Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Politics of VP more powerful than anti emergency crusade of JP

By Vidya Bhushan Rawat

Two important events in the post independent India marks an important date in the political history of India. They are coincident yet important. Both events people want to forget and ignore for their own reasons. On June 25th, 1975 the then Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi imposed emergency on the country suspending the fundamental right particularly right to freedom of expression and peacefully assembly was suspended immediately. President Fakhruhdinn Ali Ahmed, perhaps one of the most undeserving persons to have occupied the highest office of the land signed on the dotted line to proclaim emergency in the mid night of June 25th. Thousands of political activists, human rights defender, journalists, editors and columnists were arrested and put in jail. This was an unprecedented situation that Mrs Gandhi had put the country but the response of the country was equally harsh. India witnessed one of the biggest movements against emergency which ultimately resulted in the ousting of Indira Gandhi and our first non congress government at the centre in 1977 under the leadership of Morarji Desai. Though the Janata Party government fell amid way because of the over ambitions of various political leaders but that was a great lessons for the all powerful prime minister that they should never think people’s mandate for granted and that people will protest if their rights are suspended or taken away. No government or authority have right to control people’s right. A government’s mandate is to govern and not to deny people their fundamental rights.

Though Indira Gandhi came back to power in 1980 yet she behaved in a much matured way. It gave lessons to other political parties in the country that playing with people’s right is like playing with fire and none would tolerate it. Mrs Indira Gandhi’s highhandedness during emergency was the reason of her down fall added by the uncontrolled power in the hands of her son Sanjay Gandhi. She was charged of promoting her son at the cost of the senior political leaders of her party who would bow to him and had no shame in taking order from it.

Proclamation of Emergency gave people an understanding that governments want to control their rights and unless they speak against it these rights are going to be seized away. That is why the middle classes, students, workers, intellectuals all opposed suspension of rights such as free political movements, independence of judiciary and media. The role of many news papers during emergency was remarkable and must be appreciated.

It is a co-incident that 25th June is also the birthday of our former prime Minister late V.P.Singh, a name which attracts lots of condemnation as well as admiration. V.P. Singh is appreciated all across the party line for his impeccable honest credentials and commitments to the cause of social justice and probity in public life. As a finance minister in Rajiv Gandhi’s government V.P.Singh ran a campaign against the corrupt industries which resulted in his unceremonious departure from the Finance Ministry to Defence Ministry. There too he exposed the corruption in HDW submarine purchased from Germany. V.P.Singh was expelled from the Congress Party and he was hounded by Congress Party so much that those who followed him realized that Rajiv Gandhi behaved worst than what Indira Gandhi did during emergency.

V.P.Singh was a political leader who could connect with masses very easily and people lapped on each words that he spoke related to corruption. Finally, he was responsible in forming of the Second non Congress government at the Centre in 1989 with the outside support of both the left parties and BJP. But the biggest jolt to Congress party came in the form of implementation of Mandal Commission report by his government which resulted in wide scale violence in Delhi and other parts of North India. The entire upper caste India rose against him and turned him the biggest villain of Indian polity. He became one of the most hated politicians for the upper caste Hindus. It is another matter that the media had no time in reporting about those who loved him and admired him.

V.P.Siingh’s Mandal report changed the polity of India permanently with wide participation of backward communities. It paralysed the Congress Party permanently and yet the party has not yet reconciled to the growing reality of the hunger for participation in power among the marginalized communities. It strengthened the hands of the OBC political groups and brought them together with the Dalits. Unfortunately, V.P.Singh became victim of the identity politics in India. The forces which got benefited with his various schemes actually found their own caste leaders in politics and sided with them without understanding their political opportunism. His support for the cause of Dalits was immense though may not have got acknowledged widely including putting Dr Ambedkar portrait in Parliament, honoring him with Bharat Ratna and finally accepting neo Buddhists to claim reservation under SC category. In fact, the Ambedkar centenary celebrations enjoyed the best hospitality from his government when a large number of Dr Ambedkar’s work was published by the Central government.
V.P.Singh died as unsung hero with media busy with Mumbai’s attack and the people he fought with not much keen on even acknowledging his contribution. It was a painful sight to see just a handful of people at his Teen Murti Lane residence on his last journey in Delhi. While his power politics may have many critique it need to be appreciated that V.P.Singh did mass politics and worked to set people’s agenda. Even if he was continuously in dialysis he would go and express solidarity with various social movements in the country. He did not care for his health when the cause was for the slum dwellers and even slept in the slums of Delhi to protect their rights very unusual for a former prime minister to have been doing so.

While emergency was an event people want to forget and move ahead for the better future of democracy. V.P.Singh’s actions and ideas actually strengthened democracy in India and made it much more participatory when for the first time the marginalized communities saw the real participation in power and now asserting their identities. It is good to assert these identities but at the same point important to acknowledge the contribution of those too who do not happen to come from your caste too. Some people play heroic role for in the social change but do not hail from our communities and it is important we consider them part of our heritage. Emergency made Indira Gandhi a villain for everyone but now the people seem to have ignored that while V.P.Singh for all his honesty and good work is considered as villain just because some of his actions have not gone down well with the upper elite caste forces of the country. It is important for us to learn lessons from both the events of history and move ahead with them that political powers cannot really stop growth of democracy now and with mandalisation process the marginalized communities are now asserting their democratic rights and will not allow anyone to encroach upon their political rights. Hence while emergency threatened the very concept of democracy and weakened it, the work of V.P.Singh has made democracy such a strong entity that it would not be possible for any political leader to become dictator in India by imposing democracy.

His Mandalisation has successfully countered fascist forces in the country and provided space for millions of marginalized people from the country to participate in democracy and strengthen it further. It is ironical that V.P.Singh was on the side of Mrs Indira Gandhi during emergency which many of his colleagues always questioned but there is also a fact of life that people change and that happened with V.P.Singh also when he transformed himself from a staunch Congress loyalist to a great votary of social justice and socialist politics in India. His fight against Rajiv Gandhi’s tyrannical regime in 1986 and then his exemplary work for the rights of marginalized after he demitted his power and possessions after 1990 are great example for politicians of today. Today, V.P.Singh has become more relevant when we see pervading corruption surrounding us but helpless inability of our political class to make it an issue and fight the battle politically so that forces against our democratic process do not hijack the anti corruption mood of the nation. That could only happen when political class fighting against corruption has its own house in order as people inside it with impeccable credentials and honest track record. In the absence of that it will only be the communal forces who would use such unrest to pursue their own agendas. Jai Prakash’s movement legitimized many of them and fight against corruption has also strengthened in the similar way the anti democratic forces. It is time for the forces of social justice to rise up and stop the march of such forces to our power structure. A statesman of V.P.Singh’s stature has the capacity to do so but unfortunately he is not there and his absence from political arena is being felt tremendously because of lack of our political class who could rise above their partisan interest and think for the country.

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