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More than meets the eye

By Shobhika Puri | Last Updated: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 14:22
Shobhika Puri
En Passant

Someone said that it is better to be occasionally cheated than being perpetually suspicious. But, in the case of Indian politics it just the reverse. It is better to be occasionally suspicious than being perpetually cheated. There are many recent developments that may seem harmless or routine on the face but, a little scratching on the surface and there will be a lot more than meets the eye.

First, the cynosure of all eyes these days, the government’s proposal for allowing FDI in retail. Some in the Congress are opposing it, some in the opposition are opposing it, some allies too are opposing it and everybody is debating it. UPA-II’s ally, the Trinamool Congress is opposing it tooth and nail. It is saying that it shall be detrimental to the interests of the <i>aam aadmi</i> while the government claims to have consulted TMC before announcing the proposal. The government claims that the clause for giving a free hand to the states to decide whether they want to allow FDI in retail in their respective states came from the TMC, which the government conceded to. Then, why is the TMC opposing the proposal now? Is it really thinking about the common man? But, the next elections are far off. With this tongue-in-cheek comment, it would be a good idea to explore the possible reasons. If the TMC had been really concerned about the welfare of the people at large then it would not have agreed to abstain from voting, as claimed by media reports. This brings one to another possible option - the state budget allocation. Maybe there is a quid pro quo between the government and the TMC, where the former would get no negative votes while the latter would get a good funding from the Centre.

BJP is going hammer and tongs in opposing the proposal. A little flashback would help them refresh their memory. In 2004, the BJP-led NDA manifesto had favoured this proposal in a slightly different form. In fact, the BJP had even proposed 100% FDI in retail in 2002. The story does not end there. Both the TMC and the DMK, which are now opposing the move, were also part of the NDA then. What happened to their concerns for the common man back then? Opposition parties take their role literally. They tend to just oppose everything that the government does.

When the UPA-I was pushing for the nuclear deal, the BJP opposed it despite of the fact that the latter too was involved in the same during the initial stages. In fact, BJP is the same party that even opposed the ushering in of the telecom revolution in the 1990s saying the common man needed basic amenities first and not a mobile phone, and it also labelled them as being a security threat. When Rajiv Gandhi tried to introduce computers to India, he was taunted by many as ‘Computerji’. And, look where we are today. Ironically, it is the BJP today that claims to be very tech savvy as compared to other parties.

All this is in no way construes to mean that the Congress is any different. Isn’t the timing of this FDI related executive decision strange? Did it really have to come now when it has been dragging for over a decade? Could it be to divert attention in Parliament from other contentious issues like the Lokpal Bill, inflation, black money, Land Acquisition Bill and the like?

If one were to question the timing, then even Mayawati’s latest proposal of dividing Uttar Pradesh just before the Assembly elections can be doubted. But, in this case the intentions cannot be hidden. Indian voters have been there and seen it, so they can understand the hidden agenda too well.

Another ally of the UPA-II, the DMK is also expected to tow the TMC line of abstaining from voting. Is there a coincidence between the bailouts in the 2G case and this incident? This is not to doubt the independence of the judiciary but, the softening of the CBI’s stance against those very accused that it was vehemently opposing till a few months back, does indeed raise eyebrows.

Talking about the 2G scam, one very strange incident happened that did not get noticed much. It was the public stance taken by Jaswant Singh, the former finance minister during the NDA regime, against the denial of bail to the 2G accused. He spoke in favour of the stance taken by UPA-II that those jailed in the 2G scam should get bail and not jail, as is the norm. On the face of it, it may seem like a very sagacious and magnanimous stand but, was it really? Or was he actually safeguarding himself and his colleagues, who could also be perhaps embroiled in such similar controversies for having committed some irregularities during the NDA regime?

It is said that everything is fair in love and war. But, the new mantra is, everything is fair in love, war and politics. Politicians cannot be and should not be trusted with a blind eye. Anybody can change one’s stance anytime according to one’s hidden agenda. It is for the people to unravel the mystery. What one sees is just the tip of the iceberg. What lies beneath could be more dangerous and sinister, otherwise why else would it not be out in the open? Therefore, being suspicious sometimes is after all not that bad.

<i>(Shobhika Puri is a freelance writer)</i>

First Published: Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 14:22

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