I admire a personality like Yogi Adityanath, and I have also had the pleasure of sitting one row behind him in the Lok Sabha. His allotted seat was earlier occupied by PA Sangma.
Yogi ji, with his strength and virulence, is an inspiration of sorts for me. I was very happy when I heard that he had been nominated the new chief minister of Uttar Pradesh by the BJP’s supreme leaders.
Special Gesture for Yogi ji
Now, Yogi ji has to contest an assembly seat within six months of taking oath as chief minister because that is the eligibility requirement under the Constitution. As for technicalities, I was a little shaken the day the Finance Bill was being debated in Lok Sabha. Attired elegantly in saffron, Yogi Adityanath walked into the House and took his usual seat. When he entered the Lok Sabha chamber, the Speaker welcomed Adityanath ji by name.
Admittedly, this is not the usual practice followed in the case of mere four-time MPs like me. I am a common mortal. More so in my political life, but this was done in Yogi ji’s case because he had already taken oath as the chief minister of India’s largest state. When Yogi ji was urged by the Speaker to deliver his speech, I must admit I was not only taken aback but also a wee bit disappointed.
Yogi’s Entry, Stark Reminder of ’99 Confidence Vote
In reality, burly and powerful BJP MPs virtually pushed me out to sit behind Yogi so that their faces would be visible to the whole nation on the Lok Sabha TV channel. Later, interestingly, I was told that other TV channels, which did not cover important aspects of the Finance Bill discussion, however, covered Lok Sabha proceedings live for only those brief historic moments of Adityanath’s speech.
The sum total of which was that Yogi ji was younger by a year to Rahul ji and older by a year to Akhilesh ji. Implying that he was ‘sandwiched’! I felt miserable, first because I didn’t feature on screen and, second, I was highly disturbed that the occasion was to mark a political event that should not have taken place at all.
Adityanath’s entry into Lok Sabha on 21 March reminded me of a very sad personal political event in my life: the entry into the Lok Sabha of Giridhar Gamang, a Lok Sabha MP who returned to the House after taking oath as chief minister of Odisha to resign as an MP. Prior to his resignation, he had entered the Lok Sabha on the eventful day of 17 April 1999. That day, the 13-month-old BJP government led by Atal Bihari Vajpeyee government was faced with a vote of confidence.
As most who take interest in the history of Indian parliamentary democracy would remember, the Vajpeyee government was defeated by one vote. For this very reason, every section of Indian society condemned Gamang as well as the Sonia Gandhi-led Congress for committing a highly objectionable and unethical anti-democratic act. Personally, I was sad because that was my first foray into parliamentary politics and I had very little experience and hardly any time to nurse my constituency.
Violation of Norms by Elected Representatives
Those were the days when the office of profit mania had not set in. Today, with office of profit becoming a huge issue, Adityanath’s speech in the Lok Sabha on 21 March also raised questions of propriety.
Since he had obviously not resigned from the membership of the LS till then, he was permitted by the Honourable Speaker to deliver a speech. That also meant his salary would be calculated, as also his daily allowance (DA), for that day of his presence in Lok Sabha.
Juxtapose this with a person who has the enviable advantage of having taken oath as UP CM on 19 March, which implies that the meter for the salary of the CM would have started ticking beginning that day. This could be construed by some as violation of the office of profit rules.
I sometimes wonder why we, supposedly responsible elected representatives, prefer to blatantly violate norms and rules and behave as if they never existed in the first place. This attitude prompts many leaders to make public display of either their bravado or insecurities. By insecurities I am pointing to the manner in which the Congress’ Amritsar MP Capt Amarinder Singh contested two assembly constituencies in Punjab recently – Lambi and Patiala.
Burden on Taxpayers
Furthermore, and again very unfortunately, such insecurities are not limited to the Captain. Our most revered Prime Minister Narendra Damodardas Modi also fought from Vadodara (Gujarat) and Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. In the 1999 general elections, Sonia Gandhi contested from both Bellary (Karnataka) and Rae Bareli (UP).
Returning to UP, in the 2014 general elections, we saw Mulayam Singh Yadav contest from Azamgarh and Mainpuri constituencies.
To my mind, such action by the high and mighty prove that either they are not really high and mighty or they do not trust their constituents enough.
I have no problem if these ‘blockbuster’ leaders run from multiple constituencies in the same election. But I do have a problem when the contestants end up retaining only one constituency, causing in the process holding of a byelection, which in turns results in additional expenditure with taxpayers’ money.
For me, poll reforms should never include state funding of elections. This facilitates large parties to throttle the smaller ones that may truly be representative of public opinion. Instead, poll reforms could address more comfort for voters standing in long queues and stopping these leaders from squandering public money, among other things.
(The writer is a BJD MP from Dhenkanal, Odisha. He can be reached @SatpathyLive. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)