Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: Hamid Ansari

Anna and Arvind part ways

Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal have parted ways. The issue was political formation. Many in IAC wanted to form a political party to fight corruption. Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and some others were opposed to it. The meeting on 19/9/2012 lasted nine hours. Yogendra Yadav was the moderator. Anna Hazare said those who want to form a political party can go ahead with it but should not use his name or photograph. Arvind Kejriwal said Anna Hazare’s decision was shocking, unbelievable and sad.

Baba Ramdev and some other people wanted a split between Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal. Arvind Kejriwal was opposed to all political parties. Kiran Bedi was in favour of BJP. Arvind Kejriwal did not want to join with Baba Ramdev as there were tax evasion cases against him. RSS people wanted to use IAC against Congress. Industrialist Sitaram Jindal had a role in arranging meetings of Anna Hazare with people opposed to Arvind Kejriwal.

IAC had made corruption an issue and had raised hopes of corruption-free India. Jan Lokpal Bill was its demand. Congress came with a Lopkpal Bill that was not acceptable to IAC but was passed in Lok Sabha. Anna Hazare’s fast at MMRDA Grounds did not have expected crowds. The fast was to last three days. He called off his fast on second day. Congress managed to disrupt Rajya Sabha and the Lokpal Bill was not passed. Chairman Hamid Ansari played a role in allowing discussion till midnight and sabotaging the bill.

IAC demanded resignation of 15 ministers for corruption. The ministers did not oblige. Anna Hazare had a secret meeting with Salman Khurshid. IAC members were surprised when they came to know about it. Arvind Kejriwal, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai held fast at Jantar Mantar. Anna Hazare joined a few days later. The fast was called off on appeal by 22 persons. On the last day there was a decision to go political based on an SMS poll. Anna Hazare did not oppose it then.

Corruption is an issue. Congress is doing its best to divert attention from corruption. Coalgate became too hot to handle. Congress came with “reforms”. Soon coalgate was forgotten. TMC issued 72 hours deadline for rollback. Many parties opposed Congress and called for Bharat Bandh. After the deadline expired TMC announced withdrawal of support to UPA.

Fight against corruption is continuous process. Sometimes new challenges develop. Arvind Kejriwal was an RTI activist. RTI was instrumental in exposing corruption. Now two judges of the Supreme Court have made a mess of RTI by their verdict that only retired or serving justices of Supreme Court or chief justices of High Courts can head information commissions and half of the information commissioners should be judicial members. This verdict will create problems in fight against corruption.

Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal may fight against corruption separately but it is not clear how effective they will be. It is time for Kumar Vishwas, Shazia Ilmi, Shanti Bhushan, Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia, Gopal Rai and other prominent IAC members to take sides. Shanti Bhushan is optimistic that they can win 2014 election. Yogendra Yadav thinks first election is to be lost, second election is to defeat, third election is to form government. In 2009 many people like Gopinath and Meera Sanyal contested as independents and lost.

To form government at centre, Arvind Kejriwal and others need to field 543 candidates and win 272 seats. Without 272 seats they will have to depend on others and make compromises. They should beware of moles who will pass on information and scuttle programmes. They should form a shadow cabinet and decide who will hold which portfolio if elected. Legislative Assembly elections are due in Gujarat and some other states before 2014. IAC members can test their strength during those elections. They need to take a stand against corporate debt restructuring. They need not take a stand against any issue unless it has something to do with corruption. They may take a stand against reservations in legislatures, government jobs and government-run educational institutions or avoid it.

President Pranab

Pranab Mukherjee is the president of India. He could not become prime minister, even caretaker prime minister, home minister and missed becoming president in 2007. There was suspense about his candidature. When during Congress Working Committee meeting he proposed authorising Congress president to nominate candidates for president and vice president he seemed out of equation. Mamata Banerjee and Mulayam Singh Yadav said they did not want him or Hamid Ansari and proposed A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh and Somnath Chatterjee. It seemed all over for Pranab Mukherjee but Mulayam Singh Yadav turned around and supported him. JD(U) and Shiv Sena supported Pranab Mukherjee. There was split in Left Front. CPI(M) supported him. CPI abstained. At the end Mamata Banerjee also supported him.

Purno Albert Sangma who lost the election to Pranab Mukherjee is set to challenge his election in court. UPA had granted financial packages to UP and Bihar. There is controversy about the post held by Pranab Mukherjee in Indian Statistical Institute and his two signatures. IAC has begun a campaign for SIT to investigate 15 ministers. Pranab Mukherjee was one of them. Later they covered his picture.

Abhijeet Mukherjee, son of Pranab Mukherjee and an MLA, wants to contest from Jangipur constituency which Pranab Mukherjee represented in Lok Sabha. Next Abhijeet Mukherjee may ask to be made finance minister because Pranab Mukherjee was finance minister and demand to succeed Pranab Mukherjee as president.

Pranab Mukherjee did not want to remain No. 2 in cabinet for long. He could not become No. 1 in cabinet. Becoming president was a consolation prize.

During his last days as finance minister Pranab Mukherjee was unpopular with corporates. Many blamed him for various wrongs. Some said he ran finance ministry as his own and did not allow prime minister to interfere. However not much has changed after Pranab Mukherjee ceased to be finance minister.

