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Between the line

A fresh poll needed
December 22, 2011


There is not a shred of doubt that the Manmohan Singh government would have fallen last week if it had persisted in going ahead with Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in retail. The opposition came together and the government was reduced to 206 in the 545-member house. A similar fate can confront the government if it does not improve upon the diluted bill to set up the institution of Ombudsman (Lokpal) to deal with corruption. Once they span their differences,
the government can face the same situation as it did on FDI. Behind-the-scenes efforts have not stopped to bring down the government. Permutations and combinations are being worked out and it looks difficult that the government can loss the full term up to May, 2014. The threat has already affected the functioning of government. Decisions are taking long and there is a paralysis in the administration. It looks as if it is the momentum which is keeping it going.

Most political parties, particularly the BJP, have taken the advantage of Gandhain Anna Hazare’s movement on the Lokpal bill which brought once again thousands from civil society on the streets. Except the National Congress Party (NCP) of Maharashtra (9), the Trinamul Congress of West Bengal (19) and the DMK of Tamilnadu, (16) almost all
political parties from left to right commanding the strength of 201 joined Hazare on the same platform. The Congress led-government has 248 in tow, missing the half way mark of 272. Therefore, the government cannot take bold decision which the situation demands. The Congress is justified in alleging that the Hazare’s movement has got politicized. The party has also a point when it says that such pressures tell upon the democratic method of achieving the end. However, I do not accept the charge that Hazare has political gains in view. The more the Congress trumps up such allegations the less will be its credibility.

Yet the Congress has itself to blame for the development because the Lokpal bill it has brought before Parliament is neither fish nor foul. It goes against the assurances the Congress gave to Anna Hazae (Prime Minister endorsed those through a letter). The ‘sense of the house’ as Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee spelled out in a resolution to enable Hazare to break his fast was : (1) Citizen’s Charter including his right to have water and electricity, (ii) the lower bureaucracy under Lokpal and (iii) establishment of Lokayuktas in the states. The bill has conceded only one point that is the appointment of State Ombudsman (Lokayukta).

Now that the bill is being amended, the Congress should introspect why it could not read the mood of political parties and the public. The party has lost its face by first insisting to keep the lower staff as well as PM out of ambit of Lokpal and then surrendering within 48 hours. (Former Prime Minister Inder Gujral is opposed to having PM under Lokpal. He says that the PM has so much information accumulating at his table that he cannot afford share anything with anyone,
including Lokpal because by doing so he may harm national interest). It seems that Parliamentary Standing Committee which gave bones to the bill had provided for keeping the lower staff and the PM under Lokpal. But the last minute intervention by Rahul Gandhi, son of Congress President Sonia Gandhi deleted both the points. Belatedly, the Congress has denied this but only after Hazare’s repeated charge that Rahul had diluted the Lokpal bill. The contradiction has no validity until Rahul himself replies to the charge.

Yet the sticking point is the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). This is an instrument which every government has used against opponents at the Centre and in the States. CBI is under the Personnel department of Central government that means the ruling party. Rulers have misused CBI to sustain its majority in the Lok Sabha or the state legislatures. Even the governments of different colours have been destabilized through CBI. Sharad Yadav, a leader of Other Backward Classes (OBC) has been honest enough to say on the floor of the house that they too misused CBI when they were in power. In fact, it is time that all political parties realize that the destabilization of elected governments does not augur well for them or the country. On the other hand, Finance Minister, Pranab Mukherjee has warned that without political stability, the economic stability is not possible. One can see that. The country is going down the hill as far as the economy is concerned. Industrial growth rate has slipped to 5.1 per cent, the lowest in the last two years. The growth of GDP is just above 7 per cent which is the minimum if the nation does not want to see the lay offs and dire unemployment. India is no more considered a good place for investment. The licking that the rupee is getting shows

The Manmohan Singh government will have to make many compromises to stay in power. This may entail the economic packages to Trinamul Congress, the DMK or smaller parties. This is not good for the country’s health, economically or politically. The Congress is right when it blames the opposition for stalling parliament and not letting the key bills to be passed. Indeed, the opposition’s role is negative when the nation faces a difficult hour. But then the opposition is
interested in coming to power by hook or by crook, not in pushing the economy. In the process, people are suffering and missing pace and progress in development. On the chessboard of politics, the different parties are busy playing the game in such a way that they sustain their strength and project their own interest even if it means stagnation for the
nation. No doubt, they do not want to face election because of uncertainty of the outcome. But there does seem be any other way to get out from the mess, which the non-governance of rulers and non-cooperation of the opposition has brought about.

The electorate has no faith in what the government claims and no confidence in what the political parties promise. People want a change (parivartan). Hazare’s agitation has awakened them to the misdeeds of those in power or those who are outside it. Fresh election may throw up new faces, new parties and new combinations. There may well be a
manthan (churning). Some dirt is bound to come out. This is good for the nation. Ultimately things will settle down to usher in a new chapter, new environment and new vigour. There is no alternative to new elections. EOM

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