Pseudo-Secularism

Hindu dharma is implicitly at odds with monotheistic intolerance. What is happening in India is a new historical awakening... Indian intellectuals, who want to be secure in their liberal beliefs, may not understand what is going on. But every other Indian knows precisely what is happening: deep down he knows that a larger response is emerging even if at times this response appears in his eyes to be threatening.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Governance & Politics

By L.K. Advani

Our understanding of Good Governance is very clear and has been articulated by us on many occasions. We believe that India has immense potential for emerging as a Developed Nation, development here being understood in the Indian sense of the term, as the integral and all-sided progress of the society and the individual. We believe that India has all that is required to become a strong, prosperous and harmonious nation, capable of performing its civilisational role in changing the affairs of the world.

There can be no reason for any Indian to remain a victim of poverty. And there can be no justification for India to show weakness in defending itself against any threat to its unity, integrity and security.

If India has not developed to its full potential in the six decades after Independence, it is because of the failure of the politics of those who ruled for the longest period to transform Swaraj into Su-raj—self-governance into good governance.

India has suffered because governance has suffered deterioration. Politics, for many of its practitioners, has become commerce. Because of corruption in high places, the poison has spread in many parts of the governance structure. As a result, the citizen feels harassed and humiliated whenever he approaches the government for a legitimate purpose.

Most obviously, corruption has also stunted and distorted India’s economic growth.

Misuse of institutions of governance

Good Governance has been impaired because of another reason. The temptation to misuse power has emboldened its wielders to become more and more reckless in manipulation of our democratic institutions. For example, the CBI has been brazenly misused to protect Ottavio Quattrocchi, the prime accused in the Bofors scandal.

Why did the Prime Minister allow this? At whose behest? In order to protect whom did he allow protection to be given to Quattrocchi? The nation awaits answers from Dr. Manmohan Singh. He cannot adopt silence as his shield.

More recently, we have seen bizarre instances of protection given to certain politicians accused in cases of disproportionate assets. When they were opposed to the government, the cases were vigorously pursued. It became an altogether different story when they decided to support the government.

Doesn’t this kind of manipulative poa growing disconnect between politicians and the people?

These are questions which even all of us in the BJP have to ponder about. Every worker, office-bearer, legislator and minister belonging to the BJP must realise that we are required to set a different example in politics and governance.

It goes without saying, therefore, that what India needs today is not merely replacement of one ruling party by another. Not merely replacement of a party and coalition that wants to remain in power by adopting the most unethical, corrupt and scandalous means, as was evident recently, by another unscrupulous party or rag-tag coalition that does the same thing.

Trust Vote: Contrasting behaviour of NDA and UPA Governments

What India needs today is a party—a party like the BJP—that is deeply committed to the canons and ideals of democracy, development and good governance. We have shown our commitment to democracy many times, most notably during the fight against the Emergency. We have demonstrated our commitment to development and good governance when the people gave the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance the mandate to rule for six years (1998-2004) under the leadership of Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Let me cite just example to show the contrasting cultures of the NDA government and the UPA government. In 1999, our government was defeated by one vote—just one vote. And even that one vote was a fraudulent vote. But nobody, not even our critics, accused us of having indulged in horse-trading to retain power. We accepted the challenge, went back to the people to give us a renewed mandate, and we did receive a decisive mandate again.

As against this, what happened in July 2008? The Congress and its allies won the trust vote by desecrating the very temple of democracy! The entire country saw our three MPs, who acted as whistle-blowers, displaying bundles of currency notes worth one crore rupees in Parliament. The bribe money came from the saviours of the UPA Government, which was desperate to convert its minority into majority by purchasing MPs. This kind of brazen horse-trading was never seen in the history of Indian Parliament.

This could not have happened without the knowledge and consent of the top leadership of the Congress party and the government. The nation expects Smt. Sonia Gandhi and Dr. Manmohan Singh to break their silence on this unprecedented scandal, which has sullied the reputation of Indian democracy in the eyes of the world.

A parliamentary committee is now inquiring into the matter. The people of India expect the outcome of the inquiry to be fair and expeditious. It is a matter of concern that the principal accused in the scandal has not been summoned by the Inquiry Committee so far. However, I would like to warn the leaders of the Congress party and the Government that any attempt to cover up the truth in this scandal—as was indeed done by the JPC in the Bofors case—will not be tolerated by the people. This happened in 1989; it will happen again in 2009.

The blot on Indian Parliament— and I have compared this blot to the shame of Emergency imposed in 1975 by the then Congress government—will be removed only when the truth about this scandal is uncovered and the guilty are punished. The very future of India’s parliamentary democracy would be endangered if “Cash-for-Votes” becomes the norm.

In a scathing indictment of Dr. Manmohan Singh’s performance as Prime Minister, renowned journalist Shri M.J. Akbar has made the following observation in a recent article: “Manmohan Singh’s reputation for personal honesty was the last remaining asset of the Congress after four years of government. The voter did not ever believe his ministers to be clean. After the cash-for-votes-and-hide-the-tape scandal, Manmohan Singh is just another sullied politician, willing to feast on Grub Street in the company of the most famous bagmen, and travel the gravy train chatting with fixers and pushers in order to remain in office.”

Our firm commitment to legal and judicial reforms


Friends, since this conference is organised by the BJP’s Legal and Legislative Cell, let me take this opportunity to reiterate our strong commitment to legal and judicial reforms. It is well known to all the concerned and conscientious sections of the legal fraternity that one of the principal hurdles in the path of Good Governance is the state of the justice-delivery system in India.

