Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: India

New Parliament Building

India needs a New Parliament Building and that does mean demolishing the present Parliament House. New Parliament Building can be next to the present Parliament House or somewhere in Delhi or outside Delhi.
Lok Sabha should have at least one representative for a million people. As per census of 2011 India’s population was 121 crore. India should have at least 1210 members in Lok Sabha. The present building is not adequate to house them.
The present Parliament House was built by the British. It was designed by Herbert Baker in 1912. Construction began in 1921. Foundation stone was laid on 12 February 1921. It was known as Central Legislative Assembly. Edward Frederick Lindley Wood, Viceroy and Governor General of India, better known as Lord Irwin, inaugurated the building on 18 January 1927. It had separate halls for Chamber of Princes, State Council, and Central Legislative Assembly. It was built for Colonial India and not Independent India. State Council (Council of States) was created by the Government of India Act 1919. It had 26 nominated members and 34 elected members. The number was increased to 260 in 1937. 156 were from provinces and 104 from princely states. Chamber of Princes was established in 1920. It lasted till 1947. Central Legislative Assembly was created by the Government of India Act 1919. It had 144 members, 103 elected, 41 nominated. The Government of India Act 1935 increased the number of seats but elections to them did not take place. Constituent Assembly dissolved Central Legislative Assembly on 14 August 1947.
When Meira Kumar was the Speaker she had set up a committee to suggest alternatives to the current building. Some MPs opposed change of building.
Now Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has suggested construction of new building saying the present structure shows signs of distress and not able to meet demand for space needed for MPs and staff. Once again there is opposition mainly because Constituent Assembly met in the Central Hall from 9 December 1946 to 26 November 1949 and Independent India’s first cabinet took oath of office in the Central Hall. Sumitra Mahajan should say the present structure will remain as it is and a new structure will be built for Parliament. That will satisfy most MPs. Present structure can be a museum and people can visit and see different halls.
At present there are 543 elected members in Lok Sabha and two nominated members. As per original Constitution constituencies or sears were to be revised after every census. In 1951-52 there were 489 seats. In 1957 and 1962 there were 494 seats. In 1967 and 1971 there were 520 seats. In 1977 there were 543 seats. In 1976 the Constitution was amended to freeze the number of constituencies till 2000 and in 2001 it was amended to freeze the number of constituencies till 2026. In 1971 India’s population was 54.7 crore. It was 68 crore in 1981, 85 crore in 1991, 102 crore in 2001 and 121 crore in 2011. Population has more than doubles. Number of constituencies also should have more than doubled. Parliament House not having enough space is the wrong reason for restricting number of constituencies. People are deprived of adequate representation.
It is time for MPs to get real and not be sentimental. The new Parliament building should provide for at least 1600 Lok Sabha members so that population growth in subsequent years is taken care of.

DDCA corruption

On 15/12/2015 CBI raided Delhi CM’s office.  It was officially or ostensibly regarding principal secretary Rajendra Kumar.  It was the first time a CM’s office was raided in India.  Arvind Kejriwal tweeted about the raid.  He said Narendra Modi was a coward and psychopath.  Some non-BJP politicians including Mamata Banerjee and Nitish Kumar condemned the raid.  In the evening Kejriwal said CBI wanted DDCA file and the raid was protect Arun Jaitley.

BJP MP Kirti Azad, Bishen Singh Bedi and Sameer Bahadur talked about corruption in DDCA.  Opposition parties demanded Jaitley’s resignation.  AAP held press conferences against Jaitley.  Kejriwal announced Inquiry Commission to look into DDCA misdeeds.  Congress demanded Joint Parliamentary Committee to investigate DDCA.  Bedi said cricket associations in North India are companies and they want to make profit.   Cricket associations in South India are societies.

On 20/12/2015 at 4 p.m. there was a press conference officially by Wikileaks4India and Sun Star newspaper.  Kirti Azad, Bishen Singh Bedi, Surinder Khanna and Sameer Bahadur were present.  There was a video presentation regarding payment to fake companies.  One part showed Kirti Azad arguing with Arun Jaitley about financial manual, bogus members, forged signatures and so on.  Parliament session was going on.  Kirti Azad had 52 questions for Jaitley.  It was embarrassing for BJP because its own MP was accusing its Finance Minister.

On 21/12/2015 Jaitley filed civil and criminal defamation cases.  The civil case was against Kejriwal for 10 crore rupees in Delhi High Court.  The criminal case was against Kejriwal, Ashutosh, Sanjay Singh, Kumar Vishwas, Raghav Chaddha and Deepak Bajpai under sections 499-502 of IPC in the court of Chief Metropolitan Magistrate.   Ram Jethmalani said he will fight for Kejriwal.  There was a question whether poor AAP can afford Jethmalani’s charge of 22 lakh rupees.  Jethmalani replied he charges in 10% cases and 90% cases he fights free.

There was demand for Jaitley’s resignation in Parliament.  Some said “Caesar’s wife should be above suspicion.”  Jaitley had said the same thing about Manmohan Singh.

