BALBIR PUNJ SHOULD RELINQUISH THE RAJYASABHA SEAT

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

It happens to human beings. It happened to me. My son and daughter-in-law have returned to their workplace at New York rejuvenating me with their loving care.

Now when I look at what happened during these days, I feel pierced particularly over denigration of our Assembly by BJP high command that has not hesitated to demonstrate that its Legislators in Orissa are such a stupid stuff that can be led by a leash and asked to do whatever their masters may want them to do like tamed animals do in the ring.

They had done so in Vajpayee days by sending a shamelessly avaricious venal called Chhatrapal Singh Lodha to the Rajyasabha from Orissa who eventually got dismissed by the Parliament after media exposed him in flagrante delicto while taking money for putting a question.

They have done so again now by electing Balbir Punj to Rajyasabha as representative of Orissa.

I have nothing to say against Punj. To me, since more than fifteen years, he is a friend. I was a special invitee to the National Executive of National Union of Journalists when he was its General Secretary. He is clear in his comprehension and is very precise and perfect in presenting his views. He fits best to membership of Rajyasabha. A person like Punj cannot get elected to Loksabha whereto election depends mostly on uninformed majority. So Rajyasabha is the place, which should be the place for persons like Punj. And, I am sure, BJP could not have a better choice to Rajyasabha than Punj. Compared with other MPs from Orissa, he would no doubt be rated top in qualification and communication skills. If his party members from Orissa cast aside inferiority complex and cooperate with him in representing Orissa’s cause and concerns, I am sure, in him we would get the most effective MP.

But notwithstanding this observation, I feel, he should not have taken advantage of unscrupulousness of BJP high command to hijack the Rajyasabha seat to which an Oriya was legitimately entitled.

The incumbent Prime Minister Dr. Man Mohan Singh was not ashamed of giving a blatantly false statement of residence while grabbing a Rajyasabha seat from Assam. Punj has at least not given a false statement of residence in Orissa in his nomination papers. Rather he has tried to defend himself by claiming that he is entitled to seek election from Orissa under the provisions of the Representation of the People Act, 1951 (hereinafter called the Act of 1951), which in 2003 has been amended to facilitate election of any qualified Indian to Rajyasabha from any State of India.

In 2003 self-seekers and political scoundrels were ruling the roost. They had no regards for democracy. They had no regards for the common people. They were busy in converting democracy to plutocracy. They were busy in innovating ever-newer methods to destroy whatever good-for-democracy properties our founding fathers had strengthened the Constitution with.

So, the Act of 1951, which had stipulated that a person had to be an elector in a parliamentary constituency in the State from where he seeks election to Rajya Sabha, was amended to suit the purpose of party high command in ushering in any of their sycophants from any State to the Rajyasabha if in that State the numbers of their yes-men in the Assembly were enough to elect the party candidate, even though they knew this amendment would defeat the core purpose for which the Rajyasabha was conceived.

As the Constitution was not easy to be amended for discarding State nativity with regard to the Council of States, they amended the Act of 1951 with the nefarious design in mind and parties in the Opposition being of the same feathers inasmuch as the high command culture has replaced collective leadership in all of them, this amendment, meant to kill the spirit of Rajyasabha, could be carried out and enforced.

This reminds me of what Dr. Ambedkar had said in the Constituent Assembly in answering debates over provision of stiffer obstacles in amending the Constitution. He had said, “In the future Parliament, if it met as a Constituent Assembly, its members will be acting as partisans seeking to carry amendments …… to facilitate the passing of party measures which they have failed to get through Parliament by reason of some article of the Constitution which has acted as an obstacle in their way ……. That is the difference between the Constituent Assembly and the future Parliament. That is the reason, why the Constituent Assembly though elected on limited franchise can be trusted to pass the Constitution by simple majority and why the Parliament though elected on adult suffrage cannot be trusted with same power to amend it” (Constituent Assembly Debates, Vol.VII, pp.43-44). How accurate!

As foreseen by the Father of Indian Constitution, the Indian Parliament has become a playground of partisan politicians. With partisan motive in the Vajpayee days, the Act of 1951 had been amended in 2003 to bring in party hoodlums to the Rajyasabha by killing the spirit of the Constitution in respect to nativity. When Vajpayee had done it in order to ensure that venal elements like Chhatrapal Singh Lodha could come to the Rajyasabha from States wherefrom under the original Act, not being natives tereto, they could not have come, Congress, the main Opposition party, which had demoralized our democracy ahead of BJP by bringing in Man Mohan Singh to Rajyasabha from Assam on false document of nativity, had no moral guts to oppose it. Under such circumstances this partisan conspiracy by the rulers of 2003 against our Constitution could become the law.

Any self-seeker may take the advantage of this bad law. But why should Punj?

Basically a journalist and outstandingly so, he is supposed to have known it clearly that the 2003 amendment of the Act of 1951 was an act of mischievous maneuvers that Vajpayeeraj had formulated to obliterate quintessence of continuation of States’ representation in the Rajyasabha so that venal elements like Lodha, unacceptable to general voters but close to BJP leadership, could be brought in from any State under its grip notwithstanding not being natives to that State, to the Rajyasabha and awarded with coveted privileges as members of Parliament beneath which they could be able to operate safely their money-grabbing rackets.

So, legally though not illegal, ethically it is incorrect on part of Punj, a conscience-keeper of people as a scribe, to grab the Rajyasabha seat of Orissa under the guise of 2003 amendment of the Act of 1951.

The way Orissa MLAs of BJP opposed him before being nose-led to support him is enough indication for an experienced journalist like Punj to feel that he is and will continue to be an embarrassment to his electors.

Once elected, he cannot be recalled by the MLAs who voted for him and unless dismissed by the Parliament as his predecessor Lodha had been, he cannot be stopped from functioning as a Member of Parliament.

But as long as he shall be in the Rajyasabha this term, he would be looked at, even by his party members here, as an unwanted wart on the body politic of Orissa.

It is better therefore, for him particularly, to relinquish the Rajyasabha seat and help any member of his party in Orissa to represent the State in his place in the best interest of democracy.

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