We are proud of the independence of our judiciary, which must be protected under all circumstances. However, we cannot be oblivious to the many shortcomings in the system. Indeed, these shortcomings have been highlighted and serious concerns expressed thereof by many respected members of the legal and judicial fraternity itself.

If the people give us the mandate to form the next government at the Centre, it is my solemn assurance to make legal and judicial reforms one of the points of highest priority in our agenda of Good Governance.

Let me be specific. In our country, many instances of injustice go unaddressed and citizens, especially poor citizens, suffer violation of their rights because of the justice-delivery system is mostly inaccessible and unaffordable. Delivery of speedy and high-quality justice remains a mirage. Over 20 million cases are pending in different courts all over the country, some since 1950. In India, the judge-population ratio is 10.5 judges for every 10 lakh citizens. In contrast, there are 107 Judges in the USA for 10 lakh citizens.

Therefore, our first commitment will be to vastly enhance the budgetary allocation to unclog the judicial system and minimise the delays. In India, only 0.2 percent of the GNP is spent on the judiciary. We shall increase it by five times in five years. State Governments will be fully supported in filling vacancies in existing posts in the subordinate courts. This would dramatically decrease pending cases.

Secondly, a major problem in India—and it is a problem both for the citizen and the judicial system—is that the Central, State and local governments are themselves the largest litigators. We shall take all measures necessary to reduce this burden by removing the chaff from the grain.

Thirdly, I am aware that both citizens and the legal fraternity across the country feel that the Supreme Court, which is the apex level of our judicial system, has become too remote, too inaccessible and too burdened with all kinds of cases. There is, therefore, a suggestion that there should be four zonal Benches of the Supreme Court in Delhi (for northern India), Kolkata (for eastern and north-eastern India), Chennai (for southern India) and Mumbai (for western and central India) only to hear appeals from the High Courts. The principal or main bench of the Supreme Court in New Delhi should concern itself with Constitutional matters, inter-state disputes and other important matters. We could consider this reform if there is broad consensus on it.

Fourthly, we are willing to consider any effective mechanism for fast-track disposal of cases involving major economic offences and major corruption cases against politicians and civil servants. This is necessary to strengthen people’s faith in the political and judicial system.

I shall soon set up an advisory committee, headed by Shri Arun Jaitley and comprising eminent legal and Constitutional experts, to prepare an agenda for legal and judicial reforms as part of our larger agenda of good governance. This will be made available for a nationwide debate before its adoption.

India is not safe in Congress hands


My last point concerns the Criminal Justice system, where the situation in alarming. In India, the rate of conviction is only six-seven per cent. This has created a situation in which criminals tend to feel safe and beyond the pale of law. Since I was in charge of the Home Ministry in the NDA Government, I had appointed the Justice Malimath Committee whose recommendations on the criminal justice system have been the most comprehensive so far. Justice V.S. Malimath had rightly said: “As a result of inordinate delays in disposal of cases and poor rate of conviction, crimes had become a profitable business.... The people do not trust the system any more”.

This is true not only about normal crimes, but, alarmingly, also about crimes relating to terrorist and subversive acts. No nation that is concerned about its security and cherishes good governance can tolerate this situation.

Friends, the UPA Government’s attitude towards dealing with terrorist crimes is most shocking, almost bordering on a crime against the nation. Its very first act after assuming office in 2004 was to repeal POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002). Its flimsy plea was that POTA was being misused. Can misuse of a law in some cases be justification for repeal of the law itself? By this logic, all laws on the statute book, including laws to contain ordinary crimes, have to be repealed since all of them tend to be misused sometimes.

Recently, Shri Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, had come to Delhi to brief the Prime Minister about how the state police achieved a breakthrough in its investigation into the recent serial bomb blasts in Ahmedabad. He also once again urged the Prime Minister for Central Government’s recommendation for Presidential assent to the Gujarat Control Of Organised Crime Act , 2004. Several other states have passed similar anti-terrorism laws, which are pending clearance at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Maharashtra already has such a law in operation.

The Prime Minister’s negative response to Shri Modi’s plea has once again validated our charge that the UPA Government is not only incompetent to fight terrorism, but has no willingness to do so. Its lack of willingness stems from its politics of vote-bank politics. We recently saw yet another shocking manifestation of this politics of minorityism when some members of the Union Cabinet welcomed the lifting of the ban on SIMI.

No less worrying is the UPA Government’s mishandling of the Jammu & Kashmir situation, which has provided oxygen to the separatist forces.

This being the Congress party’s approach to politics and governance, we have to educate the people that India is not at all safe in the hands of its present rulers. There is growing anger among the people at what is happening in Kashmir. There is also apprehension that terrorist and separatist forces would get more emboldened in the days to come.

I would like to tell all my colleagues in the BJP that today a heavy responsibility to defend the unity, integrity and security of our Motherland has fallen on our shoulders. We must warn the evil forces that are conspiring to dismember our country and spread death and destruction in our land that they will soon face the heat. They will have no comfort of the kid-glove treatment that the UPA Government is giving them. The Indian State is sensitive to the legitimate concern of every section of our society, but it cannot be soft towards those who are plotting against it. The BJP will unleash the might of the Indian State and the patriotic power of the Indian people against anti-national forces of every hue.

These are the thoughts I wanted to share with all of you today. I wish all success to your national conference.

(The article is based on Shri L.K. Advani's speech at a seminar organised by the BJP Legal & Legislative Cell at Mavalankar Hall in New Delhi on August 30, 2008.)

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