By Abhishek Jha:
The battering that the BJP received in Bihar, its embarrassing performance in the panchayat elections in UP, and its performance in the local body polls in Gujarat have been seen as a subduction of the Modi wave, giving a sense of relief. With the BJP leaders spewing invective every other day, the electorate might be forced to side with the Congress. However, reports from among the ten states where Congress rules show that the party is not a real choice. In fact, it does not seem to have even learnt its lessons from the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
1. Kerala: Several ministers of the Congress-led United Democratic Front (UDF) have been linked to a multi-million scam that came to light in 2013. Although a judicial commission was appointed by the Chief Minister to probe the solar panel scam (which involved a firm Team Solar cheating people by seeking payments for providing renewable energy solutions) following protests, the probe has led to allegations against the Chief Minister Oomen Chandy himself. Recently, one prime accused Biju Radhakrishnan alleged – in his deposition before the judicial commission – that he had paid a Rs 5.5 crore bribe to the Chief Minister. Radhakrishnan also claimed to possess a video showing Chandy in a compromising position with Saritha Nair, another accused, raising questions about possible sexual favours sought by the CM. Although the Chief Minister has refuted the allegations, it has led to opposition parties demanding his resignation.
K M Mani of the Kerala Congress (M), who was the Finance Minister in the UDF government, has also had to resign after the Kerala High Court refused permission to the Kerala Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau to close a probe into a bribery case in which Mani has been said to have demanded bribe from bar owners for renewal of their license.
2. Himachal Pradesh: An inquiry into a disproportionate assets case was registered against Virbhadra Singh and other family members earlier this year, alleging that he had amassed wealth to the tune of around Rs. 6 crore during his tenure as a minister in the UPA-II regime. An FIR was lodged in September, following which the CBI raided his residences. The same case, due to its links with the IT returns that Singh filed, is being investigated by the IT department and for money laundering by the Enforcement Directorate. Singh has denied any wrongdoing and appears to be seeking a reconciliation with the centre.
3. Uttarakhand: Harish Rawat, the Chief Minister of Uttarakhand, was seen as taking advantage of the polarisation around cow slaughter and beef when he made comments of a tone that is popularly attributed to the BJP. “Anyone who kills cows, no matter which community he belongs to is India’s biggest enemy and has no right to live in the country,” he said in a function in Haridwar in November according to reports.
4. Manipur: Protests led by tribal students organisations have been going on in Manipur, another Congress-ruled state, with deaths resulting from police brutality, following contentious legislations that seem to infringe on the rights of the tribal people. “If you look at these bills, they are certainly not Money Bills. Money Bills have to be about imposition of taxes and expenditures. But how can the Protection of Manipur People Bill that relates to the social security objectives and issues of much larger social, political and cultural consequences be labeled as a Money Bill? Similarly, how can Manipur Land Revenue and Land Reforms Bill be called a Money Bill? The only reason they are calling these Money Bills is then certainly because under the Manipur Legislative Assembly (Hills Area Committee) Order, 1972, every bill other than a Money Bill that affects wholly or partly the Hill Area needs to be referred to the HAC for consideration. Thus, on pretext of calling them Money Bills, they wanted to basically bypass the HAC,” Romeo Hmar of the Hmar Welfare Association told YKA in an interview.
5. Mizoram: Lal Thanzara, brother of the Chief Minister Lal Thanhawla, had to resign both as a minister and as an MLA in August after opposition parties did an exposé that showed that he had shares in a company to which the state PWD was offering contracts, among other such allegations. The Mizo National Front filed an FIR in September with the Anti-Corruption Bureau of the State. However, Thanzara won back his seat in the by-elections held in November.
Congress, therefore, does not seem to be the antithesis of BJP that one is looking for. Mayawati in UP and the Lalu-Nitish combo in Bihar may have an edge over other parties in their respective states, as they present a somewhat more socially inclusive model of development and question Brahminical hegemony. However, even among them, they have compromised this position with an alliance with the Congress, which does not have appropriate representation of SC/ST/OBC members in its apex body and still clings to Gandhi’s views on caste, which are considered casteist. The AAP has tried to present an alternative against corruption, but its ousted members seem to show that it is still far from being a party one could laud with apprehension. The common man is yet to see a real alternative.