by Seema Mustafa
Dr Singh wants to bow out of office - he does not know if he is ever going to be Prime Minister again, with accolades from the US and the international community (read the west). His constituency is outside
India, and through this deal he wants to meet its every requirement. As for what the country is going into, there are many here who have spelt it out but the government has decided not to listen. The government says that the nuclear deal is not part of a strategic alliance. Every US official, from Rice to Burns, has said it is.
The government has lost the trust of the nation. And if the abstentions and cross voting is taken into account, it has also lost the trust vote in the Lok Sabha. The wheeling dealing paralysed politics in the capital for weeks, as party leaders and their flunkeys went through the Lok Sabha list to identify vulnerable MPs. Not just vulnerable in terms of their anger or resentment with their party bosses, but also vulnerable in their approach to money.
The money bags moved into the capital meeting the demands of hard cash. Rs three crores, ten crores, 15 crores, 25 crores, even 30 crores were the figures in mention, as the MPs were approached by top political leaders and offered ministerial posts, tickets, the moon for their support. CPI leader A.B.Bardhan put a figure to it, "Rs 25 crores," and this stuck. No one from even the Samajwadi party or the Congress was able to successfully erase this and when the three BJP MPs walked into Parliament holding a crore of rupees as the initial down payment for abstentions, there was no protest from the treasury benches. It was only later that the Samajwadi leader Amar Singh and political secretary to the Congress president, Ahmed Patel who were named by the BJPs, faced journalists to insist that they were not involved. Singh accused the BJP trio of being "political prostitutes", while Patel offered to resign if any of the charges against him were proved true.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi were all smiles at the end of the vote, as were sections of the corporate media. Singh was probably happy that he entered Parliaments record books as the first prime minister who did not vote on his own confidence motion as he is a member of the Rajya Sabha; and is also the first Prime Minister who was not able to respond to the debate and had to table his speech. Just as well as the content of what he had to say would have brought the House down. The pettiness was reflected in his response to the debate, with the result that two institutions of Parliamentary democracy were degraded in the process. One, of the Prime Minister for using language that did not add to the stature of the office or to Parliament and in fact dragged it down to a base level. Two, of the Leader of the Opposition who was shown little respect by the Prime Minister, with the present incumbent L.K.Advani being attacked and ridiculed in cheap terms. Both were a first insofar as debates on confidence motions in Parliament were concerned, and reflected the sordidness of the drama staged in and outside the Lok Sabha.
Dr Manmohan Singh stature might have grown for those who believe that every trick in the book should be utilized to become a subordinate ally of the United States. But it has diminished dramatically in the world of real politics, where the question being asked with increasing resonance is: why is he in such desperate haste, what is he getting out of it, what is he getting us into? The answers are all in the negative. The haste, as everyone by now knows, is being determined by the most unpopular President in US history, George W.Bush. India is rushing to meet the deadline imposed by Bush and his administration regardless of the fractured verdict that even the current vote in Parliament threw up.
Dr Singh wants to bow out of office - he does not know if he is ever going to be Prime Minister again, with accolades from the US and the international community (read the west). His constituency is outside India, and through this deal he wants to meet its every requirement.
As for what the country is going into, there are many here who have spelt it out but the government has decided not to listen. The government says that the nuclear deal is not part of a strategic alliance. Every US official, from Rice to Burns, has said it is.
>>The government says, India will have the right to test. The US has made it clear over and over again that India does not have this right, and if it does it will lose the nuclear reactors (procured at exorbitant cost) and the fuel.
>>The government says that the deal is not bound by the Hyde Act. Then why did the US Congress spend so much time and effort in passing a Act that is not binding? Every single Congressman knows that the Hyde Act is the enabling legislation, and Indian governments for the next 40-50 years will have to abide by its provisions if they want to continue the nuclear cooperation.
>>The government insists that it is not required to follow a foreign policy congruent with the US. It has already fallen in line on this with the vote against Iran at the IAEA Board of Governors.
>>The government claims that the nuclear deal will answer the country's energy crisis by generating 40,000 megawats after ten years. Every Indian expert, in government or outside, is agreed that this figure will not be met in ten years and it will be more realistic to prune this down to 20,000 megawatts. Besides nuclear energy will meet at best only six per cent of the country's requirements, and will be far more expensive in generation than any other form of energy.
This is just part of it. India will lose her voice, and her right to take sovereign decisions. The US, like the rest of the developed world, is looking for a market. India's huge consumer class provides this but instead of bargaining, we the buyers are accepting the terms set out by the seller. Instead of negotiating a nuclear pact as a straight commercial transaction we have allowed our foreign policy and our strategic autonomy to be tied in knots. I am not going into details here as this part has been elaborated over and over again not just by some journalists, but by strategic experts, nuclear scientists and political parties. Not a single claim of the government has withstood scrutiny on the nuclear deal, leading to falsehoods, lies and now engineered horsetrading where MPs have named key persons. The issue is being enquired into reportedly, but the results of this are still to be known.
The US has perfected the art of manufacturing consensus. Nowhere was this more visible than when Bush decided to invade Iraq. Key domestic lobbies, including the embedded media, were put into the field to manufacture and project a "consensus" through various arguments given by the State Department. The lie became the truth - for instance Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction - and was accepted by the silent majority unchallenged. This is a devious ruse of neo-conservatism and for the first time since independence is being put to good play in India by unscrupulous governments.
The NDA government used terrorism for justifying the worst kind of action. To a point where the susceptible Indians living in cities have admitted, in a recent survey, that for them even torture of the innocent is acceptable in the name of checking terror. The UPA government has further strengthened this, with activists like Binayak Sen, minorities and villagers bearing the brunt of unjustified and brutal state action. A consensus supporting these atrocities was manufactured through careful propaganda, in which the corporate media played a valuable part.
The same strategy has been used for the India US civilian nuclear energy agreement. Of course, the manufactured consensus relies heavily on the ignorance of the chattering classes and the media, as well as on its susceptibility to corruption. Parliament had debated the deal and the consensus last year clearly saw the UPA isolated in both Houses. Despite the control on the propaganda machinery - from the official to the private - the government found itself on the losing side of the debate, and unable to move ahead without serious consequences. In the process, its ability to manufacture consensus was crippled as the majority of parliamentarians opposed the nuclear deal and the unseemly rush to get it through. It was then that the government decided to launch a new operation, where money and muscle power was reportedly used to coerce the consensus. The revelations by the three BJP MPs in the House came as a surprise, but the government and the Speaker decided to ignore the episode altogether and continue with the trust vote. A television channel that was expected to play the tapes, decided not to, and currently it has been left to the Speaker to investigate the allegations.
Of course in the meanwhile, everything for the poor and the oppressed remains as before. Electricity, a prime demand till a few years ago, has taken a back seat as the poor are now finding it impossible to even get one meal a day. Kalavati, who earned Rahul Gandhi a big round of applause in the House, is not waiting for nuclear energy as he said. Even when it comes, if it comes, she will not be able to afford it. She is waiting for just sufficient food to keep her nine children from going to bed hungry. To keep them alive.
This dear Prime Minister is the real India that the Left parties were trying to educate you about. And which is not visible to you or Washington. It is unfortunate that instead of learning you felt like a bonded slave. Perhaps some one should send you the variations of the same thought circulating through SMS. These point out: the PM does not mind being a bonded slave to Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi. And again, is the PM a bonded slave to Washington? Are you?