Rajiv Gandhi appeased Muslims for vote bank, Modi is doing nothing different to Dalits by overturning SC order in SC/ST Act.
The great German novelist Johanne Wolfgang von Goethe had said, “A clever man commits no minor blunder.” With the amendment bill to reinstate the original provisions of SC/ST Act, Prime Minister Narendra Modi too is going to commit a major blunder of his tenure. What is surprising about this is, the entire situation is eerily similar to that of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. He committed the biggest blunder of his tenure in the Shah Bano case. With a brute majority that he had in both the houses of parliament, he overturned the 1985 Supreme Court judgment banning triple talaq terming it unconstitutional, while opening the door for dangerous precedent for the future governments to follow whenever convenient.
As they say, history repeats itself but it is up to us to learn lessons from it. On March 20, 2018, the Supreme Court while hearing three issues related to misuse of SC/ST Act against government servants ordered that the arrest of a public servant can only be made after approval of the appointing authority. Preventing the automatic arrest provision under the law, the Apex Court ruled that a non-public servant can be arrested after approval by the Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP).
Further, it said that before filing an FIR under the act, a brief inquiry will have to be conducted. The court also asked the investigating officers to make sure before handed whether the charges fall under the Act or have a political and/or personal agenda behind it. “There is no absolute bar against the grant of anticipatory bail in cases under the Atrocities Act if no prima facie case is made out or where on judicial scrutiny the complaint is found to be prima facie mala fide,” said the Supreme Court judgment. Not only was the judgment in the line of Section 438 of Criminal Procedure Code (which mandates preliminary inquiry before filing an FIR), but also upheld individual’s innocence until proven guilty. (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Art. 11.1)
However, the Modi government’s disregard towards History has also made it skip the lesson from the debacle of Rajiv Gandhi government in the 1989 Lok Sabha elections. Retrospectively speaking, Rajiv Gandhi could have prohibited himself from interfering in the dealings of Apex Court. But even the greatest governments turn imprudent as the election year nears. Rajiv Gandhi feared that the Shah Bano judgment will turn the Muslim Community against the Congress and did the inevitable. Did it help? No. He opened the can of worms, instead. This mollycoddling of a particular community was bound to upset the other community. His government was accused of ‘Minority appeasement’ by Hindu community. To pacify the angry Hindu community, Rajiv Gandhi committed another blunder by allowing Hindus to worship inside Babri Masjid. To balance one wrong act, he committed another one and the domino effect of his mistakes finally led to the Babri Masjid Demolition which threw the country in the pit of worse communal violence, the horrors of which still echo in our memories even two decades later.
The Modi government is going to commit the same mistake. While giving out the verdict on SC/ST Act, the Supreme Court had observed that the act was never meant to be misused for blackmailing or for personal revenge. Justice AK Goel and Justice Uday Lalit who was presiding over the case even noted that the act was introduced to reduce the caste divide in the country, however, it has done the opposite with the indiscreet use of the provisions. The Supreme Court ruling spread wildfire among the Dalit community in the country. A month later, a nationwide Bharat Bandh was observed which led to violent protests in various parts of the country. The pressure was not only from the Dalit masses but also from the allies in the government. Dalit leaders like Ram Vilas Paswan, Ramdas Athawle and even Dalit leaders from BJP summoned the party to act quickly. They were trying to save their own Dalit vote banks.
The Modi government’s conscience started trembling. The government filed a review petition in the court. However, the court on April 3 refused to put a stay on the ruling but said it would consider the Centre’s petition in detail. But the simmering anger in the Dalit community ahead of 2019 elections cast a shadow on the “Anti-appeasement” Modi government. The cabinet has decided to bring an amendment bill in the parliament which will reinstate the original law and dilute the revisions ordered by the Supreme Court.
The bill would a) quash the Supreme Court order that an FIR be lodged only after a gazetted officer conducting a preliminary inquiry; b) introduce a provision that the approval of a senior official would not be needed for arrest; c) the provision of section 438 of CrPC would be inapplicable to cases registered under SC/ST Prevention of atrocities act. Won’t this rabid appeasement of Dalit community anger the other communities? To equate, Congress appeased Muslims for vote bank, Modi is doing nothing different to Dalits.
The Modi government is walking on a two-edged sword here. Maharashtra has been reeling under the Maratha Morcha. The community is majorly demanding the dilution of atrocious provisions in the SC/ST Act. One of the demands of the community also includes reservation in education and government jobs. The protest has turned even violent with the suicide deaths of Maratha youths. But not only the Modi government is amending the SC/ST Act but also has filed a review petition in Supreme Court favoring reservation to SCs and STs in the promotion. It is bound to upset Maratha community. This vicious chain does not end here. Would Modi government repeat the history and commit another irrevocable mistake? We can’t deny the possibility.
