Mainstream, VOL LIV No 21 New Delhi May 14, 2016
BJP loses Face, PM lands in a Soup
Tuesday 17 May 2016, by
The second phase of Parliament’s Budget session has concluded. According to statistics, this phase was the most productive of all the sittings since the Narendra Modi Government came to power at the Centre two years ago.
The most significant development of the last few days was the Harish Rawat-led Congress Government winning the floor test in the Uttarakhand Assembly under the supervision of the Supreme Court. It secured the trust vote 33-28 backed as the Congress was by the BSP, UKD and Independents (with the ex-Congress members who switched over to the other side having been disqualified by the Assembly Speaker earlier).
There is not a shadow of doubt that the Modi-led Union Government has egg on its face as it had clamped President’s Rule in the State without waiting for the floor test in the State legislature. [This was rectified by the intervention of both the Uttarakhand High Court and Supreme Court with the Centre being forced to eat the humble pie.] The BJP leadership running the Centre was thus compelled to restore the Harish Rawat Government in the State after 45 days.
With this significant event that has legitimately elated the Congress ranks as a whole, the spotlight has once again naturally shifted to the misuse of Article 356 by the Centre. As The Times of India has aptly pointed out in an editorial, the “time has come to consign Article 356 to History”.
As far as the AgustaWestland helicopter scam is concerned, the latest news is that one of the middlemen of the deal, Christian Michel, told an Indian TV channel that while he did not deny kickbacks were paid, he himself had never met Congress President Sonia Gandhi, former PM Manmohan Singh or former Defence Minister A.K. Antony, adding that the “Congress never interfered in the Agusta deal”. In his opinion, lawyer Gautam Khaitan was the brain behind the kickbacks, as “he was responsible for moving the money. He knows everything.” He further asserted: “I think the Indian leaders did their job. But to say that men like (Atal Behari) Vajpayee, Dr Manmohan Singh or A.K. Antony are involved is ridiculous. No one would believe that.” He further affirmed that Dr Subramanian Swamy was misled about the deal; he claimed that Dr Swamy was a “good friend” of his father, Wolfgang Michel, and he was shocked to find Dr Swamy attacking his father who, he claimed, had close relations with various political leaders in India.
But from the interview it is clear that the essence of the BJP leaders’ attacks on the Congress, and Sonia Gandhi in particular, remains unsubstantiated.
Meanwhile PM Modi is in trouble for his utterances at an election rally in Thiruvananthapuram last Sunday (May 8). He is reported to have said:
The situation with the child death ratio among Scheduled Tribes in Kerala is scarier than even Somalia.
This drew criticism from all sections in the State with CM Oommen Chandy in a letter to Modi saying that the people of his State were “shocked” to hear from the PM “certain baseless allegations” likening Kerala with Somalia; this, he underlined, ”is unbecoming of a Prime Minister and has created a great deal of agony and protest”. CPM General Secretary Sitaram Yechury was more specific and pointed out that “Somalia’s HDI is 0.285 (ranking 229), Kerala’s is 0.712, India’s only high HDI State, it’d rank 104 globally”.
Soon #PonMoneModi (get lost, Modi) was trending on Twitter. Chandrakanth wrote: “I haven’t believed earlier. But now I am very much sure that his (Modi’s) degrees are fake.” A.J. Tom averred that Modi’s statement was sufficient proof that “politicians, who are concerned only with grabbing power and remaining in power, are not necessarily endowed with the required degree of knowledge, wisdom and decency while making statements... Kerala is far better with LDF and UDF than the fascists.”
Modi’s statement evoked justifiable indignation from Malayalis everywhere. He beat a hasty retreat and avoided making such comparisons in his other rallies. But the damage had already been done.
There is no wonder that the PM has landed himself in a soup in Kerala. It is entirely of his own making.
May 12 S.C.