Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Tag: Mani Shankar Aiyar

Rajya Sabha nominations

Rajya Sabha nomination is not an award or a prize or a title. Article 80 of the constitution prescribes that a person to be nominated to Rajya Sabha should have special knowledge or practical experience in respect of literature, science, art and social service.

Over the years many people have been nominated to Rajya Sabha in violation of the constitution. Mani Shankar Aiyar lost Lok Sabha election, he was nominated. Kuldip Nayyar was a journalist. Fali Nariman was a lawyer. Chandan Mitra, Shobhana Bhartia and Cho Ramaswamy were journalists.

Some qualified for nomination but did not know the importance or responsibility of Rajya Sabha membership. Lata Mangeshkar treated it as an award. Maqbool Fida Husain did not know nominated members did not have the right to vote in presidential election.

Now there is news that Sachin Tendulkar, Rekha and Anu Aga are nominated to Rajya Sabha. Rekha qualifies for her special knowledge or practical experience in art. Sachin Tendulkar and Anu Aga do not qualify. There is no provision for nomination in sport, law, journalism or business. Sport is not art. Journalism is not literature.

Sachin Tendulkar was the surprise choice. On 26/4/2012 Rajiv Shukla took him to meet Sonia Gandhi, ostensibly because Sonia Gandhi wanted to congratulate him on 100th 100. Soon came the news of nomination. The file of nomination moved from prime minister to home minister to president who signed it. Congress was having bad time. On 24/4/2012 it had to suspend its eight Telangana MPs from Lok Sabha for four days. On 25/4/2012 S&P cut its outlook on India from stable to negative. Bofors was back. On 26/4/2012 BJP attacked Congress in Parliament over Bofors. Once the news of Sachin Tendulkar came out that was the main topic on TV channels. Bofors, RISAT, Jhina Hikaka’s release and other matters lost their importance.

There was talk of Sachin Tendulkar getting Bharat Ratna. Sport was not a category for which Bharat Ratna was given. Criterion was changed so that Sachin Tendulkar may get Bharat Ratna. However there were demands for Bharat Ratna for many people. Some people said Dhyan Chand should be the first sportsperson to get Bharat Ratna. When Republic Day came there was no announcement of Bharat Ratna. Sports Ministry is said to have mentioned the names of Dhyan Chand, Tenzing Norgay and Abhinav Bindra but not of Sachin Tendulkar. Sports Ministry said BCCI did not recommend his name. BCCI said we thought government gives Bharat Ratna. Later Maharashtra government recommended Sachin Tendulkar’s name but the government of India did not announce Bharat Ratna for Sachin Tendulkar.

Sanjay Manjrekar said he was shocked Sachin Tendulkar accepted the nomination. Some wondered what he will do in Rajya Sabha. He has not retired from cricket. Will he find time to attend Rajya Sabha? It may happen that on a TV channel half screen will show live telecast of Rajya Sabha debate and other half will show live telecast of Sachin Tendulkar playing in a cricket match. Some fans did not want Sachin Tendulkar in Rajya Sabha. Some fans wanted him to join Rajya Sabha later.

Rekha’s nomination is curious. Jaya Bachchan had returned to Rajya Sabha after two years. Sonia Gandhi does not like her. Some years back Congress had got her disqualified on office of profit issue. That had boomeranged and Sonia Gandhi had to resign as MP and chairperson of NAC. Later a bill was passed to make many offices not offices of profit. Amitabh Bachchan was happy that Lindstrom had said there was an attempt to frame him in Bofors case. He had held a press conference and had appeared on TV channels.

Many businessmen have made it to Rajya Sabha by paying money to party presidents or MLAs. Recently a Rajya Sabha election was countermanded because around two crore rupees were found in a car and that money was meant to be payment to MLAs. Now we have nomination of a businesswoman to Rajya Sabha.

Article 80 does not say eminent citizens are to be nominated to Rajya Sabha. If challenged in courts many nominations will be struck down as unconstitutional.

Rajya Sabha should be abolished. That will save time and avoid duplication. Lok Sabha should have at least one representative per million people. India’s population being 121 crores as per 2011 census the strength of Lok Sabha should be 1210. If Parliament House cannot hold that many members Lok Sabha sessions should be held elsewhere.

India and Singapore

Singapore was once a backward country. It has made progress over the years and has controlled corruption and has low crime rate. India lags behind in many respects. When comparisons are made some say Singapore does not have free press, popular sovereignty and equal moral status of citizens.

