Political uncertainty looming
Today's uncertainty arises from the growing chasm between peoples' woes and aspirations and the policies of the government. Clueless with the eventual...
Today's uncertainty arises from the growing chasm between peoples' woes and aspirations and the policies of the government. Clueless with the eventual collapse of the myth of market's omnipotence, a threshold has been reached
The electoral landscape has started warming up. Capital's grapevines have started vigorously doing the rounds. The exit of the DMK from the UPA coalition have exacerbated the rumour mill and speculations are ripe whether the elections will be held on time in 2014 or sometime earlier before the end of the current year. But whatever be the projections, the bottom line is clear; the political uncertainty has descended over the corridors of power. Along with the edginess which characterizes the political body language of leaders and formations, a discourse on coalition has gathered momentum. Not just the DMK or the TMC earlier, but even some statements by Samajwadi Party Supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav have also provoked political excitement. And this numerical uncertainty of the ruling coalition prompts speculation on early elections. Media outfits are agog with activity. Apart from specifics of possible realignment of forces and consequent combinations that shape coalitions � public discourse is engaged on the role and function of coalition in Indian politics. Though a part of this discourse is speculative in nature and far removed from the factual situation - some of this certainly have a substantial basis. Widespread opinion of politicians and seasoned observers does seem to converge; coalition appears to be a 'compulsive necessity'. Especially, the Congress and BJP-both seem to agree on this description. Perhaps, it is apparently true. But there is an essential difference between compulsion and inevitability, between grudging acceptance and conscious appreciation of the ground reality. The mood prevailing in the Congress and the BJP does not seem to have come to grips with the prevailing political reality � which has not erupted abruptly but has evolved protractedly. The Prime Minister of the first formal coalition government in the country � Vishwanath Pratap Singh had once observed � "India is a coalition". As we continue to move in the difficult terrain of coalition politics, this observation seems prophetic. A history of post-independent India confirms this understanding. The Indian National Congress, apart from its premier role in the national movement, evolved itself as a confederation of diverse entities that defines India. The economic, social, political, cultural, religious pluralities that characterize India - found their manifestation on the Congress platform during the freedom struggle and the first two decades of the independent republic. Of course, there were differences, divergences, and actual dissent; but nevertheless unlike a monolithic organisation, the Congress evolved itself as a platform which could provide space to these plural opinions. In a sense, therefore, Congress was the first coalition of the country. The situation started changing quite rapidly from late sixties when the Congress monopoly came under challenge. The `promised land' that Nehru and other Congress leaders proposed proved illusory. The growing chasm between promise and reality provoked strong opposition in the states and galvanized nationally. The emergence of Indira Gandhi and her 'high command' undermined the coalitional nature of Congress. The political and intellectual engagement between Nehru and provincial stalwarts of the Congress became redundant. The tendency of over-centralisation of powers had its repercussions in emergence of new regional formations. There were varied reasons for their genesis ranging from economic backwardness to unaddressed social deprivation and aspiration apart from assertion of regional identities. Powerful personalities also acted as nucleus to reflect these tendencies. But the coalition phase finally and truly arrived in mid-nineties. First Communist Chief Minister and doyen of the Left, E.M.S. Namboodiripad with his impeccable sense of realpolitik had quipped that two assassinations had delayed the arrival of coalition by a decade. The results of 1984 and 1991 bear testimony to EMS's political acumen. There have been three types of coalitions in the country. Coalition of non-Congress non-BJP parties supported by the BJP or the Congress, coalition led by Congress and coalition led by BJP. Contemporary discussions have tended to deride non-Congress non-BJP coalitions on the ground that they are inherently unstable. But none of these critics have actually taken the trouble of going into the specific issues which have led to the collapse of these governments. Would it have been wise for V. P. Singh to stand a mute spectator to Advani's bloody trail of communal violence which accompanied the 'Rath Yatra'? Whether Congress was right in invoking Jain Commission report and insisting on DMK's ouster to pull down the UF government? On the other hand, advocates of BJP wax eloquent on Vajpayee's charm in running a successful coalition. Again these camp followers forget that the original NDA formed with 22 parties, but were left with only ten on the eve of 2004 elections. The number of allies has now come down further; not to speak of the communal agenda which came to the fore during the Gujarat genocide despite having consigned this to the back burner. Despite the choicest invectives against the coalition phenomenon, this has come to stay in Indian politics. While emergence of several regional and caste based political formations may be the apparent factor for such a development, the more pertinent question is- how they have come to enjoy popular support for their respective platforms? And intimately linked is despite such well publicized argumentation against them-why the people have failed to show keenness for major National parties? That is the crux of the new political reality; despite awareness about pitfalls of coalition, people do not repose full confidence in these major parties. Unless this reality is recognized, coalition process cannot become responsible and mature. Coalition is still not recognized as an honest exercise in reconciliation and bipartisanism instead of play acting aimed at concealing hegemonic unilateralism. Without such recognition, coalitions cannot become credible and translate the imperative of good governance. A case in point is the approach of the UPA-II. This is the first coalition government since mid 90's, which does not have a CMP. The result is for all to see-Congress with 29% popular support virtually runs a one � party government. This has resulted from the PM's political claustrophobia in the company of the Left, expressed famously when he imagined himself as a "bonded labour". But today, wise by hindsight, the Congress leadership might realise that they acted too smart by half. Their anxiety to unfetter themselves from the CMP might have just provided the leeway to its allies to go centrifugal. Today's uncertainty arises from the growing chasm between peoples' woes and aspirations and the policies of the government. Clueless with the eventual collapse of the myth of market's omnipotence, a threshold has been reached. No longer can the "suffering India" be flogged, nor can the "shining India" be more luminous. Recognition of this explicit reality has to be the heart of coalition making .Any deviation at fudging can only spell disaster not just for the aam aadmi, but for future governance.