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Between the line

India’s jagged politics
October 12, 2011


POLITICAL parties in a democratic system are seldom on the same page.
They have their own agenda and their own way of thinking. And, above
all, they are competing for the same elusive goal, a majority in
parliament. They are bound to jostle one another for that spot. But
should they be hurting the system by doing so is the question. Should
the race to beat the opponents be with no holds barred?
I trust that the question has now become more relevant than before
because the people have little faith in what the political parties say
or do. They have lost respect and their leaders evoke disappointment
and cynicism. In fact, the word, politician, has become a term of
It is generally conceded that there is no alternative to parliament
but, at the same time, it is argued that nothing gets done there. It
is only a talking shop. On the other hand, parties have no policy or
programme to pursue. Their only ambition is to grab power or be part
of the government. It is a strange paradox the more the parties try to
come nearer to the people, they go farther because of people’s
disenchantment with them.
The frustrated L.K. Advani is leading a rath yatra, unfortunately from
the birthplace of Gandhian Jayaprakash Narain who was known for his
secular credentials. Advani’s purpose this time is to bring back the
money the Indians have stashed away abroad. But he is covering the
same ground which Anna Hazare has done by asking the government to
pass in this winter session of parliament a Lokpal (ombudsman) bill to
eliminate corruption and seize the black money kept abroad. Advani’s
yatra is a futile exercise. I suspect it is only a façade for his
politics of communalism. The nation has had a bitter experience when
in the wake of his yatra in 1990, hundreds of Muslims were killed.
This yatra too has the making of polarization and it may strengthen
fanaticism among Muslims.
In fact, after the Sachar Commission report, there is a churning in
the community. The question before Muslims is: what should they do?
They want to have an effective say in politics of secular India.
Advani’s yatra may drive them to refurbish their identity. Must Advani
or, for that matter, the BJP muddy the water at a time when a
relatively calm period of accommodation and tolerance has come to
What Advani may be doing is part of BJP’s internal politics to be at
the top in the party. But the nation is not bothered about his
ambition to occupy the centre stage or the projection by Gujarat chief
minister Narendra Modi to be the prime ministerial candidate. People
are worried over the harm the two may do to the polity. Muslims are
particularly concerned because both of them have a reputation of being
a divisive factor in the country.
Party president Nitin Gadkari has, for reasons best known to the BJP,
has introduced in the yatra drama the demand for building a temple at
the site where the Babri masjid stood once. On the other hand the
captains of industry have got involved in Modi’s politics. They have
hailed him as the country’s best CEO. I think these industrialists
need to be examined to find out whether thy too had a role when
hundreds of Muslims were killed in the Gujarat riots in 2002.
As for the ruling Congress, it has abruptly dropped both in popularity
and credibility. It looks as if it is not capable of doing anything
worthwhile. Congress president Sonia Gandhi, who has been doing the
backseat driving all these years, is out of gear. Health may be one
factor. But my hunch is that her biggest worry is her son, Rahul
Gandhi, whom she wanted to anoint, has failed to create few ripples in
the country. He does not look like a person who can succeed Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh. After investing so much on Rahul Gandhi, the
Congress does not have anyone except him to project.
Yet, the party is comparatively better when it comes to assessing
secular credentials. The middle class may argue that it is a lesser
evil but this very plea is an advantage for the Congress at the state
or parliament elections. An array of schemes for alleviation of
poverty and for improving the rural scene would also garner some votes
for the party. Realising this, the Congress may introduce some more
welfare schemes. Also, it may introduce some measures to curb
The party should have put the CBI under the supervision of the Supreme
Court till the institution of Lokpal was in place. But then too many
at the top are involved in one scam or the other. Some day the acts of
omission and commission of Kamal Nath may become public because he has
left behind a trail of corruption in the ministries he has headed. He
has reportedly acquired property abroad that is worth billions.
The glimmer of hope is still Anna Hazare. But his team has already
begun to play at the political crease. His movement represents the
resentment of people not only against corruption but also against
mis-governance. Nothing else should come in the way of its real goal.
It looks as if some members of his team are too anxious to be in the
corridors of power.
One of them has placed Hazare above parliament. This statement,
however general, does not fit into the democratic system that we
pursue. The people are supreme, not one person however popular he is.
JP who led the movement to oust the Congress in 1977 was solicitous
towards parliament. We have to ensure that only clean people go there,
but the importance of the institution should never be minimized.
It is ridiculous for the RSS to claim its hand in the thousands of
people who demonstrated their support to Hazare. And it is equally
ridiculous for the Congress to make him a front man of the RSS. The
Congress called even JP a CIA man. By making allegations, the party
does not wash off corruption which is strewn all over in the
government and in the Congress. When Hazare has snubbed the RSS, the
matter should have been left at that.
Still the basic question has to be answered: how to retrieve the
system. True, it is seething with corruption but which other models do
we have in view? Collective thinking is necessary. And that brings in
the political parties. Can their agendas be deferred till a consensus
is reached on the alternative? This is not possible until morality
returns to politics.

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