BJP, Congress indulging in low-level politics

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By : Rajeev Sharma

The Indian general elections are long over but the bitterness lingers on and the Indian polity continues to remain a squabbling mix. The Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has stormed into power single-handedly decimating the Congress in the process. The Grand Old Party that ruled India uninterruptedly for last one decade in two consecutive full terms has fallen to its all-time low figure of having just 44 seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha that its leader in the house is technically disqualified to get the status of Leader of Opposition, a constitutional post that is equivalent to the status of a Cabinet minister.

But sadly the two biggest political parties of India continue to be lacking in grace. One would have thought that the BJP would have been magnanimous in its unprecedented victory and would have accommodated the Congress by giving it due space and respect. But it hasn’t. Similarly, one would have expected the Congress party to be graceful in its defeat, not be churlish and not be demanding privileges, which it neither deserves nor entitled. But it isn’t.

On Tuesday two different developments exposed both the major political parties.
Well, the Congress continues to be a major party despite its rout in the elections for the simple reason that the party polled more 116 million votes and continues to have major presence in the Rajya Sabha as well as a large number of states.

The BJP resorted to a cheap power play when the government pulled out a stone plaque from the front façade of National Media Center, a $50 million government building for media activities which was inaugurated by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in August last.

Promptly the old plaque was discarded and substituted by a new plaque extolling the contributions of BJP leaders in the making of the building. On top of the list is the name of top BJP leader and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who had laid the foundation stone of the building during his tenure. There was no need for this kind of gutter-level politics. The Congress will inevitably cry foul over the issue in the coming days, though there isn’t anything much that the out-of-power party can do.
But the BJP should have avoided stooping to such low-level tactics in showing who the boss of the country is these days.

Another Congress-BJP spat that unraveled on Tuesday is apparently on a more serious issue, the replacement of 12 State governors who were appointed by the previous UPA government. But here too, it is an unnecessary nit-picking issue. Here the Congress is behaving like a bad loser refusing to see, or at least acknowledge, the vastly changed political realities on the ground.

The Modi government wants to change these 12 governors. Only one had obliged on Tuesday — B.L. Joshi, who resigned as Uttar Pradesh governor. Three others — Margaret Alva (Rajasthan), H.R. Bhardwaj (Karnataka) and J.B. Patnaik (Assam) — denied speculations that they had resigned.

Kerala Governor Sheila Dikshit, who was Delhi chief minister for three consecutive terms, too has dug in her heels.

Strangely, the Congress, which had in 2004 removed the governors appointed by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government, is now accusing the BJP of playing cheap politics and throwing the rulebook at the BJP. Conversely, the BJP, which had cried foul over the UPA government move of sacking the NDA-appointed governors at the change of government in 2004, is also doing to the Congress now what it complained against in 2004.

The Congress has even indicated that it may drag the Modi government to the Supreme Court over the issue. The opposition party on Tuesday cited a famous judgment of the Supreme Court in the BP Singhal versus Union of India case of 2004.

The Congress cited a relevant paragraph of the judgment in the case delivered by the then Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan. The said para is as below:

“iii) A Governor cannot be removed on the ground that he is out of sync with the policies and ideologies of the Union Government or the party in power at the Center. Nor can he be removed on the ground that the Union Government has lost confidence in him. It follows therefore that change in government at Center is not a ground for removal of Governors holding office to make way for others favored by the new government. (iv) As there is no need to assign reasons, any removal as a consequence of withdrawal of the pleasure will be assumed to be valid and will be open to only a limited judicial review. If the aggrieved person is able to demonstrate prima facie that his removal was either arbitrary, mala fide, capricious or whimsical, the court will call upon the Union Government to disclose to the court, the material upon which the President had taken the decision to withdraw the pleasure. If the Union Government does not disclose any reason, or if the reasons disclosed are found to be irrelevant, arbitrary, whimsical, or mala fide, the court will interfere. However, the court will not interfere merely on the ground that a different view is possible or that the material or reasons are insufficient… In view of our decision in WP(C) No.296 of 2004, this Transfer Petition is dismissed.”

Clearly, when elephants fight, the grass suffers. What a pity!

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