31 Mar 2019 05:42am IST
Radharao F. Gracias
I have earlier in my career, represented many an accused indicted in smuggling cases. The charge sheet, invariably detailed how contraband was unloaded along isolated beach fronts, at midnight or beyond. Apart from fishing, smuggling was the one activity, which took place in the wee hours of the night along the coast. The illicit but lucrative trade, gradually faded away, as liberal economic policies got introduced.
But there has been, after the death of late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, a sudden surge in smuggling activities not on the beach front, but believe it or not in the corridors of power. We are witnesses to a government being unloaded at 2 a.m at the Raj Bhavan (appropriately located on promontory) as unsuspecting Goans slumbered. And this was soon followed, again, near midnight, when Manohar (Babu) Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pauskar were smuggled into the BJP thus treating them as contraband which they seem to be enjoying. For the first time ever, a government had to be unloaded and MLAs smuggled in, at the dead of night.
And we have seen the Congress (being mostly victim nowadays) complain bitterly, about such unsavoury activities. That party is now at the receiving end due to manifestly defective laws framed by it. But when in power, it had ample opportunities to plug the loopholes, but allowed things to pass. The legislation designed to help those in power is now being equally misused by the BJP. Only the BJP is more brazen, more abrasive.
Mauvin Godinho, the current minister for panchayats, is totally a product of the Congress. From NSUI he was allotted Assembly ticket in 1989 and built a career on it. But during the tenure of the last Assembly though elected on Congress ticket, he practically functioned as BJP MLA. When elections came, he jumped into the BJP and is presently part of the cabinet, albeit with featherweight portfolios, for a man of his experience. Pandurang Madkaikar too, emulated Mauvin, jumped into the BJP just before elections and met with success. Previously too, he had jumped, but from BJP to congress. His more recent jump in Mumbai, though ended in a mess. And he continues to pay for it as evidenced during the Assembly session.
Post elections, Viswajit Rane a royal (but no longer loyal) congressman, resigned as MLA, was inducted into the cabinet and later elected on BJP ticket. Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte, followed suit and are now in the fray for BJP in the resultant by elections. Not to be outdone, defectors from the BJP, Madhev Naik in Shiroda and Sudhir Kandolkar in Mapusa are now lined up as Congress candidates. So the kettle cannot call the pot black.
Such shenanigans shall be witnessed so long as party interests prevail over public concerns. Now that a new Lok Sabha is due to be elected may I take liberty of making suggestions which may in good measure rectify the malaise by bringing in legislation to overcome the deficiencies in the law? I suggest:
All political parties must be required to maintain a membership roll for every constituency with an updated copy provided to the Chief Electoral Officer of the State at prescribed intervals. The roll must also be uploaded for the public on the net. The candidate of every party at elections be determined by the members of the party from every constituency at primaries, to be conducted under the supervision of the Election Commission. Every member will thus have the right to select the party candidate and no “High Command” will be able to impose.
No person shall be eligible to be a candidate of any party or vote at the primaries unless he has been a member of that party for a period of three years; No person who has been member of a political party shall be eligible to contest as independent unless a period of three years has lapsed after he has ceased to be member of the political party; The concept of rebel candidates will thus disappear and party loyalty will be valued.
(c) The question of a split in a political party and its merger, if any with another shall be determined only by the Election Commission. No party member shall be suspended/expelled except through due process and an appeal provided to the aggrieved member to challenge the dismissal which appeal must be decided within specified period.
(d) That where any application is filed for disqualification of an MLA/MP before the Speaker, it must be finally decided within a specified period, failing which it shall be deemed to have been rejected and an appeal lie against it to the High Court with a provision that the appeal too may be decided within a particular period. Mischief so commonly being played by Speakers will be reduced, if not eliminated.
Political parties will then become cadre based with every member being assured of a role in party affairs and will not be at the mercy of the party leadership. Changing parties for greed will no longer be beneficial. No person denied a ticket by a party will be able to secure ticket from another party or contest as independent. Thus party discipline and ideology will be maintained. Will the new Lok Sabha due to be constituted shortly, be pleased to consider the suggestions?
(Radharao F. Gracias is a
political activist and a practising advocate)