(This is a reprint from NewsBred).
If you were to ask the majority of this country if they want “One Nation, One Poll” the answer would be an overwhelming yes.
People might not have the figures–Rs 6,000 crores on exchequer alone in recent Lok Sabha Polls and many times more by parties and candidates; Or the numbers on manpower—one assembly seat in Lucknow alone has over 300 polling booths and engages 2000 men on polling day; Or the imagination to guess how many lakhs of police, para-military forces, bureaucracy are pressed into service. Yet, they can sense a gap in their daily lives like a drawn tooth.
The erudites amongst us offer debating points we exhale in the musty air of a bar amidst gathered gentry. So Akhilesh Mishra tells us in Indian Express how it affects Rajya Sabha; how parties can make outlandish promises (Like Arvind Kejriwal on free Metro for women); how at least 15 state elections anyway fall more within a year either side of a Lok Sabha poll.
So what’s the problem?
The likes of Congress, TMC, BSP, SP, AAP, DMK, RJD, AIMIM etc sure have a problem for they stayed away from the all-party meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi called upon on Wednesday. They saw it as an attack on the Constitution, the “federal” character of our set-up; and blurring the local and national issues which could affect a voter’s judgment.
All this is humbug. Indian voters know how to choose in a state or in a Lok Sabha elections. Constitution is for people of India and any measure which is good for them, must come into force. Such Constitutional changes could be made between ad breaks on television. IT TAKES NOTHING. As for the scaremongering on President’s Rule by stealth; what-if-government-in-Centre falls, these are easily fixable issues: E.g get the no-confidence-motion out of the way at the start of a new Parliament. And if I may ask how it has helped democracy when sworn enemies—Congress and JD (S)—joined hands only to usurp Karnataka last year?
The reason likes of BSP or SP, Congress or RJD, TMC or DMK or AIMIM don’t want “One Nation, One Poll” is caste and religion. With national issues delinked, the ones of dalits vs suvarans (upper caste); Muslims vs Hindus; Tamil or Bengali asmita easily gain currency. Narrow parochial issues keep these parties relevant. The faces of Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav and Asaduddin Owaisi remain in circulation. The nation loses its steam on the tracks of targeted growth.
Just recall the incidents or speeches which happen around state polls. In Delhi, it was fake attack on churches in 2015, Una incident in Gujarat, Bheema Koregaon in Maharashtra: All were intended to sharpen the caste and religious divide. “Ramzaade” vs “haraamzaade” speeches surface. Quota politics come into play. What room is there left to discuss developmental issues threadbare?
In a paper to Niti Aayog last year, Bibek Debroy and Kishore Desai offered an easy way out to the cacophony of whether state assemblies could be dramatically reduced or enlarged so as it coincides with the Lok Sabha polls. They pointed out that 15 state elections anyway fall in and around Lok Sabha dates. The remaining states could be bunched together around the mid-way mark of a Lok Sabha term. So, one Lok Sabha elections and two for state assemblies in a span of five years, is the way forward.
It’s not to say the road ahead is easy. For, there is also this matter of panchayat elections and its 30 lakh representatives. The matter of getting all political parties aboard.
But then so was the issue with GST. It’s a reality now. There are examples galore around the world where simultaneous elections are held, including in US where a voter not only chooses his President but also 20 different representatives on a single ballot. Sweden has one election and so is the case with South Africa.
The fact is, in early years of Republic of India, elections were held simultaneously in 1951, 1957, 1962 and 1967. It fell into abeyance because assemblies began getting dissolved due to Centre’s interference. The dissolution of Lok Sabha in 1970 was the final nail which broke up the elections in India.
I grew up in Lucknow, aware of a Hindi literary icon Shivani who lived in Gulistan Colony, a pristine part of the city which housed bureaucrats and judges among others. Her daughter Mrinal Pande had already begun to make a mark in literary circles. The mother-daughter duo held mirror to everyday life, showing men and matter as they were, without any colour.
The Mrinal Pande of today bears little resemblance to this neutrality. She takes a Congress line which is understandable given the Gandhis afforded her Padma Shri (2006), chair of Prasar Bharati head (2010) and her present position of group editorial advisor, the National Herald Group (Never mind, many of us haven’t seen a copy of its print edition in our lives. The only time we are reminded of its existence is when it’s hauled up in courts for Rs 5000-crore defamation suit by Reliance Group on Rafale lies). The problem occurs when she resorts to lies as in an edit piece today and Indian Express is too happy to lap up to her vomits. That’s how the newspaper and its edit author have chosen to begin the year 2019 with.
