocopies of the hotel bills, including those for Scotch whisky, that Chatterjee had made the WBIDC pick up, but he had not attracted disqualification for holding an office of profit. Maybe no one had sought his disqualification, then.

Or maybe they had taken necessary steps to omit Chatterjee's office out of the ambit of Article 102. It is therefore a moot point whether Amar Singh, who heads the UP Industrial Development Corporation, can be disqualified for holding an office profit.

A politics of confrontation, nay, of revenge and vendetta can only unsettle things and detract from the urgent task of nation-building. Seeking such short-cuts to power in UP cannot revive the Congress Party in the State regardless of the dwindling political fortunes of individual leaders.

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