Things have began to happen in the Janata Dal. Like the Young Turks of yore, a group of young JD MPs has come out to demand change in the system from top to bottom and soon, lest the people should decide to change the government itself.
They gathered last week under the banner of Navnirman Manch convened by all-India secretary Sudharshan Loyalka in Bombay,s K.C. College. The team of young MPs was led by Santosh Bhartiya, MP from Farookhabad and a comrade-in-arms of Prime Minister VP Singh, to inform the people of Bombay that they will blaze their own trail irrespective of bickerings and wranglings inside the rulling party.
The packed hall listened to them intently and dozens of members of the audience vied with one another to ask some of the most embarrassing questions on the issues agitating people’s mind, including corruption and spiraling price.
The dialogue between the young MPs and the audience continued for almost two hours. It was an unenviable demonstration of open government and right to information. Sushil Silvano adds:
A Jan Sena, people’s army, will soon be raised to fight the war against corruption, exploitation, inequality, injustice, communalism, parochialism, wrong planning and a bad education system is being fought by a band of angry young members of Parliament led by Santosh Bhartiya, a lieutenant of prime minister V.P. Singh.
These people’s representatives have formed themselves into an anti-system group, which is being described also as a pressure group or a ginger group in the Janata Dal. They are also associated with the Nav Nirman Manch, which is not confined to just MPs and other elected representatives but has as its members politically conscious people who otherwise would not like to involve themselves in power politics.
The MPs seek to get politics delinked from big business and want to break the highly obnoxious nexus between politicians, bureaucrats, criminals and big business.
Five of the MPs, who were here on May 5 to attend the inauguration of the Bombay chapter of Nav Nirman Manch, made it clear that it was in their personal capacity that they were associating themselves with the Manch, whose membership will be open to people of other political parties and line of thinking too.
While they have identified their object in very clear terms, they are still grouping in dark on how to change the prevailing system. Right now they are the point of blaming everything that is wrong in our society on the Congress and the people who were at the helm of affairs in the last 42 years.
“The system in which we live today is so rotten that plenty and penury co-exist, where a handful of people have pocketed all the resources leaving the rest to live like beasts, rather live with the lowliest of animals” thunders Bhartiya, who was closely associated with Jaya Prakash Narayan,s movement.
But how does one change this system? “By making all members of Parliament accountable to the people, by exposing the corrupt, by educating the people about their rights, by making the common man a partner in power, by changing the education system of planning,” explains Bhartiya.
“Till now planning has been centralised with the result that the fruits of planning have not reached the village and the people for whom all development is meant. We will force the government with all the strength at our command to reverse the process of planning, making the taluka and the village the starting point of all planning.
“We will also involve the common people in the process of planning so that they can then act as watchdogs,” declared Babanrao Dhakne, Prakash Koko Brahmbhatt, Ravi Narain Pani and Dr. Mahendra Pal Singh, all Janata Dal MPs. Bhartiya and his colleagues demand that multinationals should not be allowed to produce items like needless, soaps and shoes. “In case they have to produce these items then let them export all these and foreign exchange for the country.”
Efforts by the young MPs to restrict the multinationals will soon be yielding results as 836 items have been identified by the government of India. These items will be taken away from the multinationals and placed in the small-scale sector to generate more employment and bring down the cost of production and prices.
Addressing the public meeting at Jai Hind College, Bhartiya said the people had given their mandate to change the system. “The day we feel we are failing or are steering away from the promised aim, we shall leave powerâ€¦ things have to change and change fast.”
“We have inherited a system in which we have told that all our political responsibilities ended with the casting of the vote. It is this rotten atmosphere, climate and thinking that we have to change. This cannot be achieved if the people sit back and do not insist on accountability on the part of those they have elected and sent to Parliament.
“The people should evaluate the performance of those whom they have elected and sent to Parliament. It should consistently query the elected representatives and seek replies to all their questions.
Bhartiya said the National Fronts government possessed the will to change the system people. It was willing to provide an open government in which the common man would be an active partner. “The government also wants to shatter the system of dalali that has been perpetuated in the last 40 years.”
Hasan Kamaal, convener of the Manch for Maharashtra, described it as “a bridge between the people and the elected representatives, a medium of dialogue.”
After speeches by the five MPs the floor was thrown open to the audience to ask questions. Most of the queries that were received by the MPs showed the impatience of the people over the government’s steps against rising price, hoarding, blackmarketing, black money, the action taken if any by the national government against smugglers, violators of foreign exchange regulations, corrupt public servants, bank chairmen helping in diverting crores of public money into the coffers of big business houses.
Also they were asked what action was being contemplated against those propagating religious fundamentalism and parochialism and indulging in crimes in the name of religion.
The MPs had a tough time giving answer to these questions. CURRENT editor Ayub Syed, who was invited to speak, took the young MPs to task for “crying” all the while. “Do it or leave and go. The people are in no mood to listen to your complains against corruption, the system, the obstacles that are coming in your way. They have voted you into power and the people expect results.”
Syed said nothing would be achieved by blaming the system. “Who has stopped you from arresting erring businessmen or corrupt public servants? Have you made any efforts to pressurize your government to take action against well-known hoarders and blackmarketeers?
“Think of the fundamental issues which, if tackled properly, can change the face of India. Why can’t your government stop Bata from making shoes? If that is done six crore people will get employment. Why can’t the government stop multinations like Wimco and Hindustan Lever from making soaps? If tat is done, it will generate employment for lakhs of people.
Why cannot 80 percent of the Union budget be diverted to the villages? What makes the people leave their villages and come to the cities to live on pavements? If the conditions are improved in the villages who would like to come to cities like Bombay to live a sub-human existence” Syed said and advised the Manch to come up “with solutions to such problems.”
Kamlesh Tiwari, general secretaryof the Janata Yuva Dal and Anil Gote, a well-known farmer leader also addressed the public meeting.
Pritish Nandy, editor of The Illustrated Weekly of India and The Independent was among those who attended the public meeting.