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Presidential candidate: With Congress in crisis, opposition makes 'wrong choice'

Draupadi Murmu, Yashwant Sinha
By Vidya Bhushan Rawat* 
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was interrogated for nearly 50-60 hours for five days by the Enforcement Directorate (ED). Summons have also gone to party president Sonia Gandhi in the National Herald case. Everyone knows the reality, that “National Herald” was a mouthpiece of the Congress, and earlier of India’s freedom movement. It was founded by Jawaharlal Nehru.
In recent years, this paper and its sister concerns, “Navjeevan” in Hindi and “Kaumi Awaz” in Urdu, were defunct. The paper suffered serious losses and was closed in 2008. Rahul Gandhi was instrumental in reviving it in 2016.
All the issues related to the case are basically technical in nature, based on interpretation. One cannot really say that somebody made money, but things do happen on the advice of lawyers and chartered accountants -- people follow certain pattern to protect their businesses. It depends on which side of the coin you are on, and how you interpret it.
Congress workers were on the street. However, except for DMK and its leader MK Stalin, we did not hear many voices in condemnation of the Central government for misusing ED and other agencies, which is a sad reflection of politics today.
Everyone knows this was being done to intimidate Rahul Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi and decimate the party or push it into silence before the presidential elections. Meanwhile, apparently taking advantage of the situation, Mamata Banerjee, always wanting to go centre-stage, without consulting anyone, started an ‘opposition conclave’ for having a joint presidential candidate. She did not utter a single word about the continuous harassment of Rahul Gandhi by ED.
Initially, she tried to push Sharad Pawar for the post, but Pawar being Pawar, he would never agree to such a thing, unless he is sure of victory. So he politely refused. After that, Mamata asked Farooq Abdullah and Gopal Krishna Gandhi to be opposition candidate. All this was happening without proper consultation. Both Abdullah and Gandhi refused.
Finally, Mamata again jumped her guns and somehow managed to get her party in the front position in the presidential elections. She wanted to seize the opportunity when the Congress was fighting its own battle, and hence asked her party MP Yashwant Sinha to resign and contest as Opposition candidate, which he happily accepted.
The Congress had sent Jairam Ramesh and Mallikarjun Khadge to participate in the all-party meeting called by Mamata. It agreed to Sinha’s name. The fact is the party leaders had no time to discuss, because the Congress itself was in its own crisis, as Rahul Gandhi was being interrogated.
Mamata’s hyped ambitions have many a time created an embarrassment for the opposition parties. For the sake of opposition unity, both Congress as well as Left parties participated in the meeting despite many differences.
Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, of course, are always keen to ensure that the opposition suffers a heavy blow. But this time, the fact of the matter is that, the opposition parties too had no time to properly discuss out a candidate. With the Congress already in a crisis mode, it was Mamata and Sharad Pawar who grabbed the opportunity, but it boomeranged.
Indeed, BJP has gain succeeded in the politics of representation, much better than its opponents. The choice of Draupadi Murmu, a Santhal Adivasi, as the NDA Presidential candidate is of enormous political value and might pay heavily to those who oppose her. BJP succeeded in bringing two most powerful allies, Naveen Patnaik from Odisha and Jagan Reddy from Andhra Pradesh. Other non-NDA parties will also find it difficult to oppose Murmu.
It is for the first time in Indian history that an Adivasi woman will become president of India, and it has a great symbolic value. We cannot undermine it plainly by asking: what would she do for Adivasis? 
Mamata Banerjee, Sharad Pawar
It would be difficult for Hemant Soren to oppose her in Jharkhand, as when she was governor, she refused to sign the amendment to the Chhotanagpur Tenancy Act (CNTA) and the Santhal Pargana Tenancy Act (SPTA). At that time,the then chief minister Raghubar Das, tried to change the original Act which had protected the Adivasi rights in forests. There were lots of protests in Jharkhand and ultimately the governor refused to sign the amended Bill.
Many people are asking why did she sweep a Shiva temple? Political leaders are known to do such jobs as part of political exigency. But why question her faith? Gyani Zail Singh, too, followed the diktat of the Akal Takht, which declared him “tankhaiya”, and hence, to atone the high religious body, he cleaned the shoes of the devotees who came to Harmandir Sahib.
The upper caste morality of questioning people from the marginalised sections is patronising, to say the least. It means, Dr Rajendra Prasad must have done something for Kayasthas, Dr Radhakrishanan for Brahmins, Dr Sanjeeva Reddy for feudal landlords, Pranab Mukherjee again for Brahmins, Pratibha Patil for women etc.
You cannot fault BJP or RSS for working with Adivasis. That is their long-term programme, and they have been working among them for years. Today, they are in power, so their outreach has already expanded, but the party is not satisfied with what it has achieved. It continues to cement its ties with Adivasis, keeping in mind its long-term political benefits.
Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Maharashtra, Telangana, Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat have significant Adivasi presence. These states are going to poll in the near future. President Ram Nath Kovind made several visits to Uttar Pradesh during the elections, but since Dalit population is politicised, the impact wasn’t that big.
But the situation might be different as Draupadi Murmu, who is the first Adivasi leader rising to the top post of the country. It would have the necessary impact, too.
While Murmu’s choice gave a benefit to BJP and NDA, the opposition could have made a better choice than Yashwant Sinha. Though he was brought into politics by Chandrashekhar, Sinha made good relations with op BJP leaders. During VP Singh’s Mandal period, Sinha was sitting in the opposition camp. The problem with Sinha was that he considered himself much bigger than what other politicians could think about him.
An arrogant savarna leader, Sinha was finance minister in the short term Chandrashekhar regime, and then AB Vajpayee included him in his ministry, where he served in various ministries, including External Affairs and Finance. As Finance Minister, he could not bring new ideals to the Ministry.
Sinha never really dissociated himself from RSS, and like Arun Shourie, he too was hoping that Modi would take care of him. Both started criticising Modi only after Modi completely dissociated from them.
Sinha felt he was the ‘need of the hour’ for BJP but Modi never thought that way. Finally, he left BJP and became a critic of Modi’s style of functioning. He has been critiquing Modi, but not the Sangh Parivar. His son is still an important functionary of the party, and was a minister under Modi.
Opposition parties should have been serious about putting up a joint candidate. But they failed to do so. Perhaps, Mamata Banjerjee’s ambition to create a central niche for herself cost the opposition huge. While the numbers looked good for the opposition earlier, it looks clear that Yashwant Sinha may not get even opposition votes as most of the regional parties will think twice before voting him.
Of course, we all know that presidents don’t have much power. Indeed, not much is expected from Draupadi Murmu. One can only expect that she will be the guardian of our Constitution and and uphold our Constitutional values and rights of the marginalized people when they are under the threat.
Will she be able to do that? Let us see what she does once she assumes the high office. Till then, we can keep our fingers crossed.
---
*Human rights defender. Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/vbrawat, twitter: @freetohumanity

Comments

Anonymous said…
Media freedom does npt mean public masturbation and instigations

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