Mukher­jee must know si­lence be­gins at home

The Pak Banker - - Editorial5 - M.J. Ak­bar

It is en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate that the man in charge of In­dia's vol­ume con­trol, Pranab Mukher­jee, should have ut­tered what is unar­guably the com­ment of the year: Our democ­racy has be­come too noisy. Through a long ca­reer stretch­ing from the 1960s, Pran­abda (as he is fondly known) has al­ways pre­ferred the brain to the lung. Noise has been nei­ther in his tem­per­a­ment nor his bhadralok-Brah­min cul­ture. His metier is min­is­te­rial; he is a fish out of wa­ter when his party is in op­po­si­tion. He knows that govern­ment has a tremen­dous ad­van­tage in the par­lia­men­tary form of govern­ment, even more so than in the pres­i­den­tial form, but only if it knows the mech­a­nism of power. He would be the first to ap­pre­ci­ate that op­po­si­tion very of­ten has no op­tion ex­cept to play its first and last card, noise.

Noise has be­come a pe­jo­ra­tive term, which is un­fair. Noise does not have to be nec­es­sar­ily loud. Or­a­tory is beau­ti­ful noise. Mu­sic is noise touched by magic. Pol­i­tics rarely rises to or­a­tory, and never to mu­sic, but ev­ery op­po­si­tion knows that while it can­not sur­vive if it is not heard, it must trade with the voter in in­tel­li­gi­ble noise. Ris­ing deci­bel lev­els can be jus­ti­fied only if there is the logic of pub­lic in­ter­est at the core. The del­i­cate twist that lifts Mukher­jee's state­ment from the passe to the ex­tra­or­di­nary is a de­scrip­tive qual­i­fi­ca­tion, "a bit too". Noise is es­sen­tial to the sys­tem. Ex­cess, how­ever, grates. There is a clash of civ­i­liza­tions when the throat threat­ens to de­stroy the eardrum. Democ­racy works when all five sense are in har­mony. Mukher­jee's di­ag­no­sis was per­fect, but his pre­scrip­tion was, shall we say, a bit am­bigu­ous. He ad­vised a bit of si­lence.

The virtues of si­lence can never be over­stated. Si­lence breeds re­flec­tion and re­flec­tion en­cour­ages ma­tu­rity. If that was Mukher­jee's ad­vice to op­po­si­tion, then it had some merit. But it is equally within the op­po­si­tion's rights to point out that govern­ment very of­ten treats si­lence in pre­cisely the same man­ner as an ac­cused - as its first line of de­fense. In any crim­i­nal case, po­lice have to give an ac­cused the le­gal right of si­lence, so that he does not in­crim­i­nate him­self. Both Prakash Karat of the CPI(M) and Arun Jait­ley of the BJP are ask­ing Man­mo­han Singh whether he re­ject the idea of a JPC be­cause he fears that if he speaks he will in­crim­i­nate his govern­ment in a scan­dal that con­tin­ues to have the most as­ton­ish­ing re­ver­ber­a­tions as layer af­ter sur­pris­ing layer peels off. We now learn is that govern­ment tapped the mid­dle­woman Ni­ira Ra­dia's phones be­cause it be­lieved that she was "in­dulging in anti-na­tional ac­tiv­i­ties". This takes the al­le­ga­tions against her be­yond the edges of con­ven­tional cor­rup­tion, and pro­vides fur­ther jus­ti­fi­ca­tion to the op­po­si­tion de­mand for a Joint Par­lia­men­tary Com­mit­tee to probe the most sen­sa­tional scan­dal in two decades.

It is ironic that govern­ment was forced to state this in the Supreme Court be­cause of a pe­ti­tion filed by Ra­dia's chief fi­nan­cial men­tor and pub­lic guardian, Ratan Tata, the in­dus­tri­al­ist who has helped Ra­dia's com­pany grow from noth­ing to 300 crore ru­pees in just nine years. Act­ing on poor le­gal ad­vice, Tata went to court to blan­ket out in­for­ma­tion, con­demn­ing In­dia as a ba­nana re­pub­lic along the way. No weapon has ric­o­cheted back faster than the Ratan boomerang. It may be rel­e­vant, there­fore, to con­sider where Pranab Mukher­jee asked for a bit of si­lence. He was speak­ing to in­dus­tri­al­ists. While it is ax­iomatic that there can­not be bribery with­out money, and where there is money there will be busi­ness­men, the 2G show is slowly turn­ing into theater where the lead role in the first act has faded be­fore the ag­gres­sive emer­gence of busi­ness­men on the stage.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.