Chances are a vast majority of Indians, who otherwise do follow politics, have not heard of Manik Sarkar. The reason is simple. For, neither Sarkar himself, nor Tripura, the state of which in 2013 he was elected Chief Minister for the fourth consecutive term, has made any effort to propagate the name outside the confines of that northeastern part of the country. Indeed, even within the borders of Tripura, Sarkar has felt no need for publicity. His honesty and simplicity speak so powerfully to its people that no one is in a position to pose a half-credible challenge to his overwhelming popularity. A little more on Sarkar. He owns neither a house nor a car. And the entire salary and perks he receives as CM are given to his party, the CPI(M). In return, the party gives him but only Rs 5,000 to meet his and his wife’s monthly expenses. He regularly walks or cycles to work. Even his worst critics readily concede that not only is he personally honest, but the government headed by him is probably the cleanest in the country.
Readers are right to wonder why we have suddenly raked up the name of Manik Sarkar. It is not without an objective. Yes, you have guessed it right. It is to contrast him with that megaphone who is now the CM of Delhi. Chances are that even in faraway Tripura most people have heard of that daily noise-maker called Arvind Kejriwal. People in Tripura might have already concluded that Kejriwal is all Manik Sarkar is not. Or, is it the other way round?
Kejriwal, going by his election-time declaration, owns not one but two houses. He is widely known to have accepted black money for the party he heads as its supreme boss — remember those four drafts of Rs 50 lakhs each deposited mysteriously in the AAP account without anyone claiming to know the name of the donors? He lives in a large government bungalow. What to talk of donating his CM’s salary, one of Kejriwal’s very first acts upon becoming CM was to increase four-fold the pay and perks of MLAs, which would translate into a huge hike in his own monthly take-home from the public purse. Roughly, that would mean over Rs 2 lakh per month, as against Manik Sarkar’s measly Rs 5,000 to meet his existentialist needs. Otherwise also Sarkar is the embodiment of quiet dignity and constitutionalism. Though he belongs to the CPI(M), one can hardly remember an occasion when the Tripura government was locked in a confrontation with the Centre, whether the latter was led by the Congress or the BJP. Mind you, unlike Delhi, which is essentially a Union Territory with an elected Assembly, Tripura is a full-fledged state. Yet, in spite of the vastly incompatible political philosophies of the CPI(M) and the BJP, CM Manik Sarkar has had extremely cordial relations with the Central government.
Yes, being the nation’s capital it is natural for the CM of the Union Territory of Delhi to attract media attention far more than his counterparts in the 29 full-fledged States of the Union. Granted, but is it de rigueur to remain constantly at war with all and sundry, including the bureaucracy, the police, the subordinate officialdom et al? It cannot be that everyone else is wrong and only you are right. Sooner than later, the people will see through the glib lies, the daily falsehoods, the constant finger-pointing, etc. If the self-styled Mahatma Kejriwal cared to look himself in the mirror, he would find a hypocrite staring him back, a charlatan out to hoodwink all comers with his constant spouting of lies and excuses to explain away his own inability to govern.
Incidentally, Sheila Dikshit hardly had any problems working with the Vajpayee-ruled Centre. In hindsight, it must be acknowledged she did a fairly decent job of augmenting the essential infrastructure in the ever growing capital city of India. Aside from wasting all his time in waging a declared war against the Centre and others whom he perceives to be his enemies, the people in Delhi are yet to see a single sign of new development under the mealy-mouthed Kejriwal.
WAGES OF DIRTY
Dirty politics can tar even the best of them. Notwithstanding the relentless campaign of calumny unleashed by those who think with their minds closed and mouths open, it can be said with certainty that far from making a paise from his stint as the president of the Delhi and District Cricket Association, Arun Jaitely literally lost crores of rupees. Why do we say that? Simple. Because had he devoted half the time to his legal profession which he spent sorting out the DDCA mess — and erected that swanky new 42,000-seat stadium during his tenure as its head — he would have earned crores more by way of legal fees. And if you must know, Jaitley, even as a minister in the Vajpayee government, and later as the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, continued to use his own private car, even though he was duly entitled to sarkari car and petrol. Only recently, upon being accorded Z-plus category security, did he feel obliged to use the lumbering and re-strengthened sarkari gaddi. Contrast this with those throwing stones at him. They had relied on other people’s cars, made others to pay their private debt and got others to pick up the house rent of government bungalow upon staying longer than officially sanctioned.
The account books of the DDCA would bear witness to the fact that not even a single paise was claimed by Jaitley either as traveling allowance, conveyance, entertainment, attendance fees, et al. Not a single voucher for a khota paise is there in the DDCA accounts in the name of Jaitley, though for 13 long years he was its president. He gave his time and effort gratis because he was genuinely passionate about cricket. Ironically, both Bishan Singh Bedi and Kiriti Azad were handsomely paid by DDCA, whenever they managed to get assignments from it. Bedi, in fact, was paid several lakhs of rupees over a period of time.
It takes about three to four weeks for a CM to get an appointment with the Prime Minister. Naturally, some CMs resent the delay, but understand that the PM has a thousand other commitments, domestic and foreign, to honour before they can be accommodated. But is there any reason for Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi to deny requests even from senior party leaders and, of course, from party CMs, for meeting for months on end before being granted darshan for a few minutes?
The senior Congress minister from Assam, Himanta Biswa Sarma, waited for more than three weeks for a meeting with Rahul Gandhi, but in vain. He went back to Guwahati and quit the Congress in disgust. But it is routine for Congressmen to be denied an audience with the Gandhis — senior leaders feel fortunate if they can somehow manage to get a few minutes with their equally haughty aides. Though he finally succeeded in getting back the post of Punjab Congress chief, Captain Amarinder Singh’s anxiety on whether or not he will succeed had increased with each day that passed, without his getting a response to urgent requests for a meeting with Sonia Gandhi.
Maybe the Gandhis are still smarting under the impression that maintaining distance from the flock would add to their mystique and thus enhance their political appeal. It no longer works that way, though. Most Congressmen see it as a vain attempt to portray greatness when the reality is otherwise. Behaving like imperious royals is at odds with today’s democratic ethos, someone should tell this to the mother-and-son duo.
Censorship can take many forms. When you use the taxpayers’ funds to lavish government advertisements on television channels and newspapers bestowing extravagant praise on you, and deny those media outlets you think are critical of you, it is a most insidious form of censorship.
Sadly enough, the financial year is about to end but a PIL challenging the unheard of twenty-fold increase in the publicity budget of the Delhi government is yet to be heard by a bench of the Delhi High Court headed by Chief Justice G. Rohini.
Like it or not, though everyone in the media swears by press freedom, the owners have their gaze fixed firmly on the bottom-line. And that is why the PIL needs to be heard early. Otherwise, the freedom of the press stands to be jeopardised further by the gross abuse of taxpayers’ money by the one and only Arvind Kejriwal .