On 22/12/2015 at a meeting of BJP parliamentary party Modi said Jaitley is as pure as Advani.  He referred to Advani’s acquittal in Jain Hawala case.  Delhi Legislative Assembly had a session on DDCA.  Kejriwal demanded Modi’s resignation for ordering CBI raid to protect Jaitley.

On 23/12/2015 Parliament session got over and BJP suspended Kirti Azad for anti-party activities.  Azad asked how can fighting against corruption can be anti-party activity.  He had become member of BJP in 1992 when nobody wanted to touch it with a bargepole.  He said he will continue his crusade against corruption in sports and sports bodies.  Subramanian Swamy said he will help Kirti Azad to draft reply to the notice.

There was also talk of Jaitley’s association with Hockey India and his family benefitting from it.  It became known that Jaitley’s daughter Sonali was on two committees of Hockey India and his son-in-law was on two committees.

  1. P. S. Gill said Arun Jaitely being an advisor to Hockey India got his daughter appointed to legal committee and Hockey India paid an exorbitant amount to Sonali Jaitley towards retainership fee. The amount is said to be five and half crore rupees.

On 25/12/2015 Kirti Azad wrote to Amit Shah and demanded to know the instances of anti-party activities and proof.

For long Jaitley had defended other BJP members accused of corruption or impropriety.  Now he was at the receiving end.  BJP spokespersons and some BJP leaders defended him.

Jaitley is responsible for the files he signed when he was DDCA president.  The argument that he was not involved in day-to-day affairs and general secretary and treasurer carried out the functions is not good to absolve him of his responsibility.

DDCA was in a mess for a long time.  It was Delhi High Court that saved DDCA from forfeiting Test against South Africa.  Delhi High Court had appointed former Punjab and Haryana High Court judge Mukul Mudgal to supervise the functioning of DDCA.  He has been quiet.

BJP loses in Bihar

Exit polls had predicted different results for Bihar elections. Chanakya had predicted clear victory for BJP. Other exit polls had either predicted victory for Grand Alliance or BJP-led NDA or said the contest was very close. Most agreed that BJP will be the single largest party. When the counting began on 5/11/2015 initially BJP was leading and BJP members celebrated with bursting of firecrackers. Soon the trend reversed and it was gloom for BJP.
Final result is RJD 80, JD (U) 71, Congress 27 in Grand Alliance, and BJP 53, LJP 2, RSLP 2, HAM 1 in NDA. CPI-ML won 3 seats. Others won 4 seats. BSP, SP, NCP and MIM did not win any seat.
There are many reasons for BJP’s defeat. Most important was wrong candidate selection. Right candidates, some of them sitting MLAs, did not get tickets. That angered many BJP volunteers and they did not work for the party.
Beef controversy damaged BJP. In 2014 Modi had talked against pink revolution and opposed export of beef. Various statements about cow and beef turned many people against BJP. After becoming PM, Modi had talked of 1200 years of slavery.
Not keeping the promises made during Lok Sabha elections hurt BJP. Expectations were high. They were not met. BJP looked like Congress. MNREGA continued. Businessmen were disappointed. Youth did not get jobs.
Price of toor dal went above 200 rupees per kg. Prices of some other essential commodities went up.
There was talk of intolerance. Many authors, film persons, scientist and historians returned their awards. Some of the statements made by BJP leaders or members of Sangh Pariwar alienated many people.
Prashant Kishor was strategist for Modi in 2014. This time he was strategist for Nitish. That helped Nitish.
It is difficult to say how much Mohan Bhagwat’s talk on rethink on reservations damaged BJP. BJP leaders had said there is no rethink. After the loss Hukumdev Yadav and Jitan Ram Manjhi blamed Mohan Bhagwat.
The combination of RJD, JD (U) and Congress resulted in consolidation of their votes and they benefitted and BJP and allies lost. It began during by-elections after Lok Sabha elections in 2014.
Only achievement Modi government can talk of is India’s rank in ease of doing business went up from 142 to 130.
Modi government has disappointed its supporters and some have turned critics. Arun Shourie’s criticism was brushed off as disgruntlement of someone who did not become minister. Home Ministry has a case against Subramanian Swamy under IPC 153A for his book Terrorism in India. BJP has done its best to lose friends and offend people.
Modi’s dream of Congress-Free India is shattered. In Bihar Congress tally went up from 4 to 27.
How long Grand Alliance will function smoothly remains to be seen. RJD has more seats than JD(U) and it is just a matter of time before CM aspirants in RJD including Tejaswi Yadav and Tej Pratap Yadav will put forth their claims. There will be many claimants for ministerial posts. Congress will be disappointed if it does not get any portfolio.
BJP says its vote share is intact. Its loss is due to arithmetic of JD (U), RJD and Congress coming together. After Delhi loss also BJP claimed its vote share is intact. In Bihar BJP did not do as badly as in Delhi.
Voting should have been held on a single day in Bihar instead in 5 phases with long gaps in between. Prolonged election campaign resulted in vicious comments. Election Commission should stop making elections a never ending story.

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