TODAY GANGS OF WASSEYPUR
By Poonam I Kaushish
New Delhi, July 03 : A picture is worth a thousand words. In the flurry of the Presidential poll, two photographs capsule the sound and fury of the widening chasm and distrust that co-exits between our political Gangs of Wasseypur, both at the Centre and States. One, the UPA paratroopers led by Sonia-Manmohan combine hooting for Pranab Mukherjee, on the other the Sangma disparate brigade comprising BJP, Naveen Patnaik, Badal and Jayalalitha. Snaps which catapult to Amitabh Bacchhan’s era and its accompanying corruption, violence and injustice. What happened to yesterday’s apparatchiks?
It all began in placid February with the formation of the Eastern Bloc Trio, comprising Chief Ministers of W Bengal, Odisha and Bihar who set the ball rolling of a vicious Centre vs. States firestorm over the UPA’s much touted National Counter Terrorism Centre. They were later joined by Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Himachal, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tripura.
It then spread to animus over the Goods and Service Tax (GST) over the implementation of VAT across all States. Interspersed with friction on the issue of federal agencies’ role in law and order, a State subject under the Constitution. Followed by murmurs of protests against the Centre’s penny pinching for centrally-sponsored schemes like JNNURM and MNREGA.
It acquired force with two Southern satraps Tamil Nadu’s Puratchi Thalaivi Jayalalitha and Orissa’s Patnaik coming together and nominating Sangma for President. Only to become a tour de force when the East’s Mamata and Hindi heartland UP’s Mulayam presented their Presidential wish list. No matter Mulayam did a volte face.
Raising a moot point: What does this total? Is it simply a clash of bruised egos as the Centre failed to consult the States? Are the States trying to score political points? Or is the tail wagging the dog?
All this and more. Sadly, with the Congress taking recourse to identity politics, minorityism, caste and race topped by competing political interests and riding roughshod over regional leaders it has led to conflict vis-à-vis the Centre and States. Till the Congress was in majority it could afford to play this game and win. But Mandalisation changed India’s political dynamics which the Grand Dame failed to grasp.
With the loss of power and forced to function in a coalition milieu the Congress ship soon began floundering. Whereby, even though it headed the UPA, its allies slowly began to flex their muscle. First the Left in UPA I and Mamata in UPA II. Both ‘outsiders’ Samajwadi and BSP whenever it suited them but always after extracting a price.
In the States, the Made in India Chief Ministers gradually began consciously to distance themselves from the Congress-led UPA and BJP’s NDA. Branding themselves as independent astute politicians, who had the courage to take the national Parties by the horns. Whereby, from purely political, developmental and financial issues they now wanted more autonomy and economic federalism to do as they please.
Even the Samajwadi’s somersault to facilitate Pranabda’s election was underscored by two dictum’s: Go slow and phase out CBI cases and show me the money and UP will ‘bank’ on the UPA! But sooner than later, the Party will have to revert to aggressive anti-Congressism to preserve its electoral credibility in UP.
Down South in Andhra, a State which won the Congress Lok Sabha seats in 2009, the going is getting tougher. Erstwhile infant terrible Jaganmohan Reddy, who’s Party won 15 of 18 by-elections last month is bound to call the shots in 2014. With the TDP he could spell double trouble for the Party.
In Karnataka, everything seems to be up in the air. While former Chief Minister Yeddyurappa talks of breaking away when push comes to shove he backs off. As for Deve Gowda’s JD (S) it has acquired expertise in the art of yo-yo.
Thus, between the East-Heartland-Southern Alignment the seven States: Bengal (42), Orrisa (21), Bihar (40), UP (80), Tamil Nadu (39), Andhra Pradesh (42) and Karnataka (28) total 292 of 543 Lok Sabha seats. In the likelihood of a hung Parliament with a smattering of regional chieftans holding the reins of power with little or no role for the national parties, is frightening.
True, India of 2012 is not 1996 wherein a varied group of State satraps governed by a mohalla mentality, choreographed by the Left and backed by the Congress ruled the roost, to disastrous consequences. Today, an aspirational, merciless and impatient India is rearing to go. Gen X does not connect with the constant whining of Hum Garib Hain. Then fix it.
What next? Undoubtedly, India has come a long way from 1991 whereby States have greater economic autonomy today. Even so, the residual powers that remain with the Union government can be leveraged to lethal effect by a bloody-minded ruling Party, a la CBI. Cases against BSP’s Mayawati and Samajwadi’s Mulayum depend on political seasoning!
In Orissa, economic logjams are due to political environmental hazards. See how BJD’s efforts to get Posco to set up a giant steel factory and Vedanta’s to build an aluminium plant continue to be thwarted by the Union Environment Ministry. In UP, Mayawati’s proposal to build a new airport in Greater Noida was blocked by New Delhi.
At the bedrock of the conflict is that the States are demanding strengthening of economic federalism —- a greater say in economic policy formation, decision-making and regulation. Asserted a Chief Minister, “The Centre has always adopted a one step forward and two steps backward policy. This will not work.”
The writing is on wall. The Government needs to build political consensus and frame laws protecting the States’ interests, ensure that States are kept in the loop. Mere disavowal by the Centre of any designs on the rights of States is not sufficient response to many regional Parties and Governments.
Given the present climate of adversarial politics, a consensual model works better than a purely majoritarian system. Time for the Congress to introspect on its negative and left-wing agenda, which harks back to the late 1960s and early 1970s. It needs to move beyond old-school minority quota politics and think 2020 if not 2050.
For the BJP it is yet another wake-up call. It needs to desist from too-clever-by-half moves such as backing Presidential hopeful Sangma even though it is a lost game. Desist from crossing swords with old allies. Fissures are wide open between JD(U) Nitish Kumar and Shiv Sena. Though much of its core Hindutva base remains intact, it has little to offer to new voters. Lack of credible leaders could increase the disenchantment.
Till such time as both Parties don’t get their acts together, the Centre will remain an ungainly coalition, increasingly composed of regional and smaller Parties who are more wedded to village dynamics instead of reflecting national policy. The best course is to move boldly to do the right things by trusting the people and ignoring ill-informed political opposition from within and without. What Gives? —– INFA
(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)