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Monday, April 1, 2019

the Patel disqualification that would haunt Congress for decades !


Elections are around the corner and in Tamil Nadu – there are alliances ! National parties too depend on Regional parties and in some cases, small parties and its leaders rise to prominence.  In politics, one would find strange friends – those who were at loggerheads with swords drawn would suddenly unit  .. .. .. all to win the election.

Mehsana in Gujarat,  was established by Mehsaji Chavda, Rajput heir of the Chavda dynasty. He constructed the Torana (arc gate) of the city and a temple dedicated to Goddess Toran.  Gaekwads conquered Baroda and established Baroda State in 1721. The Gaekwad dynasty connected the city by Gaekwar's Baroda State Railway which was opened in  1887. Baroda State merged with the Union of India after independence in 1947. It was merged into Bombay State as Mehsana district. Later it became part of Gujarat in 1960 after the division of Bombay state into Gujarat and Maharashtra.

Elections to the First Lok Sabha was held in 1951 – Congress party aggregated the gains of the freedom struggle, showcasing to be their victory – won the elections, when the electoral participation was only  44.87%.  Jawaharlal Nehru became the first elected Prime Minister of the country.  Before Independent India went to the polls, two former cabinet colleagues of Nehru established separate political parties to challenge the INC's supremacy. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee found the Jana Sangh,  B. R. Ambedkar revived the Scheduled Castes Federation (which was later named the Republican Party). Other parties which started coming to the forefront included the Kisan Mazdoor Praja Parishad, whose prime mover was Acharya Kripalani; the Socialist Party which had Ram Manohar Lohia and Jay Prakash Narayan's leadership to boast of and the Communist Party of India.

Couple of decades later, the dynasty suffered its first defeat.  Emergency declared by the Indira Gandhi led Congress government was the core issue in the 1977 elections. Civil liberties were suspended during the national emergency from 1975-77 as PM Indira Gandhi assumed vast powers.  At the time of election, Mrs Gandhi had become extremely unpopular.  Four Opposition parties, the Congress (Organisation), the Jan Sangh, the Bharatiya Lok Dal and the Socialist Party, decided to fight the elections under a single banner called the Janata alliance ~ the rest is history, as they swept to power but could hold on due to internal squabbles.

From party-base (ideally should it not be the principles of a party !) to winnable coalitions (this time one party brazenly held talk with both the alliances at the same time) – elections are fought on every platform, with cast power, regional power emerging imminent.  Those parties calling non-communal calculate their winnability by looking at caste-based combinations at the electorate. 

Patidar is a caste, found mostly in Gujarat and  also in at least 22 other states of India. The parcels of land held under the village tenureship system are known as patis and a patidar is the holder of one of those allotments. During the 19th century, this term ‘Patidar’ came to prominence and the community adopted the surname ‘Patel’  which was traditionally applied to village headmen.  There was fermented trouble in Gujarat, more specifically in July 2015, with the Patidar community seeking Other Backward Class (OBC) status and holding public demonstrations across Gujarat.  As the crowds swelled, sooner it became violent and there were incidents of arson leading to curfew. Properties and vehicles worth crores were damaged. 

On a lighter vein, as a youngster I heard this Patel could be a regular in middle order .. it was 1974-75, Clive Lloyds West Indies toured India, won at Bangalore & Delhi (Venkat was the Capt and did not play the next)- India bounced back at Calcutta and continued their win at Chepauk – but lost at Bombay.  Eknath Solkar made a century – the stylish Brijesh Patel did not play at Calcutta & Madras (where India won).  The man who plundered runs in Ranji, played in 21 test matches from 1974 to 1977, ended with an  average of 29.45. He never bowled in Tests ~ was an excellent fielder manning Covers.   

Here is something interesting read in First Post  about the political Patel, on whom Congress pinned great hopes – all along, it appeared he was a monster creation against the ruling BJP !

On 12 March, Patidar leader Hardik Patel joined the Congress in the presence of its president Rahul Gandhi and was all set for his electoral debut. It was in July last year only that Patel became eligible to contest elections. He wanted to try his luck from the Jamnagar Lok Sabha constituency in Gujarat. However, less than a year after becoming eligible, he has become ineligible, by the stroke of a court order.  The Gujarat High Court on Friday rejected Patel's plea seeking a stay on his conviction in the 2015 Mehsana rioting case. While the court order has belied the hopes of the young leader, the credit for scuttling his chances should also be given to Congress president Rahul Gandhi.

Section 147 of Indian Penal code that specifies the punishment for rioting, reads, "Whoever is guilty of rioting, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both." Patel was accused and faced trial under Section 146 of the IPC that states, "Whenever force or violence is used by an unlawful assembly, or by any member thereof, in prosecution of the common object of such assembly, every member of such assembly is guilty of the offence of rioting."..  In July last year, a sessions court found Patel guilty under Sec 146 of the IPC and apart from imposing a fine of Rs 50,000, sentenced him to jail for two years. Patel filed an appeal in the Gujarat High Court against his conviction. Now with high court upholding the sentence, all hopes the Congress had of fielding Patel in the upcoming Lok Sabha election has ended. The high court, while rejecting the plea, had considered the past antecedents of Patel who shot to the limelight during the Patidar reservation agitation that took place in 2015. Seventeen FIRs have been registered against him in different criminal cases.

In 2013 the Supreme Court, in a landmark judgment, struck down a provision in the electoral law that protects a convicted lawmaker from disqualification on the ground of pendency of appeal in higher courts. Under Sec 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act (RPA), a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for no less than two years, shall be disqualified for that and a further six years after release. However, another section that protected the convicted politician was 8(4) that said that a lawmaker cannot be disqualified for three months from the conviction, if in that period, he or she files an appeal against its disposal by a higher court. This section was struck down by the apex court.

The Ordinance that Rahul trashed would have insulated Patel from disqualification. It is worth recalling that following the apex court judgment, then UPA government decided to bring in the ordinance to nullify the apex court order. However, then Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi, in an extremely dramatic gesture, castigated the Ordinance and tore it apart at a press conference, while then prime minister Manmohan Singh was on a tour to Washington.

Now with the conviction, Patel has not only lost the chance to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, but also the next Lok Sabha and the next Gujarat Assembly elections. The reason for this is that under Section 8(3) of the RPA, a person convicted of any offence and sentenced to imprisonment for not less than two years shall be disqualified for that and a further six years after release. So now if Patel goes on to compete his jail sentence, that is two years, unless the conviction is suspended by the apex court in due course as he files appeal, he will be out of jail only in 2021, And it is only six years after that, that is in 2027 that he will be allowed to contest elections. For any aspiring politicians who had just began his career, to lose eight years, looks like the end of the road. The only hope for Patel now is the Supreme Court. But that can only ensure his prospects in the next Gujarat Assembly elections and the 2024 General Election.

For the upcoming Lok Sabha election, his fate is sealed, by implication of fate, by the very action of the person who projected him and wanted him to be a formidable opposition against the ruling BJP.  Karma, they say, boomerangs !

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
30th Mar 2019.

PS:  when one gets an opportunity, have photos of Sardar Vallabhai Patel ~ of at least Brijesh Patel ~ why think of the other who is to serve imprisonment !!

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