Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: UPA

CAG and constitution

It is strange that former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) V. K. Shunglu suggested that CAG be made a multi-member body. Narayanasamy, MoS in PMO said the government is actively considering it and later retracted.

V. K. Shunglu had submitted six reports on Commonwealth Games. The government implemented first report which was against B. S. Lalli. Other reports which were against Sheila Dikshit and others were not implemented.

About CAG, V. K. Shunglu had suggested that a three-member body would obtain greater transparency in operation. Was there not enough transparency when Shunglu was CAG?

Former CEC S. Y. Quraishi said CAG will become more powerful if it has more than one member. The fact is additional members are appointed to make Election Commission fall in line with government. One CEC had problem with Navin Kohli who was then Election Commissioner. The CEC did not want Navin Kohli to succeed him as CED but UPA government appointed him as CEC.

The constitution provides for CAG as one person and Election Commission as a body headed by CEC. Articles 148-151 deal with CAG, duties and powers, accounts, and audit reports. Article 148 is clear that CAG is one person. There is no provision for multi-member CAG.

Article 324 deals with Election Commission. It states, among other things, “The Election Commission shall consist of the Chief Election Commissioner and such number of other Election Commissioners, if any, as the President may from time to time fix…” CEC is enough. ECs are optional. For a long time India had only CEC. In 1989 Rajiv Gandhi government appointed two ECs. Rajiv Gandhi was unhappy with R. V. S. Peri Sastry. When V. P. Singh government came to power they removed the two ECs. When T. N. Seshan became CEC he took decisions that favoured Congress. Janata Dal wanted his removal. P. V. Narasimha Rao promised that but did not keep his promise. Later T. N. Seshan became a problem for Congress. Then Congress government appointed two ECs. As the governments changed they continued with Election Commission as a three-member body. They promoted ECs as CECs and brought as ECs people who thought were suitable for them. Sometimes the calculations went wrong.

UPA is unhappy with Vinod Rai as CAG. Previous CAGs were quiet. Vinod Rai said the brazenness with which the decisions are taken is appalling. Amending the constitution to curb CAG’s powers is not easy for UPA. CAG is a constitutional functionary. There is no bar on him holding press conferences, giving interviews, blogging, or tweeting.

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.

TMC quits UPA

On 18/9/2012 around 8.15 p.m. Mamata Banerjee in a press conference announced withdrawal of support to UPA government. TMC will not be part of UPA. TMC ministers will submit their resignation letters to PM at 3 p.m. on Friday, 21/9/2012. She did mention the date but that was implied.

Mamata Banerjee was unhappy with diesel price rise, cap on LPG cylinders with subsidy at six per year per family, and FDI in multi-brand retail. Most people are unhappy with diesel price rise as it will lead to other price rises. Cap on LPG cylinders will not affect most families as they do not use for than six cylinders per year. FDI in multi-brand retail is beneficial to farmers while small shop owners will lose.

Mamata Banerjee had given 72 hours ultimatum to centre to rollback and the centre did not oblige. The meeting that began at 5 p.m. lasted for more than three hours, unusual for TMC. May be TMC ministers in union cabinet did not want to quit. May be some TMC MPs felt there is nothing to gain from quitting UPA. Mayawati or Mulayam will rescue UPA and TMC will be loser.

Mamata Banerjee did not send letter of withdrawal of support to President. If she had sent the letter the President would have asked the government to prove its majority in Lok Sabha. She gave almost 67 hours time to Congress to reverse decisions. The possibility of a compromise between Congress and TMC exists. Even after TMC ministers resign, talks can go on.

Mamata Banerjee said her party is the second largest in UPA. With 19 members TMC is less than one tenth of Congress which has 206 members and just one more than DMK which has 18 members. If TMC quits, BSP which has 21 members can join UPA. Mayawati can be railway minister. Portfolios held by TMC can go to BSP.

TMC does not need Congress support in West Bengal. With TMC out of UPA, Congress members will have to quit the cabinet in West Bengal and sit in opposition. Mamata Banerjee’s calculation is that central government will fall within six months. That may not happen. Congress may continue in power through various permutations and combinations. When Left Front withdrew support in 2008 Congress survived.

Congress leaders in West Bengal wanted to break the alliance with TMC long back. They were told to hold on due to reasons like budget session and presidential election. Out of UPA, TMC’s chances of power at centre are limited. It does not want to be part of NDA or any front that has Left Front in it. A front consisting TMC and remaining parties is unlikely to get power at centre.

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