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UPA redux at the centre?



After over two months in power, the BJP-led NDA government has given the impression that it is following in the slipstream of the erstwhile UPA dispensation. The new government seems keen on emulating not just the positive side of the UPA regime but its flip side as well.

If some political observers say that it is, in essence, a 'B' team of the UPA --- if you set apart its ideological agenda, hidden or otherwise --- they cannot be faulted. A large section of the voters who had expected a different, out-of-the-box-thinking central government, post-poll, is a tad disillusioned. Congress says that it is a testament to the rightness of its policies the BJP had been rubbishing throughout the campaign season.

Talking about the similarity of the two governments, what springs to mind is the Modi government's shafting of the governors appointed by the previous government. The sacking of Mizoram governor Kamla Beniwal is the latest (at the time of writing this piece) of its kind. Reports suggest Maharashtra governor is set to get the boot too.

We all know that there had been a running battle between Beniwal and Prime Minister Narendra Modi when they were Gujarat governor and chief minister respectively. Modi, as chief minister, had delayed the appointment of Lokayukta or ombudsman for eight years.

Beniwal then waded in and appointed Justice R.A. Mehta as the Lokayukta, something that stuck in Modi's craw. Beniwal had taken advantage of a Supreme Court order that allowed the governor to appoint Lokayukta if there was any undue delay.

Beniwal also returned Lokayukta Commission Bill 2013 passed by the Gujarat assembly on the plea that it had given the government full authority of appointing Lokayukta, totally ignoring the governor. It was clear that Modi wanted full power for himself, which the then governor refused point blank.

Congress and other opposition parties allege that the shunting of Kamla Beniwal to Mizoram as governor and then sacking her summarily reeks of vindictive politics. The dismissal comes barely two months before the end of her tenure. Showing her the door just days after her new appointment is not just an attempt to get even with her but a dirty trick to administer the coup de grace.

This is unacceptable by any yardstick or any genuine book of moral laws. She should have been sacked when she was Gujarat governor or allowed to complete the remaining months.

She, on her part, should have called it quits on her own, though it's entirely another matter.

It might be true that Beniwal had been a spendthrift governor. But that should be dealt with separately. As matter of fact, there must be a proper audit of the governor's expenses. S/he cannot live a life of Riley on taxpayers' money.

There needs to be a rethinking about the post of governor. Do we need a governor at all?

Should a governor be appointed by the president on the advice of the government or should s/he be elected? Whatever, the constitution should be suitably amended to allow the governor to live a decent life and not a luxurious life.

At the moment, the gubernatorial post is more a trophy for the ruling party loyalists than a responsible job on the pleasure of the president. Sacking of governors is just one way, if bad, of emulating the UPA government. There are many such policy and non-policy matters which the BJP is keen to embrace though in opposition it had denounced them all tout de suite.

The Aadhaar card is a prime example. The saffron party had been crying hoarse against this identification system. Modi, as Gujarat chief minister, had said his state had its own system of identification. At best, BJP argued, that Aadhaar should be merged with NPR (National Population Register). In a stunning volte-face, the Modi government has now decided to continue with this system and allotted more funds for it.

The BJP-ruled states had opposed GST and VAT earlier but now the party is keen on their implementation. Again the party had vehemently opposed the incremental diesel price hike, but now it had no problem with it whatsoever.

It had been clamouring for making public the list of people who have stashed away their money in Swiss banks. The new government says there is no such list and that we must go after domestic black money instead.

The same is the case with insurance and nuclear liability bills where the saffron party has pretty much reversed its earlier stands.    

The writer is a freelance contributor based in India. All the views and opinions expressed in the article are solely those of the author and do not reflect those of Times of Oman.


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