Saturday, June 19, 2010

Carry On, Rajneeti

Intra-party fisticuffs over choice of candidates. Inter-party accusations of poaching, ambushes and even kidnap. Netas in political wilderness, 'outsiders' in geographical limbo and near-retirees in professional transit seeking parliamentary parking place. Business tycoons diving into the poll fray as independents backed by sworn political enemies. And legislators incarcerated in five-star hotels so that their loyalties didn't gallop away with the highest bidders. No, that's not the script of a multi-starrer on Indian raajneeti. That was the race to fill seats in the Council of, States.
The House of Elders is an august institution. All who enter its hushed portals - so the political bible says - are exemplars of sobriety and sagacity. But surely there's no law against stakeholders in Rajya Sabha club membership offering mirch masala Bollywood style? Take the 79 BJP MLAs who were herded into a swanky resort outside Jaipur, reportedly to rid them of evil thoughts like cross-voting and defection. Was it pure accident that, there, they watched a new film on political skullduggery called Raajneeti? Too bad the DVD was pirated, making the film-maker breathe fire about "lawmakers" turning into "lawbreakers". In self-defence, the BJPwallahs could ask: if raajneeti's far dirtier tricks can be exposed on-screen for public enlightenment (and possible political emulation), why demand piety off-screen?
Besides, their hotel stay was less recreational than educational: many rookie MLAs were taught "how to vote" in legislatures. This rigorous training was punctuated by equally strenuous dips in the hotel pool. What's wrong if initiation was completed with a filmy lesson on political conspiracy and violence? Thus schooled, could any MLA vote by 'conscience' against the legal luminary backed by his party? So it is that the ex-legal defence of a Parliament attack accused entered the upper House with the help of the BJP, a party big on national security! When Operation Rajya-neeti is on, Operation Parakram is obviously history.
If BJP and Congress were both worried about MLAs goofing up, they hadn't bargained for their goofing off. In Orissa, their partymen were allegedly "abducted" not by aliens but the ruling BJD! The latter dismissed the charge, going on to trounce its adversaries. Last heard, the case of the missing MLAs has been put down to willed truancy, not netanapping. In Bihar, D-Day stood for Ditchers' Day across parties, with not even the fear of Maya taming BSP flock. Clearly, no would-be 'Elder' smooth-sailed like LJP's Paswan, who's now hugging ally Lalu harder. At a political loose end, birds of the same feather take stock together. Especially in Nitish's Bihar.
Recall that Nitish's JD(U) had earlier reminded the EC of its "constitutional" duty to foil poll-time intrigue and sabotage. Today, the EC's probably in deep philosophical thought on the subject of political fidelity. For, it seems little can stop back-room backscratching, be it party whips, high commandeering, hostage crises in luxury resorts or EC bosses eating politicians for breakfast. In short, riders on the electoral storm rarely say: horse-trader, pass by. Raajneeti, zindabad.


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