People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 27

July 05, 2009

Madhya Pradesh Newsletter


Jaswinder Singh


NOW it is Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan who has opened his mouth. That is, the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. After the BJP�s poor performance in the Lok Sabha polls, he got the revelation that the prime minister and the chief ministers must be directly elected.


This revelation, however, did not come all of a sudden. He had put forth his opinion immediately after the polls. But, what are the implications?


Let us have a glance at the BJP�s poll campaign and see what was its chief electoral plank. A strong leader and a determined government! One may say that the BJP raised the issue of internal security as well. Its election manifesto also mentioned the Ram temple and the Ram Setu issues. This is correct; all these issues and many more were indeed there. But all these issues revolved around the same central slogan --- the slogan of a strong leader and a determined government. In other words, the whole poll campaign of the BJP was centred on just one name --- Advani, Advani and Advani.


Could not the elections have been fought without all this? Is it necessary, in a parliamentary democracy, to decide on the prime ministerial candidate beforehand? If yes, then why do other parties not do the same? It is different with the BJP. Whether it is a Lok Sabha election or an assembly election, the BJP invariably asks others to specify who would be the prime minister or the chief minister after the polls. In sum, the burning issues facing the people get relegated to the background and �who would become the leader of the party in the parliament or assembly� becomes the all-important question for the BJP. It is another thing that, in our parliamentary democracy, parties elect their leaders in the concerned house after the polls and that the BJP has to follow suit. Here, a prime minister or a chief minister is the leader of the concerned house and not of a party.


Let us recall how the BJP had, during the Lok Sabha polls in 2004, raised a hullabaloo on the question of leader. It had already declared Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee its leader and accused others that they don�t have done so. But the opposition still refrained from declaring a leader. It is another thing that the people refused to give the BJP the mandate to form a government as the Vajpayee government�s policies were not acceptable to them. It was then that Dr Manmohan Singh became the prime minister, which nobody had anticipated.


After the recent Lok Sabha polls, the BJP had had to hold a formal meeting of its parliamentary party and elect Shri Advani Ji its leader. Given the BJP�s mode of functioning, this was nothing but a superfluous exercise as it had already declared that Shri Advani Ji would be the its parliamentary party leader. This is the inbuilt hypocrisy in its functioning.


Another facet of the BJP comes to the fore here. It was more than a year ago when the party had declared Shri Advani Ji its leader for the 15th Lok Sabha. And the leader too felt nice when his followers called him the �prime minister in waiting,� and he encouraged others to call him thus. Yet Shri Advani Ji did not want to accept the people�s mandate; he refused to be elected the leader of the BJP parliamentary party and thus lead the elected members of his party in parliament. It is another thing that he agreed to be persuaded to accept this position, and that the party had had to elect him to this position so as to postpone yet another bout of inner-party feud.


The problem is that it is the BJP�s wont to distort the facts according to its convenience and to give a theoretical garb to whatever suits it at a particular moment. If Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan is really serious about his argument, he should first ask his conscience as to how he is in the chief minister�s position at all. In November 2003, the BJP had contested the assembly polls in the leadership of Ms Uma Bharti who was then made the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh. Then, how come that she was told to vacate the position in favour of Shri Babulal Gaur? And how come that Gaur was, in his turn, replaced by Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan who was, mind it, not even elected to the assembly?


In a parliamentary democracy, every party has to go to the people with its set of policies and the importance is of the policies and not of individuals. Then a party has to accept the mandate the people give. It may also be that a party gets the mandate to form a government but the declared leader of the party loses the poll. Is it justified if such a leader is then made the leader of the party in the concerned house?


It is not a question of Shri Chauhan�s thinking alone; the danger is from the BJP�s mode of thinking that threatens to overturn the parliamentary democratic system here. This very system is an anathema to its whole attitude of imposing a monolithic uniformity on the country --- with its slogan of one religion, one language and one culture. That is why the BJP favours an American style presidential system with an exceptionally powerful, directly elected president, who is not answerable to the parliament in most of the matters.  


