Showing posts with label Dr. Manmohan Singh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Dr. Manmohan Singh. Show all posts

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Not a nominee of political dictators

By Amba Charan Vashishth

BJP has announced its prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. The ruling Congress continues to maintain the suspense as it toys with various options. 
It is a travesty of India's parliamentary democracy that after Mr. P. V. Narasimha Rao (1996) with the exception of NDA (1998-2004), the post of prime minister (PM) has been reduced to an accident of maneuvers and manipulations. For the first time in independent India's history the country is carrying the baggage of a prime minister for over nine years the party has foisted on the people.
The very fact that elections are held only after every five years on the expiry of the term of House of the People, i.e. the Lok Sabha (LS), or earlier on its dissolution, is a clear indication that in the letter and spirit of the Constitution and the tradition formation of a government at the Centre (or in States) depends upon the verdict of the people given out through the exercise of their right to franchise. Since we follow the Westminster model of parliamentary democracy, it clearly means that the person who is duly and democratically elected by the elected LS members as their leader is the Prime Minister of the country and should be one of the LS members. This had been the tradition since the dawn of parliamentary democracy in India till the United Front government of Mr. H. D. Deve Gowda in 1996. He was not a LS member but he maintained the tradition availed himself of the first opportunity to enter Lok Sabha after becoming PM.
There have been only two instances of exception to the rule and tradition – that of Mrs. Indira Gandhi and Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral. Mrs. Gandhi was a RS member when she succeeded Mr. Lal Bahadur Shastri in late January 1966 following his unfortunate death. In between the Election Commission, for reasons best known to it, did not hold by-election to Allahabad Mr. Shastri represented or any other constituency. She did contest the LS elections next year in 1967 and won.
Mr. Inder Kumar Gujral became United Front's PM after the incumbent Mr. Deve Gowda was eased out on Congress Party's insistence on whose ventilator support from outside the Government was breathing. Before he could think of finding a seat to contest for LS, he was dethroned.
Now it looks as if our great erudite framers of the Constitution failed to visualize that in about fifty years our political parties will turn so bankrupt of mass leaders that though they would like to nominate a person as prime minister yet dare not expose him to the people dreading the vagaries of an uncertain electoral climate. That is why our political parties, particularly those in power, have turned the Constitution into just a wax which can be moulded to give any shape and form to promote their political goals.
They now exploit the absence of any specific provision in the Constitution stipulating in so many unambiguous words that a prime minister shall always be a LS member. They quote Article 75 which provides: (1)" The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President……", (2) that the "ministers shall hold office during the pleasure of the President" and (3) that the "Council of Ministers shall be collectively responsible to the House of the People" (LS)".  It would be too simplistic and naïve to construe the wording of this Article as if it gives the President dictatorial powers to "appoint" anybody as a PM who need not be an MP at all.
Another shelter they seek behind is the provision in Article 75(5) that a "Minister who for any period of six consecutive months is not a member of either House of Parliament shall, at the expiration of that period, cease to be a Minister". This, again, is an attempt at arm twisting of the Constitution to make it subserve a party's or individual's purpose. This provision was inserted, as the debates in the Constituent Assembly indicate, with the purpose just to utilize the services and talent as ministers in the government of technocrats and specialists in their own fields because they otherwise shy away from the arena of elections. This Article was not meant to induct into the council of ministers, through the back door, persons rejected by the people during elections.
If the intention of the Constitution makers had been to stipulate that a prime minister could be from either House of Parliament, they were free to add the words "Prime Minister" too alongside "Minister" in Article 75(5). To infer that a "Minister" includes the prime minister is stretching a misnomer too far without logic.  Whether a prime minister is considered as "first among equals" or "the moon among the stars", the fact remains that a prime minister is a prime minister and a minister is just a minister. Even our Constitution makes a clear-cut distinction between the two and puts the position of the prime minister superior: "The Prime Minister shall be appointed by the President and the other Ministers shall be appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister". Further, a prime minister is the leader of the majority party elected by its members; ministers are just MPs hand-picked by the prime minister or the party bosses. Therefore, trying to read prime minister in the word "Minister" is nothing short of denying the reality of the day.
There is an unambiguous distinction between a member of Rajya Sabha and that of Lok Sabha. The former is indirectly elected; the latter democratically elected directly by the people through the exercise of their right to franchise. The former has a tenure of six years, the latter's – and that of the council of ministers, even of those who are RS members – is only five years. After every five years, the latter has to go to the people for a fresh bout of elections; the latter has just to seek another round of maneuvers and manipulations of favour from the party bosses.
Further, if the intention of the Constitution had been that a prime minister need not necessarily be a LS member but could also be a RS member, then why is it that the life of the Council of Ministers coincides with that of the tenure of LS and not with that of RS?
It is customary for the incumbent prime minister to resign following the declaration of LS election results even if the party in power has won another mandate to rule the country. This is done because tenure of the Prime Minister and his Council of Ministers is coterminous with that of LS. They have to take oath as MPs afresh. If it is not mandatory that a prime minister should be a LS member, in that case if his party is voted to power again the PM need not resign at all because he continues to be RS member for which he has not to take a fresh oath. He needs just to get himself elected again as leader and reconstitute his ministry.
If PM is not a LS member, how can he and his "Council of Ministers be "collectively responsible" to the LS (Article 75(3)? If one is not a shareholder or stakeholder of a company, how can one be a director or CEO of that company and responsible to it?
In the alternative, one could go on stretching the argument to any length. No Article of the Constitution makes it mandatory that a prime minister must compulsorily be a member of either House of Parliament. As per Article 75(1) he is just "appointed by the President"; it doesn't say he must be an MP at all. While the Constitution stipulates as to who can and who cannot be a member of Parliament, no such condition has been prescribed for a person to be "appointed" as prime minister for six months without being a member of either House of Parliament {Article 75(5)). In that case a person needs only to manipulate to get himself "appointed" as the prime minister and command a majority in the LS to which he as head of the Council of Ministers "is collectively responsible" {Article 75(3)}.
Further, a prime minister could continue indefinitely, with a one or two day's break, to hold his office without being a member of the either House. In that case, a prime minister can resign a day before completion of his six months period without being a member of either House. The President, as per the tradition, will ask him to continue in office till alternative arrangements are made. After two days he can again get himself elected as leader and lay claim to majority in Parliament and seek to be invited to form government again. This exercise he can repeat a number of times and complete his tenure of five years as prime minister without being a member of either House of Parliament and without infringing a single word of the Constitution.  
Now that elections to the Lok Sabha are just about six months away, it is time all those eyeing the post of prime minister after elections respect both the letter and spirit of the Constitution "We, the people of India" gave unto ourselves." We need to make democracy truly a government of the people, by the people and for the people of India.
The writer is a Delhi based political analyst.