How free is India’s press? Corporate houses control many news TV channels and newspapers. Journalists working for many others are influenced by lobbyists who work for various interests. Newspapers and channels that want ad revenue enter into agreements with corporate houses not to say or write anything against them. Columns of writers who write about misdeeds about corporate houses disappear.

Where is popular sovereignty when people who have not contested elections or lost elections become ministers? Narasimha Rao and Deve Gowda were not MPs when they became PMs. Manmohan Singh is a Rajya Sabha member and the only one time he contested Lok Sabha election he lost it. Prithviraj Chavan had lost Lok Sabha election. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha. He was made CM of Maharashra when Ashok Chavan was removed. Bhoopinder Singh Hooda was not an MLA when he became CM of Haryana. Shivraj Patil who had lost Lok Sabha election was made home minister. There is no democracy or popular sovereignty when people who are not MPs or lost Lok Sabha elections become PMs or people in Delhi decide who should be CM, more so when one who is selected as CM is not an MLA, or industrialists decide who should be or should not be minister. Singapore has elections and its leaders are elected. Mani Shankar Aiyar lost Lok Sabha election. He was nominated to Rajya Sabha.

It is not clear what is meant by equal moral status. The constitution is about equal legal status which in India is often compromised by reservations on the basis of caste, class, tribe or gender. Over the years ministers, MPs, MLAs, bureaucrats, police officers and other public servants have been made immune from prosecution without permission from some authority which is difficult to get. Cases drag on for years in courts. In one case when the Supreme Court annulled the election of an MLA it was time for voting for the next Assembly.

In Singapore there is public caning for some offences and that plays a part in controlling crime. Singapore is a small country. Justice is quick. India can do away appeal from one court to another and see that justice is quick.

Commonwealth Games

India should have quit Commonwealth when it became a republic. It continued in Commonwealth.

Commonwealth Games are to be held in Delhi in October 2010. Mani Shankar Aiyar wants the games to flop so that India does not bid for Asian Games and Olympics and waste its money. He has said that India paid one lakh dollars in bribes to each delegate to get votes for staging Commonwealth Games. He was Sports Minister and foresaw that the games will be a disaster due to the functioning of Indian Olympic Association (IOA). His predecessor Sunil Dutt had a tough time and he died. IOA officials did not want to interact with Mani Shankar Aiyar and they told him to send Sports Secretary and he also died. Mani Shankar Aiyar wanted a special committee be set up to oversee the preparations for Commonwealth Games as India did for Asian Games 1982 but that did not happen. In 2006 Commonwealth Games Federation chief had expressed concern in private that IOA was lagging behind in preparation. In March 2009 it was public. After that various deadlines were set to be extended further. Now just around 60 days are left for games. Stadia are not ready and rains have exposed the shoddy construction.

Swapan Dasgupta agrees with Mani Shankar Aiyar. There is disconnect between people who think holding the games as national pride and other people. He did not say he wants the games to flop but if Mani Shankar Aiyar is anti-national so is he.

Crores of rupees are to be spent on opening and closing ceremonies. The Group of Ministers had a preview of the ceremonies and they want Islamic culture to be added to it. Islam is a religion and not a culture. Muslims have different cultures. The culture of Muslims of Kerala is different from the culture of Muslims of Uttar Pradesh. Too bad our ministers don’t know such things.

IOA is not answerable to government. Sports Ministers Mohinder Singh Gill’s attempts to regulate the terms of office bearers of IOA and its affiliates have failed. Athletes have talked of sexual harassment.

IOA has a contract with an Australian company for sponsorship deals for Commonwealth Games. The company gets 10%-20% commission of all sponsorships IOA gets whether they come through the company or not. The company did not get many sponsorships. Now Public Undertakings are asked to sponsor the games and the company will get commission.

India took it upon itself to host Commonwealth Games so it has to fulfil its obligation but quit Commonwealth after the games. Since the Indian government has no say in the functioning of IOA it should stop financing IOA and get back stadia, buildings and whatever else is given to them. What India has achieved in Olympics is mostly in spite of IOA. IOA should finance itself like BCCI.

There are reports of cost overruns and corruption in the construction of stadia and flyovers. CNN-IBN has referred to Commonwealth Games as Corruption Wealth Games.

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