But the BJP�s misfortune is that parliamentary democracy has struck quite deep roots in our country and therefore the party is not in a position to openly say what it wants. Hence the never- ending search for camouflages for its nefarious designs. Hence its talks of one or another dubious kind of constitution amendment, for example an amendment to rigidly fix the tenure of the Lok Sabha and state assemblies at five years so that they are not dissolved mid-way. The Chauhan talk of a directly elected prime minister or chief minister comes in this very category. This is a ploy to make the prime minister or a chief minister unaccountable to the concerned house.


What will be the implication? In our system, it is necessary that the leader of a house enjoys the latter�s confidence, but will (s)he be able to win the house�s confidence if (s)he is not accountable to the house? The proposal is fraught with the possibility of conflict between the house and the chief executive. At any time and on any issue, the latter may well challenge the house, saying that he is directly elected and not accountable to the house. What is therefore of utmost importance in this context is that one must grasp the implications of the BJP�s design and foil it so as to protect and further deepen our parliamentary democratic system.




While the state government�s slogan is that Madhya Pradesh should be ahead of other states, the tragedy is that the state is not only backward in the matter of higher education, its ranking among the Indian states is quite low. According to the published state-wise data about the gross enrolment ratio of the persons in the 18-23 years age group, Madhya Pradesh stands 23rd among the India states. This bitter fact comes out from a recent report published by the University Grants Commission.


One notes that the UGC had constituted a commission under the chairmanship of Professor S P Thyagarajan of Chennai after the prime minister, in 2007, talked of the need of improvements in higher education. When this committee selected the gross enrolment ratio as the criterion for judging the state of higher education, it found that while the GER was 12.4 per cent n the country as a whole, it was only 8.92 per cent in Madhya Pradesh. The report says 370 out of the 593 districts in the country are most backward on this count, and Madhya Pradesh alone accounts for 39 of these. It is another matter that Shri Shivraj Singh Chauhan has not given chanting the �Madhya Pradesh Sab Se Aage� mantra.   




While the peasants in this part of the country are bracing themselves for kharif cultivation, about four lakh peasants in the state have not yet received the amounts they should have under the crop insurance scheme. According to the government data, this amount comes to 250 crore rupees.


One notes that peasants are covered in this scheme at a minimum premium payment, so that they are compensated for the crop losses the natural disasters cause. In this scheme, the central and state governments bear half of the cost each. The amount paid to the affected peasants under this scheme is over and above the relief money they get from the state government at the time of a natural disaster.


As is its wont, the Shivraj Singh government is busy blaming the central government in order to cover up its own failures. Its contention is that the delay in payment is because the centre has not yet paid its share of the insurance amount. Be that as it may, the situation right now is that peasants have to purchase seeds, fertilisers etc for the kharif cultivation, and the non-payment of insurance money to such a large number of peasants may adversely affect their cultivation work.




Here is an example of how the bureaucracy keeps devising new methods to harass the common people. The district collectors in Madhya Pradesh have issued an order for the cancellation of all BPL cards issued to such persons as have not worked under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). For example, in 49 panchayats of Kailaras tehsil in Moreina district alone, notices have been served for the cancellation of 3,016 BPL cards. But the fact is that these card holders were not given work under the NREGA.


Because of this kind of tyrannical order, the people living below the poverty line (BPL) are now in the grip of a double trouble. While the village chiefs and lower level officials are not giving them any work, the higher-ups are out to cancel their BPL cards which give hem an iota of relief in the form of cheaper, even if low-quality, food grains.


The state committee of the CPI(M) has strongly protested against this extremely idiotic measure that is symbolic of the bureaucracy�s anti-poor thinking, and demanded immediate withdrawal of the order. It has also demanded that all obstacles in the employment of rural people willing to get work under NREGA must be removed forthwith.