(Published in the SOUTH ASIA POLITICS November 2013 issue.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


Nobody in the country, not even those who oppose Congress, deny that Mr. Rahul Singh is the leader of the Congress Party. The only point that needs to be settled is whether he stands at No. 1 or 2. Yet, every now and then every Congress leader, including our Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh himself is too eager to acknowledge that Mr. Rahul is the leader. Dr Singh has displayed that exemplary sportsman spirit that he has publicly declared that he would vacate the prime minister's chair for Mr. Rahul the moment Party, meaning Mrs. Sonia Gandhi asks. He is that much forthcoming that he says he's willing to work under him. Dr. Singh's action looks akin to that of a great batsman who in his effort to strike a sixer to complete a century gives a great catch to the opposite team.
Some say that the quality a political leader should imbibe in him/herself to be successful is the quality and quantity of elasticity and flexibility he can exercise in his thought and action. Rigidity in politics, some argue doesn't pay. A person's body, they say, is flexible as long as he is alive; the moment he is dead, he is as hard as dead wood, inflexible. That rare quality Dr. Singh has displayed so many times.
His government under his chairmanship introduced during the last monsoon session of Parliament a Bill to nullify the spirit of the Supreme Court direction on convicted MPs .When it failed to get the Bill through, it later drafted an Ordinance which it sent to the President for his approval. It didn't struck to Dr. Singh at that his leader, Rahul Gandhi, had his reservations on the issue.
Mr. Rahul Gandhi, too, did keep quiet when the Bill was introduced in Parliament. He continued to maintain his silence when the Core Committee of the Congress presided over by his mother, Congress chief Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, approved the text of the Ordinance which was later cleared by the Manmohan Cabinet and sent to President of India.
The President refused to oblige and sign blindly on the dotted lines. He consulted some legal experts in the government. He also called Home Minister Sushil Shinde and Law Minister Kapil Sibbal for clarifications. This sent some shock waves to the Manmohan government and Congress.
This situation startled out the Congress No. 2 Rahul out of slumber and a state of numbness and dumbness. He gate-crashed into the Press Club press conference of Congress General Secretary Ajay Maken who was singing eulogies of the Ordinance. Mr. Maken gave in to Mr. Rahul who dubbed the Ordinance in now famous words spoken as his "personal opinion": It is a "complete non-sense" and deserves to be torn up. This made Mr. Maken to realize his mistake and in the next breath, continuing with his address to the press people, he declared that Mr. Rahul's views were the party's authorized views.
When Dr. Singh's supporters and well-wishers were pining at this snub hurled at the prime minister and his former media adviser Sanjay Baru said Dr. Singh is left with no other option but to resign, Dr. Singh himself struck a different note in USA. He 'suddenly' recalled that Mr. Rahul had written to him in this behalf and he would address his concerns on return to the country. He did not explain when did he receive the letter and why did he ignore his views while formulating the Bill and the Ordinance earlier.
On return Dr. Singh made a complete about-turn. He withdrew the Ordinance and the Bill was also decided to be withdrawn from Parliament. This left everyone happy. The President too was spared the trouble of signing a "complete non-sense".
In Congress who's the leader – the real one with authority? It is a mystery. Dr. Manmohan Singh accepts both Mrs. Sonia Gandhi and Mr. Rahul Gandhi as his leaders and is willing to work under Mr. Rahul. Mrs. Gandhi accepts Manmohan Singh as "her' prime minister. This situation lends credence to the opposition charge that Dr. Singh is in office but not in power.
With Parliament elections just six months away, it is not certain who will be Congress Party's prime ministerial candidate. Everybody, including Dr. Manmohan Singh, says that Mr. Rahul Gandhi has all the wherewithals of a prime minister. Dr. Singh though refuses to say that he is in the race, yet he does not "rule out" a third stint for him. Mrs. Gandhi remains non-committal. Others say it is Mr. Rahul Gandhi who has to take a final decision in consultation with his mother. At the moment it looks the triumvirate of Sonia-Rahul-Manmohan runs the party and the government. The Ordinance episode is not the first instance where the triumvirate has been found to be wanting and pulling in three different directions. It is in the interest of the Congress party, the government and the nation that Congress finally takes a call who would be the leader.
Dr. Manmohan Singh inspires, Pakistan conspires against India numerous times to cater to Singh's insatiable desires for the peace process with Pakistan to go on.
October 13, 2013

