Monday, July 21, 2008

Wooing the jailbirds

They say, every dog has his day, and rightly so. With confidence vote slated for July 22, the canvassing exercise to woo, poach or distract MPs is very much on the political agenda of various political parties. Even jailed MPs are considering themselves as very special humans. And why not? When each and every MP counts in the run up to the trust vote in Parliament, the number game is getting heated in Uttar Pradesh (UP) and elsewhere.

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The arch rivals in the state – the ruling Bahujan Samaj Party and Mulayam Singh Yadav's Samajwadi Party – accusing each other of horse-trading and “buying” jailed MPs. Already, AB Bardhan’s accusation of 25 crore money offer to each MP is making waves in the political arena. But he is not the lone person to make such an accusation.

In UP, only yesterday, Naseemuddin Siddiqui, the BSP MP and state PWD minister paid a visit to the jailed MP from Machchlishahar Umakant Yadav imprisoned in a Farrukhabad jail. He used a helicopter for this purpose. The meeting of the two lasted for about half an hour in which the minister tried to convince the jailed MP his value and contribution. In a bid to woo SP MP Afzal Ansari languishing in Ghazipur district jail, another BSP MP Akbar Ahmad Dampi visited him to take him to his side.

Though a BSP spokesman pointed out that the meeting between Dampi and Ansari was “personal” and it had nothing to do with the party, the timing of the meeting raised eye brows. Or it can be termed as coincidental meeting. Albeit the Mayawati Government claims to distance itself from criminals and history-sheeters, she does not seem to lag behind in roping in the crucial votes of jailed MPs.

While SP President Mulayam Singh Yadav accused the Mayawati Government of trying buy away his jailed MPs with huge money so that they would vote during the trust vote. He also accused Mayawati of taking back court cases against MPs lodged in jail. Though he claimed that his party MPs has not gone over to the BSP side, it remains to be seen on the day when the vote will be cast. However, at least three SP MPs have already publicly declared that they will not vote for the UPA government during the trust vote.

Asked about Siddiqui's visit to Umakant Yadav, Swami Prasad Maurya, state BSP president and a UP Cabinet minister said that Siddiqui visited him as a member of the party, not for poaching purposed. The jailed MP, however, had been expelled from the BSP soon after his arrest last year. But then, his price value has increased overnight.

There are two jailed MPs – Mohammad Shahabuddin from Bihar and Atiq Ahmed from UP. While the latter was suspended from the party after 150 criminal cases were lodged against him including the murder of BSP legislator Raju Pal, the former is serving life imprisonment the 1999 kidnapping case.

In the run up to the N-deal, the vote of confidence has brought about the nasty political game one again whereby MPs are being wooed and bought to either save the government or make it fall. In the infamous JMM bribery case, which saved the Congress government in 1993, the Supreme Court of India coined two phrases – 'bribe-giving MPs' and 'bribe-taking MPs'. Though the accused in JMM bribery case were exonerated, the people hardly believed that justice was done. Much like the earlier cases, there has been actions in the political bazaar of Indian democracy. The government will try every inch to secure the magic figure of 272 by hook or by crook, while the opposition is going all out to let it see the door.

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