Presidential candidates

On 12/6/2012 Election Commission announced the dates for presidential election. Strange are the ways of Election Commission. They announce elections for Legislative Assemblies six months before the expiry of the term and club various state elections together though announcement before 40 days is enough and clubbing elections together is not necessary and right. In case of presidential election the law provides for announcement 60 days before the expiry of the term and Election Commission announced the dates 43 days before the expiry of the term. Soon there will be vacancy of vice president but Election Commission has not clubbed together elections of president and vice president. S. Y. Qureshi was CEC when 60 days were left i.e., on 25/5/2012. He should have announced the election but did not do so and retired on 10/6/2012. Perhaps he was waiting for Congress to announce its candidate. On 11/6/2012 V. S. Sampath became CEC and next day at 5.30 p.m. he announced the election.

Events moved fast soon afterwards. Mamata Banerjee came to Delhi and met Sonia Gandhi. TV channels speculated that Mamata will propose the names of Gopal Gandhi, Abdul Kalam and Meira Kumar to Sonia. After the meeting she said Sonia Gandhi’s first choice for president is Pranab Mukherjee, second choice is Hamid Ansari. Then she went to meet Mulayam Singh Yadav. Mulayam had said he did not want a bureaucrat as a president. It was presumed that both will agree to Pranab Mukherjee.

The press conference that followed shocked and surprised people. Mamata and Mulayam did not agree to Sonia’s candidates. They wanted Abdul Kalam, Manmohan Singh and Somnath Chatterjee. Soon conspiracy theories floated. Jayanto Ghosal of Anand Bazar Patrika group said it was planned by Sonia. She did not want Pranab as president but did not want to say no. She used Mamata and Mulayam to do that.

Mamata was not in favour of Pranab. When people spoke of Pranab as son of Bengal she said he was the son of the world.

There was speculation over why the three names were proposed. Somnath Chatterjee’s name was proposed because he was a Bengali. While Mamata did not want Pranab she was not opposed to a Bengali becoming president and Somnath’s name was a balancing act. Some said real name is Manmohan Singh, other two are dummies. Sonia wants Manmohan to become president so that she can have a new prime minister.

On 14/6/2012 Congress spokesperson Janardan Dwivedi said “We cannot afford to spare Dr. Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister. The other two names are not acceptable. During UPA II, we have already said he will remain Prime Minister till 2014. The Congress does not take such a step in between.”

In the evening Mamata met Mulayam. She announced Abdul Kalam is “our candidate”. Mulayam was not with her. She said she will not take part in UPA meeting on 15/6/2012. There were reports that Abdul Kalam was Mamata’s candidate, SP had not taken a decision.

Subramanian Swamy claimed he and Jaswant Singh had worked for Abdul Kalam’s candidature. They had got support for him from BJP and SP. Jaswant Singh had met Mulayam and the impression was that he wanted Mulayam’s support to become vice president. There was talk of DMK supporting Kalam because he is a Tamilian but that did not happen.

On 15/6/2012 UPA met at 4 p.m. at 7 Race Course Road. All parties agreed on Pranab Mukherjee as candidate. Sonia Gandhi announced his candidature and appealed to all parties to support him. Soon SP announced support to Pranab. Mulayam did two somersaults within 48 hours. First he ditched Congress. Then he supported Congress. He said in politics decisions change as per situation. The three names were suggestions.

NDA and Left Front have to decide about the candidates. If BJP decides to support Pranab it is an embarrassment to Sushma Swaraj. Gurudas Dasgupta had said CPI will not support Congress candidate.

Purno Albert Sangma had announced his candidature in the middle of May, backed by AIADMK and BJD. Sangma presented himself as a tribal candidate. There had been Muslim, Sikh, Dalit and woman presidents and it was time for a tribal president. His supporters added that he is a Christian and from North East. In 1992 George Gilbert Swell was a candidate. He was a tribal, a Christian and from North East. Like Sangma he was from Meghalaya. That time Sangma did not support him. NCP does not want Sangma to contest and may expel him if he does.

Abdul Kalam had said he would contest if he was sure of winning. He wanted unanimity or consensus or at least 60% of votes. JD(U) was not in favour of him. It is unlikely he will contest. It is wrong for Congress to appeal to Abdul Kalam not to contest. Kalam can also ask Pranab not to contest.

Mamata is isolated. She did not get her package for Bengal. UPA rejected her nominees. Pranab is candidate. She said the game is not over yet. Today is the beginning. Wait for tomorrow.

Pranab’s candidature saw many ups and downs during the last two months. Some said he was too valuable for Congress to lose. The counter to that if he is so valuable he should be prime minister. During CWC meeting he moved resolution authorizing Congress president to decide about president and vice president and some thought it was over for him. Suddenly some remembered Congress tradition was to promote its vice presidents as presidents. They forgot Hamid Ansari was a Left Front nominee. When Mamata and Mulayam vetoed him name it appeared it was all over for him. But he had supporters in many parties and won the nomination.

There is time till 30/6/2012 for nominations. More candidates can emerge.

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