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

India's prevarication on Sarabjit -- Why is India's generosity not reciprocated?

India's prevarication on Sarabjit
Why is India's generosity not reciprocated?  

There is nothing unusual in a government taking extra-special care of its nationals who get involved in an activity that constitutes a crime in an alien country. Governments go out of their way to get concessions and reprieve from other countries for their nationals – the concessions that are not, sometimes, available to their own countrymen in their own country. It is the rule, not an exception, in the conduct of international affairs between nations the world over. There are numerous instances in the past. Let us recall only the recent ones.
The latest is the case of the two Italian marines Salvatore Girone and Massimiliano Latorre charged with killing two Kerala fishermen. The Italian government raised a hell with the Indian government to save them, at all cost. When the two were initially arrested, the then Italian Prime Minister even threatened his Indian counterpart with dire consequences on the bilateral relations between the two countries.

India has treated the duo not as accused facing trial for murder but as VVIPs. First, they were allowed a one month's vacation for Christmas. Then, after two months they were allowed to go to Italy for full one month to exercise their right to franchise. No mortal of Indian origin charged with murder or any other heinous crime is allowed parole to celebrate Dussehra, Diwali, Holi, Navratras, Ramzan, Christmas or the like. No accused in jail have ever been allowed to visit their native places to exercise their democratic right to franchise even for a day. Even our elected representatives in Central and State legislatures facing similar charges in courts are not extended this privilege.

The Italian government first refused to send the two back for trial as promised. It was at the pain of action by the Supreme Court of India against the Italian Ambassador in India that the Italian government resiled and sent the two back to India, bot not before it hammered out further concessions for the duo – no death penalty and "good living conditions" being interpreted as a sort of house arrest under the care of the Italian ambassador. All this, in spite of the fact, that there is no extradition treaty between the two countries.  

The VVIP treatment meted out – and assured – to the Italian accused violates the provisions in Article 14 of the Constitution of India which provides that the "State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth" (emphasis added). Article 15 prohibits discrimination on the same grounds.
Whether a person is guilty or innocent of the charge brought against should, or should not, face death penalty or whether the crime is "the rarest of the rare cases" is the exclusive jurisdiction of the judiciary and not of the executive, i.e. the Government of India. But our Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid stated that "this case would not fall in the category of matters which attract the death penalty, that is to say the rarest of rare cases."  Our Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh has, in the past, decried the judicial "overreach" of the courts. Does Khurshid's assurance not amount to executive "overreach"?
Another is the case of the Purulia arms dropping on the night of December 17, 1995, when an AN-26 aircraft dropped arms and ammunition in West Bengal's Purulia district. The consignment had hundreds of AK-47 rifles, pistols, anti-tank grenades, rocket launchers and thousands of rounds of ammunition. A criminal for case waging, or attempting to wage war, or abetting waging of war, against the Government of India and a conspiracy under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, the Arms Act, the Explosive Act, the Explosive Substances Act and the Aircraft Act, 1934. Yet, the arrested Latvian crew members were released from a prison in Kolkata in 2000 after requests from Russian authorities while another accused Bleach was given a presidential pardon in 2004 following requests by British government. Proceedings for the extradition of the main accused Kim Davy from Denmark are still under way.

