Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Importance of Being Brazen

Remember that time in your childhood when you were out on a drive with your dad and something happened just when you were distracted by your toy car or a beggar in the side window? The sequence probably went like this: Just when your eye is not on the road, the car heaves suddenly to a halt – your father gets out of the car after warning you to stay inside – he yells at a man cowering in front of the car – he gets back in the car and resumes driving without saying a word to you and stays silent for the rest of the ride.

Now imagine that a political party which has never been in power in a certain state is finally granted, by popular mandate, the opportunity to govern it for a period of five years in what is a very interesting time in the state’s history. It is in the process of trying to capitalize on the decades-old goodwill it has earned by virtue of its reputation as a technological hub with a beautiful capital city and valuable human and natural resources. Infrastructural development is much needed in the state and so are jobs, housing, education and power. The chief minister relies on his inner coterie to bring about the institutional change the state so desperately needs and hosts lavish industrial conclaves with captains of industry where land and a conducive investment climate are promised to private sector players in the hope that the state’s resources are utilized to the maximum extent possible. Certain members of the chief minister’s party, though, are not counted among his inner coterie but are hugely invested in the government’s stability on account of them being, by far, the richest men who comprise it – they are given largely symbolic posts within the cabinet in an effort to appease them, and the chief minister believes that he can now fulfill his self-proclaimed dharma i.e. the ushering in of peace and prosperity for all. 
The stars (and the CM is a great believer in astrology), however, are not in his favour – the aforementioned non-inner coterie members suspect that the CM is plotting to attack them where it hurts the most; investigate the source of their wealth and render them impotent when their carefully nurtured empires are exposed as blatantly illegal mining syndicates for the ore that China is willing to pay an arm and a leg for these days. They require that members of their own inner coteries be given important portfolios in the government so that any threat emanating from the CM’s suspected sympathies is neutralized even before it emerges. There is now a crisis. The CM does not want to let down his ardent supporters. The Honourable Miner-Members  of the Legislative Assembly are equally adamant, refusing to let their private fiefdoms be compromised by an untrustworthy cabinet. The CM backs down with a sigh and inducts the miner-faithful members into his cabinet – he needs to stay in power, after all, to be able to fulfill his dharma, no?
A time of uneasy peace follows, but all too soon it is smashed when various members of his cabinet, those within his inner coterie as also those without, are implicated in all sorts of scams ranging from the sale of much-desired government medical college seats to the highest bidders… to the de-notification of prime land in the state capital for personal profit. The CM faces his trial-by-fire (his words) again. He is forced to undertake a cabinet reshuffle once more and this time, brooking no nonsense, fills up the most important portfolios in the new ministerial cabinet with his most faithful followers. At exactly this point in time, another scam is unearthed; the beleaguered CM himself, it is reported, has de-notified prime land within the capital city which has been quickly and quietly bought up by his own son (another inner-coterie member of his cabinet, by the way) at a cost that is outrageously lower than prevalent market prices. Other members of his party (those not part of the ministerial cabinet so far and those recently reshuffled out of it) are now up in arms – “If you guys can make money while in power, we guys also want to be in power to make money”, they all but say. The Opposition parties take note of all this, meanwhile, and rub their hands in anticipation. But it’s a no-go from the CM. His inference is unmistakable – ‘Fuck off’, he all but says, ‘… and go sulk some place else. You’re scaring away the private sector institutional investors’.
But they do not fuck off. They persuade (with all the implications that term provides for) certain non-inner coterie members of the CM’s cabinet as well as certain independent members of the Karnataka Legislative Assembly to stand by them when they demand a no-confidence motion in the present government on the floor of the Assembly. The CM now does not have the numbers to survive the motion. His government is about to fall. He is now desperate. He demands that the Speaker of the Assembly (another inner-coterie member, of course) dismiss the dissident MLAs on the grounds that they have violated a law that allows for ministers of the Legislative Assembly to be dismissed when they defect to an opposition party while or after they have been part of the political party in power (the law was formulated precisely to dissuade bribery-based horse-trading) and the Honourable Speaker complies. The dissident MLAs are dismissed while being held back at the doors to the Floor of the Assembly by a sympathetic police force. Their votes cannot now be counted and the total strength of the Assembly is therefore reduced, which means that the party in power can stay in power. The Governor of the state weighs in, ‘... the last vote for the confidence motion was a farce’, he actually says, ‘Do it over on Thursday’. The dismissed MLAs meanwhile take their case to the High Court of the State, challenging their dismissals…. & so it goes on and on and on.

For all of you who are wondering what in God’s name all this has to do with what happened when you were a child in your Daddy’s car... here it is - The current Members of the Legislative Assembly of Karnataka were also in their respective daddies’ cars when they were children, just like you… but the difference is: they weren’t distracted when their fathers suddenly pulled over in the middle of the road, and saw and heard exactly what happened next… and kept quiet about it all these years.

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