Tuesday, February 19, 2013

BJP attacks one Constitutional authority (PCI), but applauds another one (CAG)….

The BJP is up in arms against retired SC judge and Press Council of India (PCI) Chairman, Justice Markandey Katju, for his remarks against Narendra Modi. These days, the BJP goes up in arms against anyone and anything that speaks against Modi (including this blogger!) – that must be a sign that Modi is gaining acceptance in the party. What I find peculiar though is the moral high ground the BJP tries to take, arguing that constitutional authorities should not take political sides. Wonder why the party did not consider this point when it openly supported and in fact, applauded the political sides the CAG took???

Let’s be honest here. Katju has the habit of speaking his mind. When he called 90% of Indians idiots, he stirred a hornet’s nest. But honestly, if we consider the behavior and conduct of so many of our people on so many issues, one has to agree that there is at least an iota of truth in what he said. Just look at the way our men treat women – isn’t that idiotic? The way we throw garbage on the streets, liberally smear the street corners with paan syrup (ugghh!), and ogle at women, isn’t that shameful (idiotic in other words)? One can argue with the choice of words that Justice Katju uses, but one can hardly argue against the spirit of his statements. Likewise when he called 80% of Hindus and 80% of Muslims communal, I think he spoke the real truth. Deep down, we all (and not just Muslims) put our religion ahead of everything else. This is hardly a new phenomenon. Immediately after independence, we the people of the Indian subcontinent divided ourselves up into Pakistan and India. Today, we have political parties still based on religious ideologies (BJP, Shiv Sena, SAD, several Muslim parties….). These are all signs of our communal nature.

The BJP doesn’t like Katju because Katju was so forthright on Modi. But what has Katju said that is new? He has only repeated the charge that Modi was complicit in the Godhra riots. How can he not be? He was the CM and he should have been able to control the riots in no time, if he really is as efficient as he claims to be. The truth is that Modi is efficient, and Modi efficiently instructed his police force to stay out of the picture for 2-3 days after the riots started. That’s why the mayhem spread. Had the CM acted promptly, he could have restricted the deaths to 10-20-50. Look at what happened in the communal riots in Assam recently. The CM there did not allow his forces to cool their heels. So while much damage was done, the deaths were limited to a relatively modest number (compared to Godhra).

The moot point is not whether Justice Katju is more Congress than the Congress as the BJP claims. The moot point is about how much politics has entered even our constitutional bodies. If Justice Katju is accused of being a Congress stooge, then why should the CAG, Vinod Rai not be accused of being a BJP stooge? After all, the CAG has broken all conventions in the way he has gone about his job. He has chosen to address media with his reports, while it is an established constitutional provision that the auditor stays behind the scenes, submitting his report to his masters, the Parliamentary Accounts Committee. Not only that, the CAG played politics by calling policy choices losses, exaggerating those “loss” numbers, and projecting (though not directly claiming) that this loss was corruption. In a political environment so surcharged as ours, surely the CAG knew that his colorful remarks would be turned into political missiles? Surely, he is not as naïve and innocent as he claims to be when he says that he is merely doing his job?

So if the BJP can applaud the CAG in a full throated way, and croon for the protection of the CAG’s independence, then why can’t it do the same for another constitutional body, the PCI? Is the BJP’s support for the CAG merely because they like the reports brought out by the CAG? There are some rumors that the BJP has a “side deal” with the CAG, with promise of an important ministerial office after he retires (and if the BJP comes to power). There are also reports that Murli Manohar Joshi was in touch with the CAG before the report was published. So are we to assume that the CAG is more BJP than the BJP itself? It surely appears so from a distance.

Such selective criticism of and applause for two constitutional bodies does the BJP no good. It only furthers the impression that the BJP hardly has any principles. It is opportunistic to the core. And it has no qualms in taking clearly parochial viewpoints.

The real truth is that the BJP doesn’t like Katju because he has spoken against Modi. But Katju has spoken against several other things in the past. The BJP is wrong in accusing the PCI Chairman….

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