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What the BJP can do, the Congress can do better

But what I am now afraid of is that all this brazenness by the BJP might be setting a precedent for future Congress governments in the country

mumbai Updated: Aug 16, 2017 18:29 IST
Sujata Anandan
Sujata Anandan
Hindustan Times
Mumbai news,Congress,BJP
The then Maharashtra chief minister Abdul Rehman Antulay, after some resistance, was compelled to resign over the cement quota scam even though he kept professing his innocence which was established by the courts a decade later.(File photo)

I must say events of the recent past across governments in the country are deeply disappointing -- to me and several other like-minded citizens who expect a culture of responsibility and accountability from our governments and politicians.

Even before I began life as a political reporter, I saw how then Maharashtra chief minister Abdul Rehman Antulay, after some resistance, was compelled to resign over the cement quota scam even though he kept professing his innocence which was established by the courts a decade later. While he did set up a scheme in the name of the poor (and Indira Gandhi) to squeeze donations from the rich against government allotments of cement quotas, all the money was accounted for -- either by cheque or receipted when paid by cash. Not a paisa had gone into his pocket. Yet Mrs Gandhi asked him to resign.

Then, while I was a fairly middling reporter, the post-Babri riots overtook the city and then chief minister Sudhakarrao Naik proved inept at handling the violence which seemed endless (it went on for at least a week) and was the worst of its kind until then. He was compelled to quit office by then Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao for that incompetence.

Barely a decade later, with that experience of accountability, I had expected the same would happen in Gujarat in 2002 when the riots there overtook anything I had seen in Mumbai or Maharashtra or even Assam before that from where I had reported in the mid-1980s. Prime Minister AB Vajpayee thought to follow in the best traditions of governments in this country and spoke of the ‘Rajdharma’ of leaders who must accept responsibility and quit. But things stood as they were.

Later, the Congress in ten years at the Centre and 15 years in Maharashtra enforced many resignations at the Centre at every allegation of a scam, even if investigations later proved otherwise. In Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh had to quit not once but twice as chief minister -- the first time because of mere suspicion of his proximity to builders and the second time for something that was beyond his control, the 26/11 Mumbai attacks. Not because he was incompetent to handle the aftermath but because he had been indiscreet enough to allow disaster tourism by a film producer close to his actor son. Even the NCP enforced the resignation of its deputy chief minister RR Patil for an poorly-thought-through remark: ‘bade, bade shehron mein aise chote-mote haadse hote rehte hain’? Some years later, Ashok Chavan was compelled to resign for his alleged involvement in the Adarsh scam wherein the jury is still out on his complicity.

But things are different now and a different moral fabric cloaks the country. Apart from various allegations of wrong-doing in the Union government, which brought forth no punitive action against those accused, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath has ordered Janmashtami celebrations when more than 60 children have died in a hospital in his home constituency of Gorakhpur due to inept handling and government negligence.

Closer home, even though Eknath Khadse was sacked as revenue minister over allegations of wrong-doing in a land deal, things have been somewhat different with others. While two ministers in the Maharashtra government, Prakash Mehta of the BJP and Subhash Desai of the Shiv Sena, both accused in land scams, offered to resign, Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, turned them down, even as he tries to brush alleged scams by bureaucrats under the carpet. Radheshyam Mopalwar, in charge of delivering his favourite Samruddhi Expressway, exposed in a land deal of 2009, has merely been asked to go on a month’s forced leave, despite the fact that both the PMO and the Union Home Ministry had written to the Maharashtra government and the Director General of Police respectively some months before the Congress-NCP exposed the scam, to investigate the allegations against him.

But what I am now afraid of is that all this brazenness by the BJP might be setting a precedent for future Congress governments in the country. For, the recent Gujarat experience wherein Ahmed Patel outwitted BJP president Amit Shah to win his Rajya Sabha election against all the government might tells me that what the BJP can do, the Congress can do better. And without any of us being the wiser.

I can now only resort to a prayer -- God save this country from doom and disaster.

First Published: Aug 16, 2017 18:29 IST