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Bad times for politicos

After JMM's Shibu Soren and BJP's Navjot Singh Sidhu, it is time now for other high profile leaders to mull over their future, reports Saroj Nagi.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2006 03:56 IST
Saroj Nagi

These are ominous times for politicos. After JMM's Shibu Soren and BJP's Navjot Singh Sidhu, it is time now for other high profile leaders like RJD chief Lalu Yadav and Leader of Opposition LK Advani and his colleagues Murli Manohar Joshi and Vinay Katiyar as well as Bharatiya Janshakti Party's Uma Bharati to mull over their future.

On December 18, the special CBI court in Patna is expected to deliver its judgement in the disproportionate assets case — an offshoot of the multi-crore fodder scandal — against the Railway Minister and his wife and former Bihar chief minister Rabri Devi.

In a setback to the duo, the Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed their petitions, maintaining that no permission is required to prosecute public servants and the corruption cases against them will continue. Others affected immediately by the apex court's order included the Congress' deputy chief minister in Punjab RK Bhattal, Akali Dal chief PS Badal, an MLA, and his son Sukhbir, an MP. Kerala's K Karunakaran, now in the NCP, also has cause to worry.

This week, the BJP and VHP leaders were also in the spotlight. On Monday, the special court in Rae Bareli cleared the way for the CBI to examine witnesses in the Babri Masjid demolition case. And on Wednesday, the Government said that the Liberhan Commission, probing the demolition, would not get another extension. It would submit its report before its term ends on December 31.

These two developments — which could set the stage for a bitter campaign for next year's Assembly polls, including in UP — partly explain the BJP's effort to reaffirm its Hindutva ideology in Parliament on the 14th anniversary of the demolition on Wednesday. Hoping to once again exploit the issue, the BJP members — much to the chagrin of their  JD(U) and BJD colleagues in the NDA — raised placards and slogans  of  "mandir vahin banaenge" (We will build a temple there) and paralysed proceedings. 

BSP chief Mayawati, in fact, was among the first leaders who had to grapple with the political and legal implications of recent judicial verdicts when the apex court in November cleared the decks for her trial in the controversial Taj corridor case.

Officially, these parties say they will abide by the judicial verdict. "We have full faith in the judiciary," claimed Lalu after his petition was dismissed. But the story is likely to play out differently on the ground.  

If the BJP hopes to derive political mileage from the demolition case, its plans to use Navjot Singh Sidhu in the Punjab campaign is pegged on the  assessment that his conviction in a road rage case — for which he faces a three year imprisonment — is unlikely to be an election issue with the state's martial race.  "The case dates back to 1988 when he was not a BJP member or an MP. There has been nothing against him since he joined the party and Parliament," said BJP's Venkaiah Naidu. But if the Sidhu's conviction is upheld by the apex court, then, according to the Representation of the People Act, he cannot contest elections for six years after completing his sentence. 

Mayawati's Dalit base is unlikely to be affected by the court case against her. It could even help her consolidate her support as she paints herself as a victim only because she is a Dalit. So is the case with Soren.

His conviction may create a fear in the political class that the long arm may catch up with them but his tribal supporters are reacting vehemently to what they believe is a clash between the "political haves-and-have-nots." They have called a bandh in Jharkhand, Orissa and West Bengal on Thursday, alleging that their leader was framed as part of an NDA conspiracy.

The difference in perception is evident from JD(U) Sharad Yadav's reaction.  Without disagreeing with the charges against Soren, he made it known that he will support the JMM leader. With the RJD synonymous with Lalu, the RJD would remain solidly behind the Railway Minister. 

But the question is whether these parties will be able to keep themselves afloat politically if their mascots are incarcerated, as Soren is. With many of these leaders synonymous with the parties they lead that remains a moot question.