If a Margaret Alva and a Yogendra Makwana can be treated in such a summary fashion, it should become clear to all ?leaders? of the Congress Party that they are there solely at the whim of the Maino family. That should they for a minute forget this condition of servitude, they will be removed and replaced with those more pliant. To watch as once-distinguished names shuffle around as courtiers and as servants is not only sad, but dismaying. For it indicates the moral depths into which the politics of the country is now plunging, where few dare to speak the truth or in defence of the people, for fear of losing their privileges and their power. Yet, despite all this, the Congress Party can yet retain its hold on power, should it win as little as a hundred seats in the next Lok Sabha. What the party managers are aiming at is either the continuation of the Congress-led regime, or a Third Front supported from outside by the Congress Party. Should the Mainos be thus enabled to continue their hold over power for another term, the consequences for India'spolity, society and economy will be dire.
There is need for an immediate movement to bring down the price of petrol and diesel by at least 30 per cent, in a context in which the price of crude oil has slipped below $60 a barrel, because of the impending retirement of Bush-Cheney, who kept prices high by their threats and bluster against Iran, Russia, Venezuela and other producers. The NDA needs to make the rolling back of the present unbearable level of retail petro-product prices a priority, as it needs to do on the subject of taxation. Since 2004, the effective tax rate has leapt up by 40 per cent, and the tax administration has become a new East India Company, that reduces the citizen to the status of a vassal. The NDA needs to demand lower taxes and a taxpayer-friendly system of collection. Equally crucially, the NDA needs to demand punitive punishment for corruption, with mandatory sentencing and an independent agency for monitoring.
Today, both the police and the military are in danger of getting demoralised by low pay and the constant flow of allegations against them. Should the security services get demotivated, the country would be in danger of getting significantly weakened by its external enemies. Police reform as well as an upgradation in the pay and allowances given to those willing to die for their country need to be asked for, and this is what the NDA ought to do. In place of appearing on countless television talk shows, reacting to an agenda that is far removed from the needs of the people, the NDA needs to introspect on what is going wrong?seriously wrong?and what policies are needed to set things right. Only a focus on essentials, only a determined assault on the way in which the national interest is being sold by those auctioning their own party, can prevent a repeat of 2004.
Margaret Alva comes from a distinguished family of political activists and community organisers, who have collectively done much for the public. The patriarch, Joachim Alva, was among the country'sfinest parliamentarians, able to hold his own in discussions with Jawaharlal Nehru. Over the past four decades, since Indira Gandhi'swar on the Old Guard of the Congress Party, Margaret has remained devoted to the Nehru family. However, these days, it is no longer the Nehrus but the Mainos who run the Congress Party, as she has found to her cost. For the ?crime? of telling the truth, Margaret Alva has been humiliatingly stripped of all her party posts, thus returning her to her start in public life. The same medicine has been applied to another Congress leader, social reformer Yogendra Makwana, who too dared to challenge the ruling dispensation'spolicies of auctioning away bits and pieces of the Congress Party, the way they are seeking to do with the national interest.
Margaret Alva knows that in today'sMaino Congress, only money talks. She was in charge of Maharashtra State for a considerable period, and watched with dismay as Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh tacitly encouraged the sort of hoodlum regionalism exemplified in Raj Thackeray. Years ago, the young man was accused of a heinous crime, involving an individual who was the tenant of an apartment. He was mysteriously cleared of that, as he has been of other charges, by a dispensation that protects him at the expense of national unity. Should the poison now regularly injected into Maharashtra'spolitics by Raj Thackeray and his Maino loyalist backers spread like a virus to other states, India would get balkanised. Already, Maharashtrians are being made to feel unwelcome in significant parts of India, despite their being among the most cultured and patriotic of citizens, aberrations notwithstanding. Alva knows the reason why Vilasrao Deshmukh has survived numerous attempts at having him replaced with a less disastrous choice. The reason lies in the deliveries regularly made on chartered flights between Mumbai and Delhi, deliveries that his own people claim to have crossed the figure of 120 in a month, 40 more than the next biggest deliverer, YS Rajshekhar Reddy of Andhra Pradesh. Small wonder that he is safe, despite being an administrative disaster. Each media-created bout of speculation about his fate leads to an increase in the volume of Mumbai-Delhi deliveries, exactly the outcome the authors of the speculation seek to create.
(The writer is a former editor and renowned columnist and can be contacted at [email protected])