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Time For National Government: GOVERNANCE, GAME OF GULLI-DANDA, By Poonam I Kaushish, , 25 August 200 Print E-mail

New Delhi, 25 August 2007


Time For National Government


By Poonam I Kaushish


Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. This dictum has come to haunt and taunt India as never before. A sense of de ja vu overwhelms. Never could one have imagined that governance would once again be reduced to a game of gulli-danda smacking of petty one- upmanship, clash of bruised egos, blackmail et al. Country be damned!


Circa 2007 is no different from Circa 1999. The time when AIADMK’S Puratchi Thalaivi had the Vajpayee-led NDA on tenterhooks. Right from her “chithi aayee gee” drama of extending support, down to being a nagging partner and her tea-party with Congress President Sonia Gandhi over the sacking of the then Naval Chief Bhagwat. The resulting maelstrom engineered by the Southern Amma and the Northern Empresses engulfed Vajpayee and led to the fall of his Government.


Today, the Left has the Congress-led UPA profusely sweating. Even prior to the formation of the UPA Government, the Congress-Left ties got bogged down what with the Red Brigade dictating the nitty-gritty of their Common Minimum Programme.  Followed by palpable differences on the economic front. Be it disinvestment, FDI, insurance, sale of PSUs etc. Down to the latest fracas over the Indo-US nuclear deal. Wherein the Left has threatened to pull the plug if the Government goes ahead with it.


This eyeball to eyeball confrontation between gentleman Manmohan Singh and the thorny Left has pushed the country into suspended animation. The basic issue is not the Indo-US nuclear deal or whether the UPA Government stays or goes. Or, who is to blame and why. But the most striking aspect of this crass episode is the sad spectacle of today’s political class capriciously exposing their hollowness and hypocrisy of political commitment and subordinating national interest to personal egos and aggrandizement. Thus undermining further the people’s eroding faith in democracy as a desirable system.


Think. The UPA and the Opposition are both talking about a mid-term poll, but neither about stability, good governance and national interest. All are agreed that they should avoid elections where angry masses are almost certain to slit their throats. Nevertheless, the Left is only marking time for the auspicious hour and the right issue to pull the rug lest it is dubbed a destabliser. The nuclear treaty doesn’t connect with the aam aadmi. The Congress, for its part, is using every trick in the book to hang on to power. Hence the suggestion let’s talk minority appeasement first.


Through this political pollutant two things are becoming clear. One, with the Left’s Damocles sword hanging over Sonia-Manmohan Singh’s  head, arithmetically it seems pretty difficult, nay impossible, for the Government to cross the magical figure of 272 for a majority. Her pre-poll alliance totalling 219 is 53 seats short of the half-way mark. Either way, the authority of the Prime Minister stands undermined. Even if it survives as some minority Governments have survived in the past (Narasimha Rao’s in 1991-96), it will at best be a lame duck Government.


Two, everybody wants power but all distrust each other. Thus, everything boils down to a gut feeling of ifs and buts. Requiring one has to wait and watch in the days to come as events unfold and parties change their stand. As of now the task of whether the Left stays or withdraws support is far from resolved. Who will blink first is uppermost in everybody’s mind.


However, the main crunch lies in the reality that the Congress-Left relationship was a no-brainer and was doomed from day one. A coalition of hot ice-cream. That would melt rapidly at the first sign of disagreement. It was just a matter of time when the inherent contradictions took over. Be it ideology, principles, working style et al.


The Congress and Left parties are arch rivals in three states---West Bengal, Kerala and Tripura, which account for 64 seats. Both have been fighting each other tooth and nail in the election arena since Independence. Yet they decided to become comrades-in-arms at the Centre. Simply to keep the communal BJP out. Both work on the dictum my enemy’s enemy is my friend.


Raising a basic question: Can Governments be formed and held together merely on the negative and ill-defined premise that my enemy’s enemy is a friend? Sadly, as oft is the case, power breeds arrogance and absolute power breeds absolute arrogance. Intoxicated by power, all forget that this arrogance often leads to defeat. More than anyone else, Sonia should know this only to well. She saw for herself how the arrogance of power led to the hated Emergency of 1975 and eventually brought the original Mrs. Gandhi down in 1977.


Many in Parliament’s Central Hall and elsewhere feel that the Congress has only itself to blame. Due to its increasing arrogance the High Command is accused of having mis-managed the issue from the beginning. The Prime Minister should have given due importance to the Left’s concerns and taken it fully into confidence during the various stages of negotiations of the nuclear deal. After all, the deal encompasses India’s foreign, strategic and nuclear policies in the future.


What next? Events have their own momentum. More so in the farcical nature of the Congress-Left ties. It remains to be seen how long the “tail will wag the dog” as the single largest party tries to keep its allies together. Even as all the parties blame each other for the present state of affairs.


Arguably, one can say this is what democracy is all about. Sadly, however, the basic postulates of democracy have got botched over the years. Few care to remember today that democracy is not an end in itself. It is only a means to an end, namely, the greater well-being and happiness of the people. Which is possible only through a clean and stable government run by dedicated leaders committed to putting country above self and all else. Not through ram-shackled coalitions of fair-weather partners in corruption and crime.


What of the future? No one cares to pause and ponder the long-term ramifications. Will individual egos get the better of collective wisdom? Does it bode the collapse of the coalition system of governance? If arch enemies are willing to align with each other, then why have elections at all? Ideally all should grasp the reality of parliamentary democracy. The people’s verdict should be honoured before they go in search for the aphrodisiac called power and talk formation of a new Government with all and sundry. Sans shared ideology and mutual objectives.


One way out of the current impasse, besides elections, is to explore the possibility of forming a national government in the true sense of the term. This is urgently required in the best national interest at a time when the country is faced with crises on all fronts. Sieges within and without that threaten to destroy our unity and integrity ---- terrorism, poverty, unemployment, administrative collapse etc. Notwithstanding, the over-flowing cash tellers and rising global appreciation.


Disgust, revulsion and cynicism aside, most thinking people see nothing but trouble, travail and a dark future. Few even wail: “Perhaps, dictatorship is our only hope”. Not a few are nostalgic about the “good old British days.” Yet many others would be happy to publicly whip and even guillotine their polity, whereunder even the gutter today is cleaner than the politics of today.   How long must India suffer and bleed? --- INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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