October 22, 2020
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Gujarat Debate

Inevitable Elections

Whether in September or October or next February, we cannot simply wish elections in Gujarat away with speeches...but why not allow Amnesty? Why not use Arun Shourie's persuasiveness?

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Inevitable Elections

Extracts from the Rajya Sabha short duration discussion on July 24 on steps taken by government in pursuance of motion adopted under Rule 170 by Rajya Sabha on 6th. May.  

Slightly edited to maintain continuity

Even before this discussion started, the spotlight was on the Election Commission. It is still on the Election Commission, the exclusive constitutional functionary set up to conduct elections. Now, the Assembly has been dissolved by the Governor, and the stage is set for the operation of Section 15(2) of the Representation of People's Act. That section says:

"That the Governor shall, by one or more Notifications, published in the Gazette on such date or dates as may be recommended by the Election Commission, call upon all the constituencies in the State to elect members."

What this House recommends is neither here nor there, the date or dates for the elections are to be recommended by the Election Commissioner, and the State Governor's notification will have to say so.

But, what if -- and that is a big 'if' -- the Governor, which really means the State Government, issues the Notification despite the recommendations of the Election Commission to hold the elections at a date later than September or October.

And, my respectful answer is, that a recommendation is never oral, it is in writing, and obviously the Election Commission will give reasons why it so recommends; and since nothing remains a secret in this country, -- regrettably, not even Cabinet papers -- the country is bound to come to know ultimately what the Election Commission had recommended.

Whatever it recommends, I would say to my hon. friends in the opposition that as you know and I know, elections are inevitable in Gujarat, whether in September or October or next February, and we cannot simply wish them away with speeches. If you do not win the hearts of the people of Gujarat now, if you do not convince them that in Gandhiji's Gujarat that Bapu was right in his concept of India and Godse was wrong, I am afraid, you will have lost the elections whether now or in next February.

What article 174 of the Constitution says or does not say has, I believe, become totally irrelevant, whatever lawyers may say. It will be for the court which will decide in God's good time, only after the elections, and not before.

As for imposition of President's rule, article 356, I believe, this is a wishful thinking. It has only once been imposed after an Assembly was dissolved in Kerala in 1970, and only when the care-taker Chief Minister, Shri Achutta Menon, actually resigned. If Shri Narendra Modi, the care-taker Chief Minister, is sporting and has the confidence in himself, he can do an Achutta Menon act, because after President's rule was imposed in Kerala and elections were held, Achutta Menon's party, the CPI, won and Achutta Menon became the Chief Minister again!

Let us fact the facts. Let us face reality. The Home Minister, now the Deputy Prime Minister, has authoritatively said in the other House, yesterday, that elections are going to be held -- whether we wish it or do not wish it -- and if you believe in democracy, as we must all, I would urge the hon. Members to realise that neither party can win elections in Gujarat. In this house, for this reason alone, the discussion has become sterile.

But, having said this, I must also urge my friends on the Treasury Benches and those who support them that it is now time to lower the rhetoric. You may or you may not win elections in the short term by generating hate and causing anguish. But, believe me, you cannot and you will not, in the long run, win elections merely on policies of hate; you will win elections only on policies of performance.

The hon. Member, the former Law Minister, Shri Arun Jaitley, said that they want to go back to the people. Well, the Governor has granted them this. But, remember, the triumph will not be if you win the elections. If you win the elections, you will have a BJP Government in Gujarat, but you already had one. Your real triumph will be, if you can say that the majority of the minority community voted for BJP. Then only, and then only, I believe, will be BJP become a mature political party in this country.

I have many friends in the Government. I have great regard and respect for the hon. Deputy Prime Minister, whom I happen to know for more years than I can remember. we were opposing each other in the Supreme Court about some 30 years ago when I was with Government, and amongst all the advocates. On the other side, he happened to be advocating the cause of the then Janata Party, as the Secretary, and he made the best argument.

I said so to the Chief Justice. Therefore, to a person of his intellect and integrity, which I greatly respect, I would urge that we must now lower the rhetoric on all sides and try to see whether we cannot achieve this and run this country, carrying with us one hundred per cent of the population, whichever Government runs it. Let us not try to run it on the basis that there is a large segment of the population which is not with this country. I refuse, to accept this. Why not say frankly -- that is what I would have said -- "we have not yet restored the confidence amongst the minorities, but we are trying very hard." 

I was happy to see an interview by the new President of the BJP in this morning's Times of India. I hope he has been correctly reported. He said, and I quote: "We will make a special effort to get the minorities' support without compromising on our belief in justice for all and appeasement of none." I would say: 'Hear, hear; good.' Let us see more of this. Why not open a new chapter? Make a special effort to win the support of the minorities, and you would have won the hearts of the people and, possibly, you might, with luck even win the elections.

Last May I had requested the Home Minister to appoint a sitting Judge of the Supreme Court to deal with the complaints of the minorities in Gujarat. He had then said whether it would be right constitutionally, to appoint a sitting Supreme Court Judge when a High Court Judge had already been appointed by the State Government. I had, a little impertinently, suggested that he pick up the phone and tell Mr. Narendra Modi that the Central Government desired to appoint a sitting Supreme Court Judge, as recommended by the Minorities Commission; he would find that Mr. Modi would definitely oblige, and there would be no constitutional problem. But, alas, it was not to be. After a month or so, a retired Supreme Court Judge was appointed, not in the place of the retired High Court Judge, not by the Central Government, but by the Gujarat Government, in addition to the High Court Judge already appointed. this bicycle for two, one with a larger wheel and the other with a shorter wheel, has not even started functioning. Not surprisingly. I would respectfully request the hon. Minister to consider whether the Government really wishes to restore the confidence of the minorities.

I read yesterday that you are not letting the Amnesty in. Why not? Obviously, you do not have anything to hide. I would request the hon. Home Minister, with his vast experience, not to do this; it will be totally counter-productive. Whenever Amnesty makes a report against Pakistan, we all applaud it and now we deny its members visas for India! Why are you doubting your own persuasiveness? Some of the individual members of the Government are most persuasive. Mr. Arun Shourie, for instance, can make the eternal Himalayan snow melt by his remarks. Why not ask him to accompany the Amnesty members on a tour of Gujarat? With special efforts from Mr. Shourie, you will be able to make new friends and influence people in the United States, the Great Britain and the European countries. And, believe me, it is these countries that count in the world of today, whether you or I or the Left like it or not.

The brute majority principle, in a secular democracy, does not attract me. And I do not accept this. I will plead with you and with the members of the Treasury Benches, please have a vision of a multi-cultural India: if not for anything else, at least you will never be able to avoid it, not with the present population trends.

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