Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Congress V/s Congress

LOA Vol 36 - Issue - 02 - 15 Oct 2012
Congress V/s Congress

Is there a need for all the parties in the Islands to unite and fight against the mammoth Congress? The internecine battles inside the century-old party have already started to manifest its ugly face. The elections to the Local Self Government bodies was the arena, where blood brothers, and khadi-clad Congressmen - New and Old - were engaged in using all tricks of guerilla warfare against each other. The finishing-point of the race of  Congresses inside the Congress will be interesting to watch when it reaches 2014.

By Staff Reporter

In all public meetings or announcements by the opposition parties both small and big of late, opposition speakers have a field day criticizing the Congress Chief Kuldeep Rai Sharma, his family and his relationship with the Administrator. Recent elections to the Chair of Municipal Council and the two Zilla Parishads saw three great battles; one was Kuldeep versus Sudeep at PBMC, second was Kuldeep versus an under suspension technocrat at Zilla Parishad, South Andaman and thirdly Kuldeep versus his own Sony Thomas (a recent TMC import to Congress) at  Zilla Parishad, Middle-North Andaman. This is not the time to be in Kuldeep's shoes in Island's politics. 
Bodies of local self governance are the only institutions wherein decisions for development are made by elected representatives of people. Democratic set up in the Islands has a lone Member of Parliament who if not from the ruling party at the centre is as good as a lame duck. The present MP's histrionics have not yielded any good for the Islanders as routine matters were put into inordinate delays for rubbing the Bureaucrats' egos on and off. In an Administrative set up that is controlled by outside bureaucrats; people have great expectations from Panchayati Raj Institutions and Urban Local Bodies for meeting their aspirations.
Congress for the majority of the island's local self governance history has controlled these institutions baring a few years when the opposition controlled it. Once in the past the opposition was shunted out of power midway by the most popular Lt. Governor of the Islands to date, when it was christened a Pradesh Parishad. This Parishad never saw light of the day again. Secondly the 'Bharatiya Janata Party -the Party with a difference' and its allies when at the helm in the rearranged institutions of self governance -the Zilla Parishad and the Municipal Council were no good either with large scale corruption and having made a few millionaires of its own.
Poor islanders have been mute spectators to the large scale misappropriation of public exchequer by our representatives since inception of these institutions. To facilitate equitable share of this misappropriation a novel concept was designed. For the entire tenure of these institutions change of guard takes place annually, as to who will head them as Chairperson or Adhyaksh/Adhyaksha as the case maybe. This is the time when our elected representatives have a field day. Horse trading is the norm and cash plays a big role. The person who bags the coveted post spends a lot to get there and once there, goes all out to recover his investment plus a lot more for eternity.
Congress by virtue of its Government at Centre and commanding the attention of the local bureaucrats has an easier task to lure the fence sitters and stake claim to control these bodies. Last local bodies elections had not given Congress absolute majority but it still controls the PBMC and the two Zilla Parishads. Congress has a history of being a party which is top heavy and revolves around a few individuals calling all the shots. Manoranjan Bhakta's reign as an MP saw the party function without any major hiccups. There was space for a few in Bhakta's loyalist who would run the party, hold various positions and even make money locally. Bhakta meanwhile was a national player, built his empire around his non-resident Islanders- daughters, son-in-laws and grandkids in the mainland from the big stakeholders venturing in the Islands for business.
Kuldeep Rai Sharma as fate would have had it, dethroned Bhakta and got the party on a platter when Bhakta formed the Trinamool Congress. Political power in the islands or for that matter the whole country revolves around money to be misappropriated from various democratic institutions of power. If one happens to have enough money this would suffice to tilt the scales in your favour in any election is a popular notion. As an aspiring unemployed educated Island youth looking for a vocation, Kuldeep found it easy to dabble into politics as he was the son of a rich Government servant who was always in the news for wrong reasons. Congress has a long history of king makers and sidekicks of the party's main leaders; right from Sardar Nechal Singh Chawla to date. These sidekicks switched sides for Kuldeep especially when an ageing Bhakta got disconnected with the Islanders with failing health and made some foolish decisions of his own. These very bunches of sidekicks have brought about the downfall of many great Congress leaders and now its Kuldeep's turn. Kuldeep has the distinction of being an autocrat like his predecessors in the party with the only exception being he has to have a finger in every pie and eat it too. There's no room for others. All the resources and the positions are to go to him or his immediate family. Certain chain of events in the past six years with the reign of the present Lt. Governor has made matters worse for him. He has been branded anti to certain communities and no matter how hard he tries this outlook of those communities will not change. Kuldeep has failed to find a balance in his approach towards all communities and the prime reason being his greed for absolute power without yielding any space for others. Dissidences in the party are brewing and the results are for all to see in bodies of local self governance. 2014 has a bleak future for the Congress in the Islands as its leadership is plagued with the same disease that is crippling the Central leadership- 'Corruption, directionless policies and disconnect with the grass roots cadres'. Amidst the recent swearing in ceremonies of our new VIPs in institutions of local self governance, it is interesting to chart the turn of events, where it was the Congress leadership who could only wait for events to unfold on its own merit rather than do anything as was the case with the opposition parties too.

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