What effect will it have on the nation in entirety? Rajiv Gandhi had the golden opportunity to show the true statesmanship by standing firm on the SC decision, but he thought of elections instead. Modi still has the golden opportunity with him. This is his chance to act like a statesman and pull our future generation from the venom of caste divide. Will he?
Rafale embarrassment: How Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie spoiled the Congress plan?
Why the party insisted on JPC probe? The answer is simple, to keep the Rafale issue alive till 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Kill not the goose that lays golden eggs.
Nothing can better explain the situation of Congress after the Supreme Court’s Rafale verdict today than this. The only difference is it wasn’t the Congress which killed the Rafale goose but the over-enthusiastic trio of Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie. For over a year, Congress built the narrative of a scam around Rafale Deal and (sincerely) pursued it in the face of the assembly elections. But the Supreme Court verdict saying there’s no need for probe has burst the hot air balloon Congress so painstakingly created around Rafale.
It was just two months ago, when Congress president Rahul Gandhi, sitting in party headquarter in Jaipur had said, “Chowkidaar hi Chor hai.” He was addressing the media over Rafale deal. “A gift worth Rs. 30,000 crores were personally given by Narendra Modi to Anil Ambani,” he said mincing no words. In another rally in Chhattisgarh, he said that PM Modi should explain the Rafale deal to the entire country. However, it was not until the Monsoon session of the parliament that Rafale became Congress’ main point of attack on the BJP and specifically, PM Modi. Remember the Rahul hug to PM Modi? Well, it was preceded by a stinging attack on PM Modi over Rafale. Later, in many rallies, Rahul did not forget to recall the day saying, “Modi couldn’t look into my eyes because he was lying about Rafale.”
For the Congress, the Rafale deal was a golden goose that was expected to give Modi its Bofors-like nightmare. Why not? It was just the kind of issue it needed while stepping in the election year. Given the ghost of Bofors Scam that haunts Congress till date, it expected similar ramifications of Rafale for the Modi government. And, Congress did work hard to create that narrative. Protest marches, meeting the CAG auditor and what not. The Congress president reportedly had even issued a diktat to the party members close to Anil Ambani to make a choice between party and the personal relations with Ambani.
The rather placid Gandhi, seemed unusually aggressive in his approach when it came to Rafale deal. His attacks on the government sharpened more as it finally started gathering steam in the mainstream media channel. Wasn’t that the aim of all this? To get media talking about Rafale deal? The goose that party had nurtured was finally laying eggs.
It even gave fodder to the dissidents of BJP to fire at the current leadership. At a National Forum event in Mumbai both Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie asked the people of Mumbai, being from financial capital, to question the Rafale “scam” which was followed after the press conference in Delhi to announce that they will be filing a petition for a court-monitored probe in the deal with Prashant Bhushan as their lawyer. After almost a month later the Supreme Court said that there was no occasion to believe that there were wrongdoings in the deal. The verdict served a perfect face-palm moment for Congress leaving it red-faced.
However, the Congress leaders are now intensifying the demand for a JPC probe. Well, the demand isn’t a new one. Since the inception of the Rafale controversy, the party had asked for a joint parliamentary committee to be formed to probe the deal. Now, why the party insisted on JPC probe? The answer is simple, to keep the issue alive till 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
A look at the history of JPC probes in India will clear all the doubts about Congress’ intent on Rafale. From the first JPC probe after Bofors scandal to the one that knocked UPA government down- 2G scam. The JPC probe didn’t really help the investigation. It only served as a political tool for the opposition.
The JPC constituted by the Congress regime on Bofors produced a report but it was boycotted by the opposition leaders. The recommendations of the JPC in Harshad Mehta stock market case were neither accepted in full nor implemented. Same goes for the Ketan Parekh share market scam and the JPC formed to probe the soft drink-pesticide issue in 2003. The JPC probe report in 2G remains by far the controversial one for absolving the then PM Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram of any responsibility.
There is still doubt about the degree of effectiveness of JPC but there are no two opinions about the fact that JPC provides fuel to keep the fire aflame. BJP pulled this on Congress with 2G. Congress expected the same with Rafale. Well, by moving to the Supreme Court, Prashant Bhushan, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie spoiled the game of Congress.
Though, the SC verdict says it does not have jurisdiction over the case and Congress still can pursue it; the ruling definitely weakened Congress’ position.
Vote Share, NOTA and Margins: How Madhya Pradesh slipped through BJP’s clutches
BJP won 109 seats with a vote share of 41% in Madhya Pradesh. It received 0.1% more votes than Congress but still lost.
