Lust of Power Holds Governance to Ransom as Lawmakers Make Merry at Taxpayers’ Cost
One can only wish that the daylight murder of governance in Rajasthan could be dismissed as a bad dream.
The fight between the chief minister Ashok Gehlot camp and the Sachin Pilot camp has reached the High Court, which is expected to announce its verdict on Friday. An appeal by the losing camp to the Supreme Court is a foregone conclusion. Irrespective of which camp finally wins, the biggest loser is the general public which elected them in the first place.
The purpose of this article is not to judge who is right or to predict the political future of the various players involved. The attempt is to focus on the biggest casualty in this fight: good governance and the larger implications for a healthy and vibrant democracy. Governance is clearly not in the minds of the warring factions.
Public duty be damned. So what, if the entire world is busy fighting coronavirus. Self-interest comes first. That Rajasthan is still surviving only proves God exists somewhere.
Mr Pilot with his men has been camping in Haryana for the past few days. Loyalists of Mr Gehlot are comfortably ensconced in the comfort of a luxury hotel in Jaipur watching old films, singing antakshari and generally having a whale of time at the expense of the taxpayers.
Is this gross mis-governance in Rajasthan only a recent development? The track record of the past two years doesn’t suggest so.
Lust for Power
Less than two years ago, on 17 December 2018 to be precise, the old war horse Ashok Gehlot was sworn in as the chief minister of Rajasthan for the third time. Rajasthan state Congress president, Sachin Pilot was sworn as the deputy chief minister.
Since the beginning, it was evident that this boat will not reach the shores.
The fissures had surfaced within a week of swearing in. The main bone of contention were portfolios of home and finance. Despite intervention by Rahul Gandhi, the party president at that time, all that Mr Pilot could muster were five relatively less powerful portfolios of public works, rural development, panchayti raj, science and technology and statistics.
On the other hand, Gehlot walked away with nine key departments including home, finance, excise, planning, department of personnel and others.
What Made Sachin Pilot Revolt?
The power tussle did not end with the allocation of portfolios. Since the beginning, Mr Pilot was not invited for key meetings. Things reportedly came to a boil last year when six Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) members of the legislative assembly (MLAs) joined the Congress. Despite being the PCC president, Mr Pilot was allegedly not kept in the loop.
Adding fuel to the fire, Mr Pilot was reportedly completely isolated
from the celebrations to mark the one year completion of the government. Not a single photo or poster of him was put up anywhere. Key achievements of his ministries, especially in the area of MNREGA and sanitation drive in the rural areas, did not even find a mention in the booklet issued on the occasion.
The most recent incident of sidelining of Mr Pilot was evident during the State’s fight with COVID-19. Mr Pilot was not part of the core team constituted to fight it.
The final nail in the coffin came after the Rajya Sabha polls. A special operations group (SOG) of the Rajasthan police was formed to investigate the conspiracy to destabilise the government served a notice of inquiry on Mr Pilot.
Soon thereafter, Mr Pilot allegedly went incommunicado. His team claimed that it had the support of 30 MLAs to topple the government.
14th July, saw the sacking of Mr Pilot; both as deputy CM as well as state party chief. He was alleged to be acting in concert with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to topple a democratically elected government.
On 15th July, speaker CP Joshi sent a notice to Mr Pilot and 18 other MLAs supporting him for defying the party whip and not attending two meetings of the Congress legislature party. If proved guilty, they could be sacked from Congress.
Sachin Pilot and his supporting MLAs promptly moved the Rajasthan High Court challenging the disqualification notice served by the Speaker.
Not to be outdone, the speaker has now moved the Supreme Court challenging the illegal and perverse order of the HC of 21st July restraining him from even calling and conducting the disqualification proceedings pending against the respondents till 24 July 2020 when the HC is expected to announce its verdict.
The Gehlot-Pilot saga seems to be straight out of the saas-bahu serials. Mr Gehlot has recently stated on record that he has not been on talking terms with his deputy for the past 18 months. He has also claimed that Mr Pilot has been plotting to topple his government from day one.
Unsatiated, Mr Gehlot then went on to fire another salvo at Mr Pilot calling him as “Nikamma, Nakara, worthless person. Mr Gehlot claims he was silent all along in the interest of the party.
Complete Break-down of Governance
But what about the interest of the people who elected them in the first instance, CM sahab?
Hundreds of crore of rupees are spent in each election at the cost of the honest taxpayers. All that they expect in return is a stable government which will take care of their basic needs: security, employment, food, education, healthcare, welfare and justice.
With the infighting raging for 18 of the 20 months since the formation of the government, and the legislators enjoying paid vacations that too when the entire world is focused on fighting COVID-19, can anything be expected on the developmental front in the state?
Around 35 million cases are pending in the judiciary at different levels. A common man has to wait for decades to get justice. Is it time to rethink if urgent hearings should be granted to those who fail in their public duties, waste tax payers’ money and make a mockery of the system.
Mr Gehlot by his own admission was well aware of the alleged incompetencies of Mr Pilot since the beginning but did nothing till it threatened his throne. Is this acceptable from a leader duty bound to the public?
In my earlier article
, I had made a suggestion to address the root problem, i.e., party hopping by the legislators for their personal gains. How rampant is the problem in India can be gauged from the fact that since 1994 to 2019, there have only been 89 instances
of Republicans moving to Democrats and vice versa. An average of just 3.5 moves per year!!
My suggestion that no elected representative should be allowed to jump ship more than once in two years now appears to be benign. Eminent lawyer and Congress leader, Kapil Sibal, has suggested a stiffer anti defection law.
Mr Sibal has suggested
amending the 10th Schedule to the Constitution such that defectors are banned from holding public office for five years and from contesting polls. Given how deep and widespread the malaise is, a middle ground should be eminently acceptable.
Hopefully then, at least some improvement can be expected in the level of governance by the public servants.
(Sarvesh Mathur is a senior financial professional, who has earlier worked as CFO of Tata Telecom Ltd and PricewaterhouseCoopers.)