Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Of instituitions and inspiration

APJ Abdul Kalam was perhaps the most inspirational Presidential appointment of this country in this generation. From someone who was faraway, Kalam brought the Presidential chair closer to the people, he showed them the human element. He met people, he inspired them, he wrote books, he spoke well and most of all maintained and exponentially increased the dignity of the chair he occupied. For the first time ever a President shared is vision in such a simple manner so as to light up the eyes and mind of those who heard him. His books continue to be best sellers and many people I met, children I knew all loved the erudite “missile-man” President who was at home with people.

And then the Congress had a glorious chance to go a step better. And what they did after that need not be said; you got my hint I suppose. They transformed the chair into a chair for loyalists of the party – in the one chance they had. And the next chance, going by the grapevine, does not seem to be going in a radically different direction.

Their record of appointment of the CEC also is not a record worth noting – the least of them being the appointment of Navin Chawla. The said person’s only meritorious accomplishment is finding a mention in the Shah Commission report, ““unfit to hold any public office which demands an attitude of fair play and consideration for others”. The outgoing CEC had sent in a note of dissent on his appointment and that was conveniently ignored by the government. Post Chawla, the current incumbent has, like all Congress appointees, stuck to the Congress interest firmly. The most recent decision was the ruckus regarding covering pachyderm statues in Noida, ostensibly because it harms voters to see elephant statues and the statues of their Chief Ministers.

And then we move onto the CVC - The Central Vigilance Commissioner, where the least ask was to appoint an upright officer. The government chose PJ Thomas (despite a dissenting note from the Leader of the Opposition) and had egg on its face since the case went all the way upto the Supreme Court. The SC ruled that his appointment itself was illegal.

The Congress record of appointing governors has also been less than exemplary – and they have used loyalty over merit every single time. Karnataka’s current governor was a law minister and has always been more than eager to interfere in what can be called matters of governance. One Andhra Pradesh governor, an ageing Congress politician was also booted out after being seen on live on TV in a not so uncompromising position.

The CBI and the IT Department are long been handmaidens of the ruling party. Their current use is restricted to conducting raids on opposition supporters. Either the raids begin when the person moves out of Congress or is about to and miraculously the raids stop when the person switches allegiances back. Just a few days ago, there were raids on a Mr. Ponty Chadda supposedly close to BSP Chief Mayawati, who suddenly became an outlaw and invited the ire of these departments. A few months ago, it was the turn of Jagan Reddy, son of Congress favourite chief minister YSR of Andhra Pradesh. The CM was the blue eyed boy and the moment his son shifted allegiances, he invited the wrath of the CBI. Not to forget the government’s top law officer asking the CBI to close the case on ally Mulayam Singh’s disproportionate assets case.

And that brings us to the Army. The latest controversy regarding the army chiefs age was needless. And we are not done yet.

The curious case of Madhavan Nair ex-chairman of ISRO who finds himself a scapegoat alongwith 3 scientists is too recent to be forgotten. The Antrix-Devas deal in question in which government finds itself in a soup was carried out as per procedure keeping the government in the loop as per Madhavan Nair. And yet, he is the fall guy. He has demanded that the reports of committees on the deal be made public. Given the record of the government, I am inclined to believe Madhavan Nair more than anybody in the government.

And thus continues the Congress saga of denigrating institutions. These institutions which were created to keep the government in check are slowly but surely being checkmated with political appointments. A final word on the Lokpal – whose fate is in limbo currently. What is the guarantee that this government will make a mockery of a position like this as well? Given that the CEC is also a constitutional body but nicely malleable to the whims and fancies of you know who?

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