Win 5 Seats, Run Riot
UPA: SWINGING LIKE A YO-YO
By Poonam I Kaushish
New Delhi, July 17 : “The worst thing after anarchy is Government.” Henry Beecher’s quip aptly describes the high voltage drama being enacted on India’s political chessboard, especially during the last three months. Bringing governance to such a ridiculous pass that the tail is waging the dog!
Look at the absurdity. A country boasting off a billion-and-growing population is swinging like a yo-yo between hope and despair, thanks to a dysfunctional Government under relentless siege, compounded by coalition blues, politics of deceit and riddled by scams. The Prime Minister lacks authority made public by Law Minister Khurshid’s tell-all: “The stage has to be set up again, only the Congress President can do it. She has the stature. The Prime Minister can then run the Government….”
Understandably, he has no control over his Ministers, Congress or allies, who set personal agendas, treat their Ministries as their personnel fiefdoms and do pretty much as they please. As a result, the Administration lacks a clear leadership structure, and functions as a confused babble of vested interests, egos and animosities. Sans collective responsibility, accountability and transparency are a far cry. Manmohan Singh just has to lump it.
What makes the situation bizarre and tragic is that it takes around only 5 MPs for any one Party to ride roughshod, overturn all rules of governance and rule the roost in UPA II India Raj! Rashtriya Lok Dal 5 MP-strong Ajit Singh did just that. He joined the Government and got the plum Civil Aviation Ministry. From day one, he started throwing his weight around even becoming Air India’s spokesperson.
Till he met the ‘no nonsense’ Chief of Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Bharat Bhushan which lead to differences over airline safety, action against errant pilots, bilateral treaties with foreign countries, Kingfisher’s suspension etc. Fed up, last week Singh sent a joint secretary to tell Bhushan he was summarily dismissed. That too after the Cabinet Committee on Appointments headed by the Prime Minister had extended Bhushan’s tenure till December. Instead of taking Ajit Singh to task for over-riding orders, both Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi turned a blind eye.
Why? Because the Congress has only 207 MPs in a 545-member Lok Sabha. To survive it needs the support of 272 MPs. Together with its allies of “like-minded” regional secular parties like NCP (9) and RJD (4) they total 220 MPs. Thus, UPA II is dependent on Mamata’s Trinimool (19) and Karunanidhi’s DMK (18) MPs for its survival. Add to this, it enjoys outside support of Mulayam’s Samajwadi (22) and Mayawati’s BSP 21 MPs.
Raising a moot point: Is the Congress caught in the vortex of game-changers? Can it afford to be bullied and blackmailed for the remaining two years? Will it look for other allies? Given that the situation is skidding out of its hands.
Look at the inexplicable configurations of the UPA. The enemies and friends are all rolled into one. There is a continuous on-going spat between the Congress and Trinimool’s temperamental and capricious Mamata on every issue. Her latest tantrum: refusing to attend Sonia’s dinner for UPA’s Presidential candidate Pranab Mukherjee yesterday. Besides, opposing FDI in retail, land acquisition, Lokayukta, Pension Bill to the National Counter Terrorism Centre Mamata has blocked one policy after another. Not only giving Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sleepless nights but also sending the UPA into a tailspin.
It is no secret that the NCP shares a relationship of compulsion with the Congress both at the Centre and State. Today, it is peeved that Sharad Pawar is not being anointed No 2 in the Cabinet and Leader of the Lok Sabha. In Maharashtra, both are wary of each other with each Party nursing grand ambitions of ruling the State independent of the other, the strain in this marriage of convenience is widening.
Karunanidhi’s DMK is plagued with a serious palace war. Not only a battle for political succession but also for sharing the profits of the office. By hosting a grand reception for 2G spectrum accused Raja, Karunanidhi has made plain that the former Telecom Minister continues to enjoy his confidence. Hitting Manmohan Singh image of probity.
As for the Samajwadi’s Mulayam the Congress new dushman-turned- dost he is preening over his new found importance. Busy striking hard bargains ad nauseum. His support for President Mukherjee came at a price: delay in CBI cases against him, followed by a Rs 50,000 crore bonanza for UP. Buried in this euphoria, is Rahul Gandhi’s blistering campaign against the Samajwadi in the recently held Assembly poll.
The RJD’s Lalu, LJP’s Paswan and the BSP’s unreliable Mayawati too are there as long as it suits them and till another and better alternative to the Congress-led UPA Government does not emerge on the national scene. Mayawati has made no bones that she has eyes on the Prime Ministership. Exposing the fragile nature of the UPA.
Compounding this, neither Sonia nor Manmohan Singh seems willing or capable of stemming the rot. Happy playing second fiddle to taciturn and temperamental allies. By fighting shy of a face-off, Sonia ensures the Government stays afloat. Specially, post the Assembly elections in UP, Goa and Punjab wherein the Congress had to eat humble pie. The coming State polls in Gujarat and Himachal too hold no beacon for the party’s revival. Ironically, while its allies have done their electoral calculations, Sonia has yet to decide the Party’s “lead actor and guest artist,”
The most striking aspect of all this is that our netagan have collectively exposed their hollowness and hypocrisy of political commitment by subordinating governance to personal egos and aggrandisement. Especially, in a scenario where polarization is based on vote-bank politics and unbridled lust for power and money — not on values, ethics or common agenda.
Sadly, there does not seem to be a rainbow on India’s horizon. Either which way, UPA II will gauchely trudge along thanks to the TINAC factor (there is no alternative but coalition) coming into play as everybody wants power.
What of the future? No one cares to pause and ponder the long-term ramifications. Importantly, two years is not a long time in politics provided both Sonia and Manmohan Singh collectively have the will to make amends, sternly deal with taciturn allies and new-found fair-weather friends out to extract their pound of flesh. They cannot run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.
In sum, one hopes this political game of kiss and tell based on convenience and opportunism, crony capitalism, opportunistic covenants dominated by political patronage and murky deals does not reflect the emerging truth of today’s India. Our polity needs to face the harsh reality that national interest urgently requires a coalition dharma that ensures good and honest governance on the basis of public morality and principles. Our polity must not reduce itself to a level of Gharib ki joru, sab ki Bhabhi! -– INFA