The result of five assembly elections brought cheers to the Congress and tears (figuratively) to the BJP. Congress took an early lead in the number game and by noon the result of the four state- Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Mizoram, and Telangana were no longer obscure. But the real nail-biting contest was going on in Madhya Pradesh that gave sleepless nights to both the parties, pollsters and journalists alike. Even 24 hours post the first round of counting, neck to neck fight kept both BJP and Congress clinging on to the hope of victory. Finally, when the numbers on the Election Commission website settled, the Congress had gained an edge over the incumbent BJP with 114 seats while the latter managed to rush ahead on 109 seats.
For BJP, which was fighting the anti-incumbency of more than a decade and a half in the Hindi heartland state, the rout comes as the first big jolt ahead of 2019 Lok Sabha elections. But despite the anti-incumbency, it put up a spectacular fight and made it a difficult playing field for the Congress. Though Congress eventually inched ahead of BJP, a closer look at the vote share tells a different story. The statistics spell out some interesting facts about BJP’s loss.
BJP received more votes than Congress and still lost:
Congress won the 114 seats with a vote share of 40.9%. Whereas, BJP won 109 seats with a vote share of 41%. Which means the BJP received 0.1% more votes than that of Congress. The case of vote shares not equivalently translating into seat shares is not new. A similar scenario also was seen in Karnataka where Congress’ vote share was more than that of BJP but the party was left behind in terms of seat share. Majorly consolidation of popular votes in one constituency is said to be the reason behind it. The broad principle is that parties whose popular votes are more evenly spread across regions tend to have better votes to seat conversion ratio.
“4337”- the number which could have changed BJP’s fortunes:
The analysis of final election results shows that there were at least 10 constituencies where BJP could have easily outplayed Congress in Madhya Pradesh. These are the seats where the victory margin is less than 1000 votes. The lowest victory margin is in Gwalior South where BJP lost by 121 votes. Whereas, on Rajpur (ST) seat the BJP lost by 932 votes. Out of these 10 seats, BJP lost on 7 seats while Congress lost on 3 seats. As this India Today analysis puts it, the sum total of the victory margins in these seven constituencies (4337 votes) would have put these seats in BJP’s kitty. This number- 4337 votes could have changed BJP’s fortunes and paved the way for Shivraj Singh Chauhan to form the government in the state for the record fourth time.
The vote shares and overall votes polled in favor of Congress and BJP shows that there was a slender difference between both the parties and it was definitely a close call. Taking this analysis on a micro-level, one can observe that victory margins in many of the assembly constituencies were a decisive factor. On 18 seats in Madhya Pradesh, the victory margin was less than 2,000 votes whereas on 30 seats the victory margin was less than 3,000. There were 45 seats with victory margin less than 5,000. The extremely strained fights on these 20% seats played a pivotal role.
The takeaway from this data is, it is sheer luck that Congress received more votes in these constituencies and the anti-incumbency factor wasn’t at play up to the extent it was expected. Simply put, sheer luck put Congress ahead of the BJP.
Note the NOTA factor:
NOTA, i.e. None of The Above options received 6th largest vote in Madhya Pradesh. According to the Election Commission data, with 5,42,395 votes NOTA measured up to 1.4% of the total vote share. On the seats where BJP lost by less than 1000 votes, NOTA polled more votes. If BJP would have received these votes, it could have won some seats. For example, in Suwasra, BJP lost by a margin of 350 votes. Nota votes polled at Suwarsa were 2,976. In Rajpur (ST) seat BJP lost by only 932 votes while Nota votes were counted to be 3,358.
NOTA trounced BJP NETAs:
While, NOTA votes, if were polled in BJP’s favor in the ten constituencies mentioned above would have changed the scenario, in some constituencies, it actually trounced the BJP. There were four BJP ministers who polled votes less than NOTA. Finance Minister Jayant Malaiya lost by only 799 votes in Damoh, while NOTA received 1,299 votes. MoS health, Sharad Jain who was contesting from Jabalpur North, lost by just 578 votes while NOTA bagged 1,209 votes. In Burhanpur, NOTA scored around 5,700 votes while Archana Chitnis-minister for women and child development lost by 5,120 votes.
How Ajit Jogi ensured Congress’ surprise victory in Chhattisgarh
While Ajit Jogi party pulled some votes from Congress fold, Congress pulled more votes from BJP’s.
“Congress seems to be losing Chhattisgarh once again,” said the anchor on one of the prominent news channel waving his hands across the screen behind him. The exit poll numbers glowing on the screen stated what every pollster believed- Congress stands no chance in Chhattisgarh. There wasn’t even remote possibility. That was December 7. Little did they know, the same Chhattisgarh they struck off Congress’ game would be the first state to giving Congress reasons of celebrations four days later.
