By B.G. Verghese
WHO’s certification of India as “polio free” last week is truly something to cheer. The country’s health workers and Rotary International that helped fund the campaign deserve grateful thanks. But we have not merely to remain polio-free but fight and overcome many other killer and debilitating diseases, malnutrition and insanitation. The Supreme Court has once again “ordered” that manual scavenging be abolished under the 2013 law and scavengers be swiftly and satisfactorily rehabilitated. But who cares? Gross failure must be recorded across parties whose priorities are very different, pieties apart. Which party has made eradication of manual scavenging a poll priority in what is turning out to be an increasingly dirty, slanderous and indecorous general election being largely fought by casteists, communalists, criminals, footloose party-hoppers and self-serving “leaders”.As well said by the poet, “if every man got his deserts, then who should escape whipping!
The other major accompaniment to electoral dirt is mounting violence: Maoist, cross-border inspired, and slander. Manifestoes have been put out but these are for the most part pro forma essays for the record, devoid of true purpose.
Another positive development has been the Supreme Court’s order, following a report by a panel headed by Justice MukulMudgal on alleged spot-fixing and betting scandals in the BCCI-sponsored Indian Cricket Premier League. The man in the eye of the storm is N. Srinivasan, President of BCCI and Chairman of India Cements Ltd which sponsors the Chennai Super Kings (CSK) and several of its players, including the Indian captain, M.S.Dhoni who is one of its vice-presidents. Srinivasan had stubbornly refused to recuse himself until such time as the charges against the BCCI and his son-in-law, GurunathMeiyappan of India Cements have been independently investigated and cleared. The Court has now ordered that Srinivasan shall relinquish charge of BCCI and Mieyappanbe precluded from any association with CSK until further notice. It has transferred charge of the BCCI to Sunil Gavaskar under whose guidance the 2014 IPL tournament will be played from April 16 onwards.
The Mudgal Committee has also disbelieved Dhoni’s testimony that Meiyappan was only a “cricket enthusiast” and not a team official who indulged in betting. The Court has not questioned Dhoni’s captaincy on this account nor disqualified CSK and the Rajasthan Royals for the corruption charges levelled against them. These matters will be decided after due deliberation. These are wise decisions intended to maintain the integrity of Indian cricket, cut out the sleaze and restore the sport to Indian cricket fans from corrupt elements.India finances a large part of international cricket, such being the size of its market. It must therefore play straight bat. Unfortunately there has been a tendency to convert cricket, like much else, to commerce. IPL has come to be controlled by a cabal of politicians, moneybags and other influentials who have used sport to sell their own privatepolitical or business agendas. The Supreme Court’s bold intervention will hopefully surgically excise the cancer.
For the rest, the news remains grim. That Maoists are out to disrupt the poll is no surprise. What continues to surprise is continuing policy ham-handedness. Naxalism is more than a law and order problem. The legal, administrative, developmental and human rights framework in which it must be tackled is decrepit and confused. Few have the time or the inclination to do what is needed. Strong presidential intervention could help give momentum to the reforms that are necessary. Political illiteracy on the subject is gross as is seen by the banal electoral rhetoric on the subject if it is mentioned at all.
Perhaps more worrying is the stepped-up cross-border intervention from Pakistan not only in the form of jihadi attacks in J&K as in more dangerous efforts by ISI-sponsored sleeper cells operating through the Indian Muhajideen to stage terrorist attacks in sensitive areas, stoke communal polarisation and communal violence, disrupt orderly elections and the polity more generally. The IM’s local leadership is now fully in the net after its current operational head, Waqas orTehseenAkhtar alias Monu was recently arrested at Naxalbari.
Unfortunately, the communal undertones of the poll campaign by the major parties are singularly perverse. The RSS Parivarhas called for a consolidation of the “Hindu” vote. Western UP, especially the area surrounding is yet emotionally-smouldering as is Muzaffarnagarand various temple towns. If the BJP nominated a communal thug like PramodMuthalik of the Ram Sene and then expelled him under pressure, it did the same with Sabir Ali, just expelled from the JD(U), who BJP vice-president, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi termed an associate of the IM terrorist, YasinBhatkaland then asked if Dawood Ibrahim would be admitted next? The Party quickly expelled Sabir Ali. But who admitted him in the first place and why?
Modi also crudely derided India’s three “AKs”, namely, AK-47’s,AK Anthony and AK-49 or ArvindKejriwal (referring to his tenure of 49 days as a chief minister)for providing “unique strength to Pakistan”. Not to be outdone, the Congress nominated Imran Masood as its candidate from Saharanpur but expelled him a day later after he commented that in Gujarat there were only four per cent Muslims. But were he to stage a riot in Saharanpur, the 42 per cent Muslim population here would “chop him into tiny pieces”
Elsewhere Jaswant Singh has been expelled from the BJP for insisting on fighting the Barmer seat against the official party candidate, while in Amritsar, NavjotSidhu, who formerly contested from there, has refused to campaign for the new party incumbent, ArunJailtey.
Further afield, India wisely abstained in the UNHRC vote on Lanka as it found the rather wide-ranging UN probe recommended by the US too intrusive. The vote was 23 in favour, with 12 against and 12 abstaining. While human rights are vital, they cannot be made an instrument of western coercive diplomacy.
In this grim scenario, SharadPawar’s jokes are improving by the day. Some time back he boasted of spending far in excess of the CES’s poll ceiling. He has now advised mathadi workers (head loaders) to avail of the differingpolling dates at their place of residence and pace of work (Navi Mumbai) to vote twice by erasing the indelible ink mark on their left index finger in the intervening period. Asked to explain this ardent advocacy of bogus voting, the NCP President and Agriculture Minister cheerfully described his remark as a joke. India’s population must be full of dullards who did not catch his brilliant humour unaided. The CEC would be advised to bar this senior leader from holding any elective or public office for six years. Harsh? No. The electorate will surely applaud the superior joke! Ashok Chavan is also showing a rising humour graph. Modi, of course, remains in a class by himself.
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