What a front-row seat at a swearing-in costs BJP

The transmogrification of the fortunes of our representatives upon ascending the steps of the Vidhana Soudha doesn’t seem to trouble voters as evidenced by the election of scores of stinking-rich candidates. Nor, it seems, does it interest the Election Commission and the media after the affidavits are filed away.

But what of the parties themselves?

Where do they stand in this nanga naach of the nouveau riche? Do they have any pangs at all of their own profligacy when they shepherd away legislators to “resorts” to prevent them from fleeing; when they conduct meetings in “five-star hotels” to decide ministerial teams first, to allocate portfolios later?

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For weeks now, Sushma Swaraj has been smugly talking of the prices of “akki, bele, yenne” and how it impacts the common man. Rajiv Pratap Rudy imperiously talks of how the UPA government has unleashed “economic terror” by raising the prices of petrol, diesel and cooking gas.

And other subedar-majors of the shouting brigade like Ravi Shankar Prasad have been demanding the resignation of the prime minister and finance minister for mismanaging the economy, etc, from the safe confines of armoured OB tanks of the TV companies.

But where does the BJP itself stand in this pantheon?

Neerja Chowdhury, the old Statesman political correspondent, has a column on the edit page of today’s New Indian Express, and just one paragraph of it is enough to demonstrate the disconnect between what our political parties spout and what they spew.

“The tension amongst the Gen X leaders is an open secret, and there was heartburn over who got the maximum credit for the victory in Karnataka. L.K. Advani went out of his way to thank them one by one by name in his speech at the national executive, though he failed to mention Rajnath Singh.

“Though the party chartered a special plan to take BJP leaders from Delhi to Bangalore for the swearing-in ceremony of B.S. Yediyurappa, curiously Sushma Swaraj and Murli Manohar Joshi decided at the last moment not to go. This led Arun Jaitley who had been the master of ceremonies of the victory to cry off.

“The plane, reportedly chartered at the cost of Rs. 27 lakh, finally carried only Advani, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, and the Punjab, Uttarakhand and Gujarat CMs Prakash Singh Badal, B.C. Khanduri and Narendra Modi and younger BJP leaders.”

The operative part is not the crosswires between party president and prime minister-hopeful, or the tu-tu-main-main among the second rung leaders. The operative part is the plane.

Chartered?

Rs 27 lakh?

To ferry a dozen people @ Rs 225,000 per person, or two dozen @ Rs 112,500 per person?

Admittedly, the swearing-in of the first BJP government in the South is a matter of great pride for the BJP and its stars, faithfuls and followers. Maybe, it is convenient to take everybody in one plane and have them all land in one place at one time.

Assuming the Rs 27 lakh figure is accurate (an official denial should quickly establish its veracity), where does a “party with a difference” get the dough for such spending?

If it is a legitimate expense from its own coffers that will get reflected in the party’s account books next year, should the BJP be splurging it this way? If it is some rich businessman’s private plane, what is the likelihood that the businessman will forget this small favour to the big wigs?

Maybe, the BJP was just so delighted on laying its footprint in the South that it didn’t bother to ponder the costs in these super-inflationary times, but has it heard of something called the carbon footprint?

When a parivar of three of a civil aviation minister spends Rs 2.69 lakh for a five-day holiday in Goa and sends the bill to the government, is there nothing wrong if a parivar of a dozen or two dozen sends a bill of Rs 27 lakh to the new government in Karnataka, or the potential one in Delhi?

Or do these things just not matter because, after all, the Congress has been doing it for 60 years?