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'Cash for runs'

One more bloody Urdu couplet and I’ll join Parliament myself. If I had known that the high point in the parliamentary ‘discussion’ on Wednesday over the cash-for-votes ruckus would be Sushma Swaraj and Manmohan Singh being qawwals, I would have hired a few handclappers and harmoniums to make the day’s proceedings a more tuneful affair, writes Indrajit Hazra.

columns Updated: Sep 10, 2011 19:47 IST
Indrajit Hazra

One more bloody Urdu couplet and I’ll join Parliament myself. If I had known that the high point in the parliamentary ‘discussion’ on Wednesday over the cash-for-votes ruckus would be Sushma Swaraj and Manmohan Singh being qawwals, I would have hired a few handclappers and harmoniums to make the day’s proceedings a more tuneful affair.

Instead of getting on track to answer the only question that matters — were parliamentarians bribed before the UPA government’s July 2008 confidence vote? — the nation was waylaid into wah-wahing the leader of the Opposition and the prime minister as they recreated Zeenat Aman’s and Rishi Kapoor’s poetic duel in Hum Kisi Se Kum Nahin.

But pearls of poetry haven’t been the only red herrings strewn about to throw dogs off the scent. Since Manmohan Singh is convinced that no one from the Congress or the government “indulged in any unlawful act” in the run-up to the July 2008 confidence vote, it was left to the government and its cheerleaders to ensure that the world shares his conviction. And in case there are difficulties in taking the PM’s assurance at bearded face value, rubber dinghies have been floated, in which you can paddle your way out of the real issue altogether.

Take the aachar-papad side dish of the whole thing being an entrapment. Tehelka magazine’s last issue ran a cover story about the news channel CNN-IBN having acted on the behest of the BJP when it conducted a sting operation in 2008 that showed Sanjeev Saxena, a flunky of the then Samajwadi Party leader Amar Singh, handing over money to BJP MP Ashok Argal before the trust vote. This, the government now tells us, was a set-up that the Delhi Police is looking into.

But hang on. Even if it was entrapment, money did exchange hands. Or was it, as the inviolate senior statesman Amar Singh now tells us crossing his heart and hoping to die, all a charade just to discredit a government that thinks that ‘horse-trading’ is something that only bad people like Hasan Ali Khan engage in? To ask why a TV channel was in cahoots with the BJP to destablise the government is besides the point. It’s like asking why an umpire sided with the bowler when the latter appealed against a batsman.

Then there’s the other rubber dinghy: Why on earth should we take the secret jottings of an American diplomat so seriously?

True, the content of the WikiLeak could be dumb analysis and sloppy reportage. The wads shown to the American embassy staffer may well have been Monopoly money and the Congressman bragging about ‘buying votes’ could have been having a laugh.

But even if a Martian sends a missive to Mars about something that suggests Indian MPs being bribed for their votes, it is our business to take the matter seriously and try to verify the contents of the intercepted Martian cable.

But there’s another balloon that’s been floated in the air. Why had, this balloon asks, the BJP kept quiet all this while after Cash-for-Votes Version 1.0? After all, KC Deo, heading the committee that was conducting investigations into the issue, stated earlier this month that the probe report wasn’t a “closed chapter”.

Well, the truth is that until the WikiLeak, there had been no further lead available to take the issue forward — although the currency notes brought into Parliament in 2008 could have been investigated (and still can be). Now, someone can actually take Nachiketa ‘Bling’ Kapur, who allegedly showed the US embassy employee the Congress’ enviable purchasing power, out for some drinks and hope for a long uninhibited chat.

We don’t have a culture of mainstream protest beyond the candlelight vigil (they’ve started to all look the same, anyway). All that traffic of outrage and concern over Twitter and Facebook is all very sophisticated, but it overwhelmingly preaches to the converted. There’s nothing as effective as banners held up in front of all those TV cameras while an India-Pakistan World Cup semi-final match is in progress.

So if you’re there in the stands on Wednesday, along with your ‘Sachin = God’ and ‘Go India go!’ signs, why don’t you hold up a placard while India is batting that simply says: ‘Cash for runs’. It may not be Urdu poetry, but you’ll be surprised how moved fellow India supporter there at Mohali, Manmohan Singh, could be.