Subhas Chandra Pattanayak
July 22, 2008 is held as the darkest day in Indian democracy.
This day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh won the confidence vote; but the day, instead of being counted as his victory day, is unambiguously held by one and all as the darkest day in Indian democracy.
In the life of India this day shall remain remarkable, not for victory of democracy, but for defeat of democracy.
Ashok Argal, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Mahavir Bhagora, three BJP Members of Lok Sabha placed a bag on the table of the LS secretary general in front of the Speaker when debates on confidence motion were going on and fished out of it 10 bundles of currency notes of Rs.1000 denomination, claiming that the cash totaling a crore of rupees that they were placing on the table was given to them in advance against Rs.9 crore offered to them as bribe to create advantage for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The house was stunned and speechless. Deputy Speaker Charanjit Atwal had to adjourn the House hurriedly.
Later to tumults when it resumed, timeservers and renegades saved the government that should surely have breathed its last had the support for the Prime Minister could not have been arranged.
That the support was arranged is clear from the fact that the savers of Singh did not come out openly in his support prior to voting.
There is no evidence to show that political ideology played a role and change in ideological perception of persons who were opposing him till then, helped him bag the support he so badly needed.
This whips up suspicions that there was a secret deal behind the nuke deal.
Archana Nayak of Orissa had told TV channels, how she was offered money and whatever she should ask for in whatever forms she would prefer if only she votes for the government.
Her open allegation is most significant specifically as a few minutes after her statement the Lok Sabha witnessed how from a huge moneybag bundles of currency notes used allegedly to net in opposition support emanated to mock at the rampart of democracy.
So, obviously the support came not from politico-economic ideological reorientation, but from the moneybags pressed into action by agents of the Prime Minister.
This looks more certain as without the security check being slacked by the highest-level authority, such a huge bag stuffed with a crore of rupees could never have entered the Lok Sabha in session on the most sensitive issue since its birth.
As far as BJP members are concerned, it looks impossible on their part to have brought in such a huge bag to the Lok Sabha hall where everything was subjected to meticulous security check over and above the intelligence cover over each of them.
So, if the huge moneybag came from outside, it is normal to suspect that the agents of the Prime Minister had brought it in and in know of this, the security scrutinizers had deliberately allowed it or ignored its entry.
If the security staff did not neglect their duty and if the security scrutiny was not slacked, then it is impossible for the huge moneybag to have entered into the Lok Sabha from outside.
Then wherefrom such huge money came?
Obviously, in such circumstances, it may be suspected that the huge moneybag came from within the Lok Sabha premises and the huge money from the Lok Sabha chest.
If this must be the case, then the Speaker comes within the radar of suspicion.
Either way, the matter has shattered peoples’ faith in management of democracy. The peoples are doubly disturbed, as they doubt that the Prime Minister survived by use of moneybags.
Whether or not the Prime Minister survived by use of moneybags, this is too serious a doubt to be allowed to linger. The more time it takes to be eradicated the more damaging it will be to democracy being a factor of decline in voters’ confidence in the most important functionaries like the Prime Minister and the Speaker.
The Speaker would perhaps never have come into a state of being suspected. But knowingly or unknowingly he has allowed himself to be used by the Prime Minister or to the advantage of the Prime Minister, which has given birth to this decline.
Firstly, he should not have allowed a voteless debate over the issue in the Lok Sabha. To proceed ahead with the nuke deal, the prerequisite was, “the Indian Parliament must agree to the text” of the Hyde Act on the basis of which 123 agreement was to be signed. That we have published this prerequisite many a times in these pages indicates that the need for Indian parliament “to agree to the text” of the Hyde Act as a “must” was known to others and available to the knowledge of everybody. So, it was imperative for the Speaker to study and stress on this aspect. Had he insisted upon the need of the Lok Sabha “to agree to the text” of the Hyde Act as a “must”, the house could have debated on the “text” of that Act and “agreed (or disagreed) to the “text” thereof and the Prime Minister should have proceeded accordingly and the present debacle would never have occurred. That did not happen.
Secondly, the Speaker should have resigned from his post in honoring the party line. He was never an apolitical man to hold the post. He was there by virtue of being a member of the CPI(M) party, which had bagged the post for a party person by way of bargain in exchange of support to Congress-led UPA. When the party withdrew support, the Speaker should have relinquished the post the party had bagged in exchange of the support. But he did not do that. He gave two grounds. One, as Speaker he is apolitical and cannot be called for to act in party lines. Two, he cannot vote against the government as that would mean doing what the BJP would be doing and acting, even indirectly, in unison with a communal party like the BJP would be contrary to his political ideology as a communist. It was self-contradictory. Remaining apolitical cannot be the same as remaining antagonist to a particular political party. Moreover, for a communist, between imperialism and communalism, elimination of the former must be top priority and hence, ethically, there was no wrong in voting against the Prime Minister to save the country from imperialism, even if that meant working in unison with the communalists.
Thirdly, being the guardian of probity in Lok Sabha, he should not have allowed convicted criminals to come from prisons to vote on the confidence motion. Dismissal of members for violation of probity in raising questions in the House was a strong ground to disallow convicted criminals to participate in the vote. The dignity of the House was in severe jeopardy as TV channels showed the criminals to public as they were proceeding into the Parliament to participate in voting. Deliberate or not, the Speaker did not do anything discernible to uphold the dignity of the House in this case.
Fourthly, with money bundles to the tune of a crore of rupees hitting hard the House as the money used to purchase advantage for the Prime Minister and submission of the video records depicting such serious offence against the Lok Sabha, it was imperative on part of the Speaker to defer, in cause of probity and parliamentary dignity, the vote taking till the doubts were totally cleared on earnest investigation and the culprit or conspirator fully exposed. But the Speaker did not do that.
In the circumstances, one regrets to note that if democracy in India is in danger, precipitators are both the Prime Minister and the Speaker.