Ek hi ulloo kaafi tha, barbaad-e-gulistan ke liye
Har shaakh pe ulloo baitha hai, anjaam-e-gulistan kya hoga
Many years have passed since this exchange; the story remains the same. And at no occasion has this been better exemplified than in the dissolution of the Bihar assembly. Here’s the current list of birds perched on the same tree:
Buta Singh: Writes two letters to the President. In the first, he buids a case that JD-U and BJP were trying to cobble together a majority by winning over MLAs from other parties (surprise, surprise!). The trend – per newspaper reports (!), his meetings and intelligence inputs – was escalating and that if not arrested immediately, would give rise to further horse-trading. He asked the President, in this first letter, to take “such action as deemed appropriate”. About 3 weeks later, he picks up his pen again and, adds just one data point to the exact words of his first missive i.e. that some more “perhaps are moving towards the JD-U”. He was more forceful in his (garbled) plea – the assembly be “dissolved, so that the people/electorate can be provided with one more opportunity to seek the mandate of the people”. He is prescient – inferring intent from assumed future actions (“perhaps are moving towards”), bases it first on newspaper reports, then on his own sleuthing and only last on “intelligence inputs” and, indeed, is “fair and balanced” (only the JD-U and BJP are up to these shenanigans)!
Lalu Yadav: Knows that his standing (and ability to stay a few steps ahead of the law) rests on his remaining in power (direct or otherwise) in Bihar. Is therefore willing to cajole, browbeat, buy, manipulate to maintain his hold (“forced” the Governor into sending his second report, Prime Minister into convening the cabinet post-haste and the cabinet into this recommendation). Is this hidden from anyone? And Mr. Yadav’s Machiavellian instincts allow him to be quite blasé about the verdict “It is our victory as the apex court has not ordered revival of the dissolved assembly.” Never have ends more succinctly justified the means!
Shivraj Patil: Is only a clearing house for correspondence, it seems. Has the strangest spin on the Supreme Court verdict: when asked whether this was an indictment, he says “Yes or no – depends on what angle we see the judgment from. The ruling has also said the election process should continue”. Which angle do you want to see this from? The Court clearly says “The proclamation of May 23, 2005 dissolving the Bihar legislative Assembly is unconstitutional” and that it will not interfere in the election process already underway. Tring tring: that's “unconstitutional”, Home Minister – it doesn't come much clearer.
Manmohan Singh: Our intellectual, conscientious head of the government who, in his quest for continuance in power, has progressed from condoning wrong-doing (criminals in the cabinet) through encouraging wrong-doing (actions of his colleagues in Jharkhand and Goa) to now practicing it! (“Around 10 pm, when Kalam had retired to his presidential suite in the Baltschug Kempinski hotel, his secretary, P M Nair informed him that the Prime Minister was on the line. They were said to have had a long talk during which the President was briefed on Buta Singh’s report to the Home Ministry and the decision of the Cabinet. The Prime Minister, it’s learnt, informed him that the notification could be signed by the President and faxed to Delhi.” is the sequence in l'affaire dissolution).
A P J Abdul Kalam: Plays – admirably well – the role of Dhritarashtra in this episode. Again, from the same archives, “Rashtrapati Bhavan officials say that the President, who was busy working on a power point presentation he was to make at the Russian Academy of Science and Moscow University on Monday morning, sat down to examine the Cabinet recommendation and the Governor’s report. He then held consultations with his aides and, by 1.30 am, his consent on the Assembly dissolution was faxed from the Kempinski to New Delhi.” Last night, a compere on television tried a lame apology “What could he do – he had no option but to sign and return it” and was rightly put in her place with a reminder of what any Class VII student knows from his civics lessons – the President has the duty to accord accent but only after due consideration and he also has the right to send it back once for reconsideration by the cabinet. Mr. Kalam is perched on the same tree as the rest of this crew.
Indeed, Anjaam-e-gulistan kya hoga!
Stop worrying about Bihar, dear readers: the entire casts of characters above – bar one – have decision rights for the whole country, and that includes where most of you live! And guess which one is likely to be punished? Only that one exception whose remit is restricted to Bihar: there is a move afoot to give Buta Singh a slap on the wrist. Do the math yourself.