Akrita Reyar The Communist-UPA tug of war The Left showed its rile as CPM MP Mohammad Salim spewed venom on the PM, calling him a “dealer”. Not many sessions in the past have ever seen the post of Prime Minister being desecrated to such an extent. Manmohan Singh managed to sit through most of it with a straight face. He was perhaps preparing in his mind one of his most caustic repartees ever. Circumstances however did not let him return the compliments to Advani and the Left in person.
CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta too joined the humdrum about being cheated, hoodwinked and mistreated. But at least his lexicon was more dignified compared to his other Comrades. He was perhaps the only member from the Opposition benches who put across his point effectively and with some credible data. But his attempt to take the high moral ground for being a party “who never tasted the fruits of success” can only be met with open scorn. Inversely, the Communists can be seen as people who want all the rights but without an iota of responsibility. Another piece brilliant but familiar eloquence came from the Finance Minister. Known for his crisp expositions during Budgets, Chidambaram also gave us a glimpse of his acumen as legal luminary. He presented the UPA case with some concrete number crunching – on the economy, food grain output and, well China! There he touched a sensitive nerve, with you know who, as he talked of our neighbour’s statistics vis-à-vis ours. On nuclear energy, besides chalking out the merits and talking about Dragon power, he also echoed popular middle class sentiment, saying “there are some who don’t want India to catch up with China”. He may have had the courage to call a spade a spade, but it was also a way to let the steam out after days of pent up frustration accumulated while dealing with Left’s obduracy. The choice of China was very very deliberate. It was clearly to needle the Red Flag bearers. As were his concluding remarks, about the opportunism and paradox of Left cozying up their sworn enemies in the Saffron brigade, just to defeat the motion. With leaders like these…….. Through the debate it was clear that the Opposition was on thin ice over the nuclear issue. It floundered through the motion repeating terms like “Hyde Act”, “India made subservient” over and over again, like a stuck record despite adequate clarifications from the government side. Some MPs, who didn’t know better, just gave the nuclear issue a complete miss, instead concentrating on bantering on completely off track issues, trying desperately to make brownie points with either their leaders or their constituencies. Others were braver. They openly admitted that they had no clue about the deal, and the only reason they were giving the government a green card was because of some of its policies, or that they wanted to keep the BJP, read communal forces, at bay. It was another matter that the Trust Vote was called over the nuclear deal in the first place. One would have expected the custodians of our democracy to have found time to at least skim though the nuances of the historic document before the D-day. There were some who thought the session was a test of lung power, as they shouted each other down as if in a supposed championship. The poor Dada, in the role of a Speaker, could do everything except put his hands over his ears and go for a sprint. Somnath Chatterjee tried his best to reason with them: “Brajesh Pathak ji aap thoda dhire bolengey, tab hi to kuch samaj aayega, aise to tabiyat kharab ho jaiegi,” he argued with an over enthusiastic BSP MP. (Brajesh Pathak ji please speak a little softly, only then will we be able to understand what you are saying. Moreover, you will fall ill.) But it was the MP’s day under the sun, and he was just too busy trying to impress Behenji to care about the House understanding what he was saying. Then there were some clumsy howlers. In his zest to put a stamp of approval, a deal enthusiast kept referring to ‘Hydel’ Act as a non-issue, before being nudged that it wasn’t water electricity that we were talking about. BJP’s Delhi MP V K Malhotra was a step ahead as he quoted ‘Condila’ Rice. And as the poor US Secretary of State’s luck would have it, not a single MP prompted him to call her ‘Condi’ instead, if he couldn’t quite manage her full name. But the people who were in the real quandary were the Akalis. Absolutely no one else’s position was as ludicrous as theirs. These self-declared custodians of “Sikhi” were planning to vote out the first Sikh Prime Minister of the country. Having in the past left a seat uncontested for the first Punjabi PM (I K Gujral - Jalandhar), they had absolutely no justification for opposing Manmohan Singh. Worse still, Sukhbir Singh Badal had openly declared that the nuke deal was good for country and that they may abstain or even vote for the deal. However, after the party meeting they turned their stand on the head, issuing a whip to vote against the deal. Obviously, political compulsions had got the better of them. Congress is the main rival of SAD in Punjab. And with general elections around the corner, they wouldn’t have wanted to ruffle feathers in the BJP. Meanwhile, the Akal Takht declared that it was the responsibility of the community to help a Sikh Prime Minister. This was also the popular mood amongst most Punjabis. So Sukhbir Badal, for the first time in Akali history that I recall, took a stand saying their support was always issue based not individual driven. And that religion had no role in this! “The issue,” he justified “was that the Sikh PM had done nothing for economic progress of Punjab”. It was another matter that the Akalis quickly forgot the “issue” of nuke deal, that they had had previously thought to be in the interest of the country. As if having to deal with the incongruity of the situation wasn’t enough, the poor guys were badly admonished by a don’s wife for demeaning the proud Sikh culture of serving and sacrificing, never demanding anything in return. Such was the fervour of LJSP MP Ranjeet Ranjan about her deep sense of patriotism that she forgot she was in the Lok Sabha and broke into Punjabi, giving them a piece of her mind saying they had brought “shame to the House”. The flummoxed Punjabis sat like a bunch of school boys being shouted at by their teacher. Akali Dal’s Sukhdev Singh Dhindsa, in an attempt to save face, couldn’t have oversimplified things more. Registering limited protest, he said the NDA had no problem with deal except for the contentious Hyde Act. “Mujhe yeh nahin samajh aata ki is Hyde Act ko deal se nikal kyon nahin deyte?” (I don’t understand why the Hyde Act can’t simple be removed from the deal) Dhindsa wondered, just hours after Mukherjee had painfully explained to the House that the Act was not a part of the deal and that it was a piece of US legislation not binding on us! Dhindsa might perhaps have been snoozing at that time. At least he didn’t get caught on camera like JMM chief Shibu Soren, who with the Coal Ministry under his wing had little bother in the world!