Jaws dropped, the numbers flipped and pollsters were left baffled when the numbers started rolling in on December 11. The early trends showed Congress taking a quick lead over the incumbent BJP. Many believed that by noon, the numbers would stagnate giving a clear picture. One of the pollsters sitting on the panel in another news channel’s discussion around election results, casually but rather confidently said, “These are initial numbers and it can change as the more rounds of counting get over.” He then went on to list the reasons why BJP would retain the state. Much to his surprise, the numbers in Congress’ favour only surged while the leads on BJP’s numbers tally plunged as the day proceeded. By 3 PM it was pretty clear that BJP which was ruling the state of Chhattisgarh for the past 15 years, had lost. Not only did the BJP lose the election but also performed poorly in terms of seat share.
The “expect the unexpected” scenario in Chhattisgarh brought some positive news to Congress camp. The Congress state unit which seemed to be staring at the defeat for the fourth consecutive term a few months ago, enthused by the astounding numbers went into celebratory mode.
As much as this victory throws a surprise, it also begs us many questions. How did BJP lose despite the state performing well on economic indicators under the Raman Singh government? How did Congress win proving the exit polls wrong? And lastly, didn’t the Ajit Jogi factor work? Well, let us explain what went wrong for BJP and what went right for Congress in Chhattisgarh one by one.
Anti-Incumbency against BJP:
When Chhattisgarh entered the phase of Election Campaigning, the BJP knew that it will have to battle the anti-incumbency of several years. Despite this realization, the Raman Singh government was quite sure of its victory in the state. The BJP wove its entire campaign around the goodwill of Dr Raman Singh, 66- a leader cut in the mould of Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s era who enjoys a corruption-free and untainted image across party lines. So much so that even some of the Congress leaders behind the door accept that the party doesn’t have any leader of the stature of Raman Singh in Chhattisgarh. Apart from Raman Singh’s personal goodwill, BJP also invoked Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s special connection with the state to woo the voters.
However, even these narratives were not able to overshadow the discontent among masses against the lowest-rung officers or the ‘Sarkari Babus’. The BJP suffered a major backlash from the tribal and Dalit voters. The amendment to the SC/ST acts provoked country-wide protests. According to a report by the government of India, at least 34% are Scheduled Tribes and 12% are Scheduled Castes. The tribal who constitute nearly 34% of the state’s population was clearly angry with the BJP because of land grab by the government for industrial purpose and the government’s failure to implement the PESA Act. The general feeling on the ground was, the benefits of the schemes introduced by the government never reached the masses.
The people wanted ‘Parivartan’ and it is the major reason why despite having Chhattisgarh’s stalwart leader on its side, BJP received a drubbing.
How did Congress win?
More people seemed shocked at Congress managing a crystal-clear majority rather than BJP failing and rightly so. Congress did not have any leader who matched up to Raman Singh’s stature, its entire leadership was wiped in a Naxal attack and Ajit Jogi who was considered master strategist had left the Congress fold to form his own party. These factors were expected to affect the elections results as anticipated in the exit polls results.
However, all the factors that were expected to go against Congress might have brought the party fortunes. Congress’ campaign wasn’t built around a single personality, rather was a combination of abilities of multi-rung leaders from across various communities. Putting foot on the ground and extensive door-to-door campaigning helped in networking with the masses. The farm loan waiver and MSP and employment generation seem to be the biggest drawer of masses to the Congress.
The Ajit Jogi Factor:
Ajit Jogi, the first chief minister of Chhattisgarh and popular among the Satnami community left the Congress fold and established his own own party. In the run-up to Assembly election, his party even tied up with Mayawati’s BSP. This alliance was expected to hurt the Congress’ prospect in the state. However, his new party, Janata Congress ended up getting only five seats with 7.6% vote share.
This happened majorly because, instead of cutting Congress’ votes, Jogi’s party ensured that BJP’s voter base shifts to Congress. Apart from SC and ST, OBC’s are the dominant electoral community in Chhattisgarh comprising 50% of the population. OBC community includes Kurmis and Sahus which have had a traditional rivalry with the Satnami community. Over the years, the BJP garnered this OBC base while Ajit Jogi ensured Satnami community votes for Congress. But, the Jogi factor was also the reason why OBCs turned their back towards Congress. With Ajit Jogi now out of the Congress, Satnami votes went with Janata Congress, however, it led to significant OBC votes from BJP camp shifting to Congress.
If we look at the numbers, in the 2013 Assembly elections, Bharatiya Janata Party won 49 seats claiming the CM post while Indian National Congress won 39 seats. The difference of vote share between Congress and BJP was even less than 1%. This gap was easy to bridge for the Congress with Jogi out of the picture.
The vote shares clearly spell out the phenomenon. While Congress managed to increase its vote share by just 3% the seats it drew were more. On the other hand, BJP’s vote share dropped 33%. Which means, while Ajit Jogi’s party pulled some votes from Congress fold, Congress pulled more votes from BJP’s.
Well, now the real challenge in front of the Congress party is to choose a Chief Minister candidate.
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