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Rajasthan ordinance: Vasundhara Raje govt's draconian move will only assist the corrupt, deprive citizens of rights

Once upon a time, Raje was Rajasthan's most popular leader. She was considered progressive, dynamic and blessed with a vision very few regional leaders have.

In 2013, when elections for the Rajasthan Assembly were held, people were literally sick of the conservative, tired and vision-less government of Congress leader Ashok Gehlot. They saw in Raje the mascot who would rid them of Gehlot's regressive politics of message — where image is more important than performance — based on the principle of the state being the benevolent mai-baap that keeps citizens alive with doles and expects votes in return.

Sick of the Congress inertia, vote-bank politics and an effete chief minister, the people of Rajasthan gave a humungous mandate to Raje, giving it almost a four-fifth majority in the Assembly.

A file image of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. PTI

A file image of Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje. PTI

That Raje — the one considered dynamic and visionary — disappeared soon after the blockbuster win. Within a few months, she acquired the persona of a diffident, inaccessible and tired leader whose only aim appeared to maintain a low-profile, remain in power and do absolutely nothing. There could be many reasons for this unfortunate metamorphosis. One, the tense equation with the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah duo, which always kept the sword of uncertainty hanging over her head. Two, her predilection for believing everything that her cabal tells her about others, thus, creating an environment of mistrust and a culture of back-stabbing.

With elections just 14 months away, Raje's chances don't seem too bright. She has failed to live up to expectations, belied hope, shattered the faith people placed in her leadership.

That brings us to the current drama in Rajasthan around a proposed law that shields "public servants" from probe without the government's approval. The government on Monday tabled a bill in the Assembly that prohibits filing of corruption cases against officers and politicians unless the government gives its go-ahead. The proposed draconian law also has provisions for strict punishment for anybody who names the accused in media, or complains about them on any social platform. Even courts are not allowed to direct the cops to book the corrupt unless the government gives its approval.

This is a blatant attempt to deprive citizens and other democratic institutions their rights to take their grievances to police and courts, gag the media against speaking up against the corrupt, and, more importantly, put a tight leash around 'public servants' by arrogating to themselves the right to pick and choose who could be prosecuted and who could be not.

So, officers and politicians will get a free hand, the judiciary's powers would be curtailed and the media would be gagged and jailed. Bereft of its rhetoric, the proposed law is in essence an obnoxious attempt to turn democracy into a monarchy. (Fitting perhaps for a state whose chief minister is reverentially (and pejoratively) called a Maharani.)

Why is Raje bringing in a law that throttles every democratic institution and gives a carte blanche to officials and politicians? One theory is that it is an attempt to guarantee impunity —abahaydaan as monarchs would call it — to public servants in the election year, protect them from the inquisitive gaze of the media and the judiciary.

Yet another theory propounded by a lawyer claims many high-profile bureaucrats are under the radar of the Rajasthan high court for illegally gobbling up priceless land. Raje's government is known as a government of the bureaucrats, for the bureaucrats, so this might be an attempt by the corrupt babus to pre-empt a probe, a major scandal that may be difficult to suppress without this draconian law.

One of the first things Raje did on returning to power was to raise the boundary walls of her 8, Civil Lines, residence in Jaipur, turning it into a sort of Alcatraz. It is apparent that she is now in a place from where she can see nothing, hear nothing, except the voices of her self-serving coterie. While she sits in her bunker, tries to fortify it further with a dastardly law, winds of change rage outside.

 


Updated Date: Oct 25, 2017 07:20 AM

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