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Apna Sapna Money Money!:TIME TO ABOLISH RAJYA SABHA, By Poonam I Kaushish, 7 June, 2016 Print E-mail

Political Diary

New Delhi, 7 June 2016

Apna Sapna Money Money!


By Poonam I Kaushish


Now days when you see someone holding his nose you don’t know whether it’s pollution or politics. Either way the net result is the same. Increasing political pollution replete with contaminated smog, toxic waste and sleazy fumes.


The latest in an ever-growing series of political skullduggery is on full public display in the on-going Rajya Sabha biennial elections. A gory account of money and more money. Epitomising as never before that polls are all about sleaze baby!


Who cares? Join the celebrations by our Right Honourables as another bastion of our young democracy comes crashing down. A “sting” by a TV channel purportedly showing Karnataka JD(S) and Congress legislators negotiating money in crores in exchange, for their votes in the biennial elections to four Rajya Sabha seats from the State.


More. Another channel showed a Congress candidate and independent legislator reportedly speaking about getting enhanced development funds for the constituency by the State Government in return for votes. Followed by an ever so predictable reaction by our netagan.


Asserted Chief Minister Siddaramaiah, “Congress never done such things.” Really? The BJP accused the ruling Congress of having Rs.100 crores to give to those supporting it along with other benefits. While former Prime Minister Gowda rubbished his son-in-law’s role in the Cash for Vote Scam.


Big deal. Alas, it is an open secret that Rajya Sabha is today a “bought” House whereby like elections to the Lok Sabha, polls herein too have become big business. Shockingly, the figures for ‘buying’ the required number of votes range from Rs.20 crores to Rs.30 crores. The going rate per vote is said to be Rs. 5 crores to Rs.10 crores.


Not a few consider this as a good investment as once elected the MP has a sum of Rs 5 crore annually (Rs 30 crore for 6 years) under the MP Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS), to “spend” read do as they please, as he has no particular constituency per se, unlike his Lok Sabha counterpart.


Remember BSP Chief Mayawati let the cat out by virtually auctioning the House nomination to the highest bidder a few years ago. Wherein she reportedly openly extolled her MPs had to “donate” their MPLADS if they wanted her to nominate them to the Rajya Sabha.


Any wonder, with each passing year the character and quality of the Rajya Sabha is sharply deteriorating. Personal loyalty to the leader, monetary considerations and political connections get precedence over competence and experience.


Worse, the Council of States has failed to evolve a distinct role for itself as the torch bearer of the State’s concerns and is functioning more and more as a parallel (and competing) political chamber to the Lok Sabha.


If one had hoped that the Supreme Court would set things right it was not to be. It held that a candidate need not be a domicile of a State from where he seeks elections. Thereby, opening the floodgates of powerbrokers and Lok Sabha losers finding ‘safe’ Rajya Sabha seats for a price and more. 


Bluntly, the States’ voice over the years has got lost in the din of the power brokers and the money bags, who strut about like peacocks in the changing Rajya Sabha kaleidoscope. Shouting has replaced serious debate and the polity has converted the Rajya Sabha into an invoice for self and pelf.


Arguably what is it about the Rajya Sabha that has money bags, powerful industrialist and power-brokers panting to get a slice of the action? Succinctly, power. Discredited ex-MP and ‘King of Bad Debts’ Vijay Mallya was open about how he had ‘intoxicated’ Karnataka MLAs with his money to wean a seat courtesy Gowda’s JD (S) and BJP.


Why? When he had it all? In a chat with me, he asserted: “I have the money to buy everything but the trappings of power. As MP I can walk into any Minister’s or babu’s room and he has to attend to me. I can raise any issue, insist on being heard even make outlandish demands, peddle influence etc”.


Scandalously, MPs are members of Standing Committees in which they have business interests. Take Maharashtra’s newspaper baron Vijay Darda and Reliance Petroleum’s director YP Trivedi both were part of the Standing Committee on Finance and the Consultative Committee of Commerce and Industry Ministry.


Ditto were the cases of Bihar’s pharmaceutical tycoon Mahendra Prasad aka 'King Mahendra', Andhra Pradesh’s tobacco exporter and liquor distributor Sambasiva Rao and industrialist MP Srinivasulu Reddy. Jharkhand’s Ahmedabad-based Reliance’s Industries Corporate Affairs Chief Parimal Nathwani. Karnataka’s mining magnate Anil Lad is member of the Standing Committee on Science and Technology, Environment and Forests.


Indeed, the Standing Committees on Finance, Commerce and Industry, Public Accounts Committee and Public Undertakings Committee are highly sought after. Primarily because these committees enable them to work directly with the Minister or Ministry, summon officers generating a lot of clout and being in an advantageous position to influence decisions.


According to National Election Watch 98 MPs have assets worth crores (Congress 33, 21 from BJP and seven from Samajwadi) and 37 MPs have criminal cases pending against them. Industrialist like Kingfishers Vijay Mallya, Videocon’s Rajkumar Dhoot, BP’s Chandrasekhar, Reliance’s Parimal Nathwani, ‘King’ Mahendra  etc underscore how business interests are now operating in Parliament.


Clearly, the Rajya Sabha is seeing diminishing returns role. Unfortunately, the House is not what it was intended to be. Recall, our Constitution-makers wanted it to consist of persons of experience and eminence than those in the Lok Sabha.


It was intended to give an opportunity to seasoned people, who may not be in the thickest of political fray, but who might be willing to participate in the debate with an amount of learning and importance which one does not ordinarily associate with the House of the People.


What next? The time has come to re-write rules that govern membership to Parliament. One view is that the Rajya Sabha could still be made to play a more useful role. JP strongly favoured a Partyless Council whereby only those who had served one stint in the State Assembly or Lok Sabha and no more than two terms should be made MP. 


Today, we have MPs enjoying four-six terms of six years each in the Rajya Sabha without ever fighting an elections to either State Assembly or the Lok Sabha!


I personally feel one should abolish the chamber, as advocated by leading MPs at different times. Significantly, Dr. Ambedkar himself went on record in 1949 to say that the Rajya Sabha was being introduced “purely as an experimental measure” and there was provision for “getting rid” of it.


Morarji Desai, for his part, was one with Harold Laski’s view that “a single chamber best answers the needs of modern states.” Why should the tax payer be financially burdened with unelected MPs whose only contribution is serving their self interest?


Clearly, the Elders must set their House in order, or else the coming months will decide whether the Rajya Sabha will make Indian politics more messy and unworkable. What the Upper House desperately needs is more substance than style. Else its anthem will soon ring to Apna Sapna Money Money! --- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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