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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

And they laugh at Goa’s horse-trading

How the national media ridiculed Goa and its toppling games over the years; its horse-trading and huge monies squandered on buying or preventing MLAs from crossing sides. Now it’s funny to hear the same media persons and “intellectuals” of the nation speak knowledgeably of numbers, of combinations and permutations when what it all boils down to is a Goa-style toppling party sponsored by the taxpayer: horse-trading and buying and selling of MPs exposing themselves up to the highest bidder. I am watching the BJP members storming the well of the house showing many bundles of Rs1000 notes amounting to a crore each that was given to them to abstain from voting. There is a sense of crushing shame.

The going rate they say is Rs 20 crore per MP. That never ceases to amaze… the obscene amount of wealth that comes out of bottomless party pockets… Forget about desperate farmers killing themselves so that their families can get some compensation. Forget about Oriyas digging for edible roots. We have been trying to link the rivers of the country so that flooding could be contained, so that river navigation could take the load off railways and roads and most importantly, so that our farmers would not be dependent on the vagaries of the climate. But no, the nation cannot afford it. Yet MPs come with a blank cheque attached and funds are no longer a problem at the Centre.

Toppling a government is a major industry, with parties guarding their own and going to unbelievable lengths to keep them from bolting across to the competition. The word “No” does not exist. All demands are accepted, mulled over and delivered. Airports named after candidate’s fathers, turning the thumbscrews on the business enemies of one party’s protégés, the list is endless and backbones get flexible with everyone bending over backwards to comply.

Parliament has never worked as steadily, as diligently or as openly as it has in these few days working towards the Confidence Vote. Sleuths are hired to keep an eye on wavering MPs in Delhi. Sleuths are hired to keep an eye on the enemy camp to see whom they are approaching. Here too in the MP market, the middle men reign supreme. They scurry around between the buyers and sellers pushing MP prices as high as they can go and by the claims of many, the sky is the limit. Here too the middle men make a killing as does the MP up for sale, only the middle man grows fat and healthy on commissions from both parties.

We have entered an age of commissions which are different from kickbacks. Kickbacks are illegal commissions, in the form of a large bribe to an individual in a position of power to use public funds to purchase a bad product for the country. Commissions are legal, they argue, a percentage paid to the facilitator who brings two parties together to do business.

There are those who argue that without a facilitator nothing would get done, that they are the grease that runs the wheel of business. But when this system is used in the buying and selling of Members of Parliament, then we cannot in all conscience call it ‘commissions’ paid to the go-betweens. It’s public money that is being paid by those in power to buy a bad product. Not commission, definitely kickbacks. A nation is at risk while the horse-trading rampages on. If Goa is an example of the ruin of a state as a result of legislators up for sale, imagine the hell the country is headed for with Members of Parliament going to the highest bidder.

Which leads one to the conclusion: whether strong or weak, it’s a ‘stable’ government at all times. Steady and productive; or bursting with horses ready to be traded.

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