Pande is on a bigotry-binge on Yogi Adityanath. She asserts that Yogi is “planning a large statute of Lord Ram as a sort of precursor to building a temple on what is currently disputed land.” If you are not a legal hawk, it would appear that they statue is being planned on the disputed land. That Yogi couldn’t care less about Supreme Court being the sole arbiter of law in this land. The fact is no land in Ayodhya is decided yet on Rama’s statue. In the fantasy world of Pande, the Yogi government would disregard the all-important scientific and technical matter of soil-testing and wind-tunnel testing as long as it could tamper with the disputed land and Supreme Court’s authority.
Pande then rams the lie down the throat of her readers by claiming that Yogi has forbidden “the use of loudspeakers for azaan, citing the disturbance to public peace.” The fact is that it’s Allahabad High Court, and not Yogi acting arbitrarily which has ordered the removal of loudspeakers from religious places in an attempt to curb the noise pollution. In December 2017, state government and UP Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) were hauled up by a High Court bench for its action on alleged misuse of loudspeakers in religious places. (So madam, it’s not just for Azaan. The court intervention is also against the temples, gurudwara and churches. And if you must blame, blame the HC and not the Yogi government.)
Pande is unstoppable now. She says that Yogi has “banned namaz being performed in any public park in the state.” She ought to be told that no less than Supreme Court in a 2009 order has banned the unauthorized use of public places for religious activities by all religions (and not just for Muslims). And why Namaz, the police has also stopped a bhagwat katha being planned by Hindus in Greater Noida this week. (Rest assured Madam unlike you on Namaz, Hindus wouldn’t make much noise and spread ill-will among communities on the matter.)
Pande further alleges that Yogi has banned cattle SALES to butchers, most of them Muslims. She needs be told that it’s been over a year and half since the rule on ban on sale of animals for slaughter (and not just cattle) has been done away with. If Pande’s sleight of words is meant to point out the ban on cow SLAUGHTER in Uttar Pradesh (and not its sales), she can’t pretend that 19 other states of India have banned cow slaughter. And that it also is not un-constitutional. Article 48 of the Constitution mandates the state to prohibit the slaughter of cows and calves and other milch and draught cattle. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the State of Gujarat vs Moti Qureshi Kassab interpreted the article in consonance with Article 51A (g) of the Constitution, thereby justifying a wholesome ban on bovine slaughter.
And if History interests Ms Pande, it was a Congress chief minister in Uttar Pradesh, decades before BJP even existed, which banned cow slaughter in the state. It was Dr. Sarvshri Sampurnanand who banned cow slaughter in Uttar Pradesh in 1955 with the UP Cow Slaughter Prohibition Act. (So madam, please don’t single out Yogi Aditynath and betray your hatred towards him while ignoring what leaders of the party you serve have done in the past).
Pande also has problem about Yogi Aditanath making a “big noise about saving gau mata at all costs.” It would help her to know that a cow indeed is big in Hindu world. She ought to know of Govardhan Puja (a day before Diwali); and a cow being worshipped on the third day of the Pongal. In neighbouring Nepal, a cow is worshipped as Goddess Laxmi during Diwali; Gaijatra in Nepal is dedicated to cows accompanied with a big procession. Gorakhnath (God Shiva) is the protector of cows. He is called Pashupatinath. God Krishna is called Govinda only because of his affection towards cows.
It is not accidental that Mrinal Pande chooses to address Bhagwan Ram as Lord Ram throughout her piece. She chooses a western manifestation on a man who is a “maryada-purshottam” to millions of Hindus. Let her try this trick with other religions and she would know the consequences. In passing, it must be mentioned that Ms Pande in the past had tweeted an image of a donkey to wish PM Narendra Modi on his birthday.
There is another irony which is not lost on readers of Indian Express. The day it chose to make a lead headline of the opposition’s reject of the Triple Talaq Bill in the Rajya Sabha, Ms Pande extols Pt Nehru for the good work he has done in “incremental” changes in the society. Is his party Congress stalling or going for “incremental” change in the status of women in the society? Especially for women of a religion for which Ms Pande’s heart so palpably beats. Was Shah Bano a case of gender justice or gender denial?
So these are you “credible” men and women. The “credible” newspapers. The toxicity which poisons us everyday. With blatant lies and manipulations. Are these so-called men and women of letters worthy of any respect from us?