In the Part 1, we looked at Sonia Gandhi’s own ambitious outlook towards Political Power and her complete comfort in crossing the boundaries of Laws of India, to achieve her goal.
In the Part 2, we looked at how NAC is a body that was formed urgently after Dr. Manmohan Singh was sworn in as Prime Minister. We also saw how, as per the Cabinet Secretariat order, Prime Minister’s Office is supposed to “service” the Sonia Gandhi led NAC, How NAC & Sonia Gandhi’s term as its chairperson are co-terminus, how NAC has been empowered to “interfere" with the Policy making of the Political Executive as well as with the drafting Legislations which the Executive is forced to propose in the Parliament. We also saw that on the job of monitoring of implementation of Programmes, NAC is a complete waste because not only is it not working on it itself, but also there are two separate bodies already in existence to look after the same, namely, Ministry of Statistics & Programme Implementation & Delivery Monitoring Unit in the PMO itself.
In short, NAC is a body super-imposed on Prime Minister’s Office. It has no interest whatsoever in “monitoring the implementation of the Common Minimum Programme of the Coalition Govt”. Its sole interest is in backseat driving of Govt Policies and introduction of Laws as per its sole discretion, drafted through individuals who have no accountability to the People of India, of whatsoever nature.
Lets continue further
Sonia Gandhi had shown in May 2004, her skills at throwing up dramas. I must say, she was very successful then in convincing us Indians that she has no love for Power. What we are dissecting today is her ambition for power itself.
After nearly 2yrs of running of NAC, Sonia Gandhi became a target of an accusation that she had not anticipated.
In August-September 2005, a member of Congress from Kanpur, Madan Mohan Shukla sent a complaint to President APJ Abdul Kalam that Jaya Bachchan should be expelled as member of Rajya Sabha under Article 102(1)(a), as she held an Office of Profit, namely, UP Film Development Council, which she headed then. The President referred the matter to the Election Commission, then under CEC BB Tandon, as per Article 103(2) on 20th September 2005.
In October 2005, Jaya Bachchan attended a hearing at the Election Commission. The proceedings went on and finally on 2nd March 2006, Election Commission sent the recommendation of Jaya Bachchan’s disqualification to the President, with retrospective effect, i.e. 14th July 2004.
By 7th March 2006, Jaya Bachchan was expelled from Rajya Sabha on grounds of her Occupying the Office of Profit, by the President, on the recommendation of the Election Commission of India.
The Disqualification, as per the Constitution of India, in Article 102(1)(a) reads as follows –
102. Disqualifications for membership1. A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament
a. if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder
Jaya Bachchan was obviously furious. She knew that Madan Mohan Shukla was only a tool. The actual reason was the decade old feud between the Gandhis & the Bachchans, in the aftermath of the Bofors Scandal. Refusing to go down alone, and in the company of Amar Singh, who also faced a similar situation of expulsion due to Office of Profit, they attacked Sonia Gandhi.
Sonia Gandhi “cornered”, yet again
Like UP Film Development Council, National Advisory Council of Sonia Gandhi had not been declared as an Office immune from disqualification, under Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act, 1959. Sonia Gandhi was caught unawares in this personal “vendetta” politics of hers.
Comments from Jaya Bachchan against Sonia Gandhi were of the nature of a Woman Scorned. Matter was so badly in the public domain that there was no possibility of hushing it up. Efforts to pass an Ordinance providing immunity to NAC from Office of Profit designations were thwarted. Complaint was made to President of India by BJP & TDP. Realizing that she has been “cornered”, Sonia Gandhi did what she had done back on May 18, 2004 - The “sacrifice” drama. Sonia Gandhi resigned from both her Membership of Parliament as well as her Chair of National Advisory Council.
The Election Commission of India, on its part behaved outrageously. After Sonia Gandhi resigned on March 23, 2006 from Lok Sabha, the Commission dropped charges against her and wrapped up any proceedings. Apart from BB Tandon, who was CEC, Election Commission also had Naveen Chawla as the Election Commissioner then. Naveen Chawla was an extremely close friend of Sanjay Gandhi and during Sanjay’s wedding, which took place at house of Indira Gandhi’s very close aide, Mohammed Yunus, Naveen Chawla was seen sitting smack in the middle of the Groom & the Bride. During the Emergency, between 1975-77, Naveen Chawla's demeanour had come for severe criticism from the Shah Commission of Inquiry. So, Chawla’s loyalty to Gandhi Family was no secret, nor was his shamelessness to cross boundaries of professional conduct. Political parties complained of Election Commission’s partial behaviour in two cases that involved similar charges. Where Jaya Bachchan’s membership was cancelled with retrospective effect, charges against Sonia Gandhi were dropped as she resigned.
Going by the merits of the case, Sonia Gandhi was bound to be expelled from her Lok Sabha Membership anyway.
Re-Election from Rae Bareli
On March 23, 2006, Sonia Gandhi resigned with her usual song & dance, saying “I have taken pledge to serve the people of the country and to protect secular ideals. So, in keeping with my public life and political principles and according to my own belief, I resign as member of Loksabha and Chairperson of National Advisory Council.”
On April 17, 2006, Sonia Gandhi rushed to file her nomination papers for Rae Bareli bye-elections. The elections were held on May 8, 2006, where she fooled the anyway loyal janta with sob stories of being targeted by Opposition. The state of development in Rae Bareli says the full story of the contribution of the Nehru-Gandhi family to this dusty district, but that is for another day.
Everything moved like a clockwork. By May 11, 2006, Congress introduced The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Amendment Bill, 2006, to add National Advisory Council and few other Bodies where Sonia Gandhi is a member, to provide immunity to her from the issue of Office of Profit. The Bill was passed on August 18, 2006.
NAC – Without Sonia Gandhi
Even though Sonia Gandhi had managed to include NAC into The Parliament (Prevention of Disqualification) Act 1959, she didn’t return as its Chairperson. Obviously, she wanted to make a point about it to the Opposition. Moreover, she hardly required an Official Position to get her word across the Govt, even though having an Official Seal is always a better option.
What shocks however is, that the NAC, which had its mandate going up to 31st March 2008, didn’t get another Chairperson appointed. The organization, which was anyway directionless under the esteemed guidance of Sonia Gandhi, became Headless now.
The then Rural Development Minister Raghuvansh Prasad Singh (of RJD) went to the extent of saying that “NAC is useful only if Soniaji is heading it. Otherwise, it has no meaning.”
One unnamed UPA Minister reportedly said, “She can’t refuse the Prime Ministership and then compromise with the rank of a Cabinet Minister.”
By, July 2006, atleast 3 out of Original 11 Members had resigned. Jean Dreze, Aruna Roy & later, Jayaprakash Narayan of Loksatta.
What does everything say?
Everything indicates that NAC was made only for Sonia Gandhi. That Sonia Gandhi was doing everything she could to undermine the rank of Cabinet Ministers. As a matter of fact, there are signs that there may even have been some internal friction, as in spite of handing over the work of “monitoring the implementation of the Common Minimum Programme” to Sonia Gandhi & her NAC, in Feb 2005, he prepared the Ministry-wise Policy areas, as per CMP, and then in March 2006, before Sonia’s ouster,called for the Review of CMP.
That was the politics, as it went on in the ghettoes of Congress Headquarters.
In the next few posts, we shall review the work done by NAC during its 1st & 2nd tenure.