Point of View 19 June 1971
“An honest politician is one who, when he is bought, will stay bought.”-Simon Cameron
Unfortunately, there seems to be a dearth of the ‘honest politicians in Bihar, in whose absence the ministerial kaleidoscope has changed again.
On June 2. 1971, the Congress-led Progressive Vildhayak Dal comprising of the CPI, the PSP the Eorward Block and fraction of the Jharkhand the Hul jharkhand, the Hindustani Shoshit Dal the Sahoshit Dal and some independents plus the usual phenomenon — a good number of defectors — replaced the 162-day old outgoing Samyukta Vidhayak Dal Ministry comprising of the Congress (O), the SSP, the Jana Sangh. the Swatantra, the Janta party, the BKD and faction of the Jharkhand, and the Shoshit Dal.
The inevitable downfall of the SSP-led SVD Ministry did not come all of a sudden. It became a certainty since December 22, 1970, when Mr Karpoori Thakur was sworn in as the Chief Minister of this ill-fated state which has been in the cesspool of instability since the fourth General Election in 1967.
Even the 162 — tenure from December 22, 1970, to June 1971 — was rather a long term for the Karpoori Ministry.
People speculated that it would collapse during the budget session of the Assembly meeting in the wake of mid-terms parliamentary poll in which the constituents of the ruling SVD suffered a debacle. This numerical setback had a psychological effect as well.
However, the Government managed to survive, thanks to the premature and unbusiness-like toppling bid of their political opponents and the gimmicks of the Chief Minister who felt the urgent need of expanding his cabinet just before the opening of the session.
The Ministry has been facing serious crisis since the special convention of the Samyukta Socialist Party, the leading partner in the ruling SVD, held in April last. After it the party’s 52-member front in the Vidhan Sabha faced dissension and dissertations.
A series of the defection of legislatures, mostly from the Congress (O) and the SSP, and the resignation of as man as nine ministers was followed by the revival of the ‘mini-front’ — a loose alliance of groups of BKD, Jharkhand, Hul Jharkhand, Shosit Dal and some independents – which was instrumental in the fall of many ministries in the past.
Some gentlemen changed their loyality thrice within a week.
Mr Jagdeo prasad of the Hindustani Shoshit Dal, who was a staunch supporter of the ‘Progressives’ discovered on one fine Sunday morning that his erstwhile colleagues were heading towards the dissolution of the Vidhan Sabha. Hence, he decided to support the Sammyukta!
But on Monday he found out his earlier formulation to be baseless and the SVD “reactionary.” Hence he rejoined the Indicate bandwagon.
Such political horsetrading tolled the knell of the 162-day old Ministry.
In the face of imminent fall, Chief Minister Karpoori Thakur-who had claimed only two days earlier, “I am not a coward to resign without facing the Assembly !” has had to bow down without a fight. He had to submit the resignation of his Ministry only two hours before the Assembly was due to meet to discuss a no-confidence motion against it.
The defections, which caused the Sammyukta’s downfall, had obviously been engineered by the ‘Progressives’.
Mr Karpoori Thakur and other SSP leaders made a scathing attack on the ruling Congress leaders, particularly the Prime Minister.
In a press statement, Mr Thakur made specific reference to the activities of Mr Yaspal Kapur,” Prime Minister’s emissary”, who had been “responsible for engineering defections from the SVD!” He alleged that Mr Kapur had offered various inducements and made promises to probable defectors.
However, no tears will be shed over Karpuri’s defeat. It is the price the SSP has had to pay for making opportunism its creed and power its main aim.
The Ministry, like all the coalition ministries in the past, had made itself a laughing stock by indulging in mere gimmicks.
Corruption in high place had become the talk of the town. Ccasteism was practised in its most naked form. In posting and transfers of Government officials, a lot of favouritism was practised, further breaking the backbone of the already battered administration in the state.
Almost every policy decision of the SVD Government bore the imprint of the thinking of its reactionary alliance — the Janasangh, the Swatantra, the Syndicate and the Janta Party.
Mr Thakur’s ties with the Syndicate were no secret. It is said that even transfers and postings of officers were decided in the drawing-room of the state Syndicate boss S.N. Sinha.
The Chief Minister campaigned for three of the Congress (O) leaders indicted by the Aiyer commission of Inquiry in the last Lok Sabha election. Mr Thakur also appointed another ‘Aiyerite’ the Chairman of the State Finance Corporation!
But these things were no hurdle in the way of the Karpoori-Ministry which somehow managed to pull on, thanks to the unending expansion of the Cabinet, which had reached a record strength of 53. The ministry was expanded six times in just five months!
Bihar has been in the cesspoll of instability since the 1967 General Elections. The PVD Government led by Mr Bhola Paswan Shastri is the ninth to assume office since the last General Election and the fifth since the mid-term poll to the Vidhan Sabha in 1969.
A mathematical calculation reveals that with the two spells of presidential rule extending up to 15 months the average life of a ministry in the State comes to a bare four months.
It is the peculiar phenomenon of ‘permanent ministers’ which is primarily responsible for the political instability in Bihar.
Because of the composition of the State Legislative Assembly in which no party commands an overall majority. Independents, defectors and mini-parties find an excellent opportunity to fish in the troubled waters.
The unprincipled elements and power-seekers have found an opportunity more than once to sell their membership of legislature to the highest bidder. As soon as some legislature finds that the ministry they are supporting is on the way out, they quickly jump the fence and get on the bandwagon of a probable winner.
Although party leaders are never tired of tall talks about the need to put down defections, in actual practice defectors are always welcome and are generally offered very tempting terms.
Thus a political situation is developing in Bihar in which some persons have come to occupy the position of ‘permanent’ ministers. No matter which ministry is formed they will become ministers because of their extraordinary ability to defect and redefect.
Such permanent ministers want the fullest facility and freedom to misuse their power and create havoc in the administration. If any Chief Minister tries to exercise his supervisory powers, the stability of his ministry is immediately threatened.
And when one set of ministers are left free to do what they like, naturally the other ministers cannot be controlled. The net result has been a virtual competition in the misuse of power, especially in the matter of transfers, postings and promotions of officers and grants of licences and permits.
The new government
The new PVD Government was described as “Defectors Government” by Mr Suraj Narayan Singh, floor leader of the Indian Socialist Party and CPM’s joint front in the Assembly.
The new Government claims the support of 177 members in the house, which has an effective strength of 312. The Congress (R). the constituent of the alliance, claims to have increased its strength to 112 following the inclusion of about 30 defectors.
Two different views are being expressed on the stability of the new Government.
According to some political ‘pundits’, Mr Bhola Paswan Shastri can look forward to a longer spell as Chief Minister this time (He is heading a Government in Bihar for the third time) The present coalition is stronger than any he has led before because of the participation of the ruling Congress.
However, a section of ‘Pundits’ predict that the Ministry, which is not different from its predecessors in the matter of patronage of habituated defectors, can not last long.
So far as the people of Bihar are concerned the change in ministerial kaleidoscope will hardly make any difference because of the phenomenon of ‘Permanent Ministers’!