But Manmohan government has proved itself an exception to the rule. It has failed to be vigilant enough in protecting the life of Sarabjit Singh languishing in Lahore Jail in Pakistan for more than 22 years after having been convicted by a Pakistani court. After the hanging of Pakistani terrorist Kasab for the 26/11 Mumbai case, the various terrorists groups, like LeT operating from Pakistani soil, had threatened "revenge". The UPA Government should have anticipated that the easiest and soft target could be Sarabjit Singh. It should have taken up the matter in right earnest to protect his life. Why the Manmohan government didn't and failed to make Pakistan guarantee Sarabjit's safety remains a mystery. It is a display of the Manmohan government's strength or weakness remains anybody's guess.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Assembly elections to determine Rahul's prime ministerial ambitions

Assembly elections to determine
Rahul's prime ministerial ambitions

By Amba Charan Vashishth

When Mr. Rahul Gandhi was elevated as Vice-President of the All-India Congress Committee at Jaipur on January 20, 2013 his mother and Congress President Mrs. Sonia Gandhi visited him at night and warned "power is poison". In his first speech accepting the position, Mr. Rahul said, "Last night… My mother came to my room and she sat with me and she cried... because she understands that power so many people seek is actually a poison.” The only corollary to his elevation, so went the impression, was that he would be the party's prime ministerial candidate for 2014 Lok Sabha (LS) elections. Many a times in the past has the incumbent Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh reiterated that he is ready to make room for Mr. Rahul the moment the Party wants. Simultaneously, there has been a chorus of demands within the party that Mr. Rahul should be the prime minister.
When Mrs. Gandhi referred to "power", she was obviously alluding to a situation in which the people vote a person and party to power. It cannot be otherwise.  A party never does – and never can – vote itself or its leader into "power". It is the exclusive prerogative of the people and people alone, and not of the party workers, to put an individual or a political organization into power. Therefore, Mrs. Gandhi anticipated that Rahul will get "power" through people's mandate.
Yet, Mr. Rahul's stand remains confusing. About three months back he boldly declared that he is ready to shoulder higher responsibility and said that this will be decided by his mother and Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh. In January he accepted the post of Vice-President of the Party. But in the first week of March he declared that the post of PM is not vacant and, therefore, his being a candidate does not arise. Two days later, on March 5 he said, "Asking me whether you want to be prime minister is a wrong question".  Further, "I want to give to the middle tier, empower the middle-level leaders". Does it imply that his becoming a prime minister would stand in the way of his realizing this noble objective?
On the other hand, the reaction of Congress Party to Mr. Rahul's observations is all the more queer. While "make Rahul prime minister" pitch remains sonorous the Congress, on the other hand, reacted on March 6 saying, "As and when time will come the party will take an appropriate decision…..he (Rahul) is the most appropriate candidate." It clearly implies that the incumbent prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh may be more "appropriate" but Rahul is "the most". It is, therefore, but natural that the Congress should settle  for the "the most appropriate" candidate instead of the more one. In nutshell, "As and when time will come the party will take an appropriate decision" to project "the most appropriate candidate", that is Rahul, in place of Dr. Manmohan Singh. That only means that it is only a matter of months, if not of days, before Dr. Singh is eased out.
The everyday rant by Mr. Rahul Gandhi, his diehard followers and the Congress Party is only making the already confused situation worse confounded. While Mr. Gandhi seems to be trying to create an impression that he is not after office, and, simultaneously, conveying a sense of feeling to the people that he is a leader "reluctant" and shy to shoulder the onerous responsibility. Mr. Rahul Gandhi's past record of leading his party to victory at the hustings is not that much inspiring, given the results of assembly elections in Gujarat, UP, Punjab, Bihar and more recently in Tripura. And then the spectrum of assembly elections is looming large in important States of Delhi, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Karnataka and maybe even in Jharkhand. It  does not seem to give Mr. Rahul the courage to take the final plunge. A defeat – even a minor win here and there – is not likely to bolster his image and grit to take on the opposition by the horn in the final battle for the 2014 LS elections in the next 11 months.
Therefore, in all probability, "the appropriate time" of Congress conception will herald only if election results in these States are heartening to inject in Mr. Rahul Gandhi the guts to take a final plunge. By announcing him as party's prime ministerial candidate at the moment Congress cannot afford to stake Mr. Rahul Gandhi's political career to the outcome of assembly elections. It can turn disastrous and mar his chances to be projected as the party's prime ministerial candidate in 2014. The tide in the assembly elections will thus determine the course of his political future.  
The writer is a Delhi based political analyst and commentator