Tag Archives: Indian political scene

Short -Term Games Political Parties Play

By Malladi Rama Rao
Funny it may sound but the reality is that even before the talk about a new third front takes concrete shape, soothsayers are out in number to pronounce its death. Every analyst is blaming Karunanidhi and Mulayam Singh that in their sunset years both are allowing their sons to dictate the destiny of their parties.

There is an element of truth in the criticism but it doesn’t answer the basic question: who started the guessing game to begin with. You may not like DMK supremo, whose forte has always been to be on the side of ruling party in Delhi – right from Indira Gandhi’s days. As the BJP yesterday and the Congress today knows, the film script- writer turned politician has been the least troublesome ally.

If the Congress finds itself on the wrong side of Karunanidhi, it has to blame itself. The GOP in its excessive exuberance with Geneva gymnastics has forgotten the Raj Dharma of coalition politics which inter alia means taking the DMK on board the strategies for Geneva right from the word go.

Consultations with DMK chief, when he had already made up his mind to go his own way is not the way to respect the sentiments and concerns of a senior ally. More so when he had taken great political risk and went along with Delhi on the final phase of Vanni war that President Mahinda Rajapaksa had waged.

India was aware that the Rajapaksa war was the most ruthless and brutal campaign. And the way men and women and children in hospitals and camps in the so called no fire zones were killed often without a warning shot. Quibbling over how to describe such a targeted killing shows a mindset that does no credit to the democratic ethos of this country.

The war footage that has been surfacing with unfailing regularity these past four years clearly establishes the gruesome nature of the campaign carried out by President Rajapaksa. He is now unwilling to yield an inch of power politics to the Tamils in his country. Historically speaking, all Tamils are not a British import into the island for indentured labour. They trace their roots to 2nd century BC and the North and Eastern regions have always been Tamil turf.

The point is the Congress is to blame itself for the DMK going its own way. The crowning glory of the saga is, of course, the CBI raid on the houses of the son and grandson of Karunanidhi, which as one gathers, had the full knowledge of the powers that be.

Both Mulayam Singh and Mayawati are hunted by CBI, though they have been the crutches on which the Manmohan sarkar survives. This is either rank foolishness or absolute arrogance of power. Also terming them as unpredictable allies, and courting a Nitish Kumar in full public view.

Such acts are inevitable when the government, which swears by ‘aam aadmi’, allows itself to be guided and led by bureaucrats for whom with honourable exceptions, increments, promotions and post-retirement rehabilitation alone matter. Probably in no dispensation since independence have the bureaucrats have such an upper hand as in the UPA –I and II.

Nitish has no reason to go with the Congress in Bihar. With just 8.38 per cent share of popular vote, which is spread across the state, the Congress is no asset even to Lalu Prasad Yadav. The RJD leader had famously said once in the not too distant past that leaving a seat in Bihar to the Congress was as good as losing it.

Yes, Nitish can accept a deal with the Congress provided it is modelled on TN pattern – Congress leaving the field open to him in the assembly in return for a major share in the Lok Sabha seats. Such deal will mean acknowledging that Rahul Gandhi has failed in his mission in Bihar and by extension in UP as well.

The Congress ideologues like Digvijay Singh may not like such route for power nirvana on the Raisina Hill. They had criticised PV Narasimha Rao when he tried to follow Indira-MGR model of seat sharing in UP with Kanshiram’s BSP. Rahul Gandhi has often echoed the same view.

Sharad Pawar, whatever be his other failings, saw merit in the PV plan at the end of 1994 and worked closely with him to give shape to Cong-BSP alliance. In the decade plus since then, PV has been proved right as the Congress fortunes have refused to look up in Uttar Pradesh that sends the largest number of lawmakers to Parliament.

Today, Pawar is in a wait and watch mode, like Mulayam Singh Yadav. Neither is playing brinkmanship politics as Delhi’s rootless wonders think. Mulayam’s praise of LK Advani or his senior colleague Ram Gopal Yadav’s comment that corruption was less in NDA regime fall into the emerging pattern that blurs lines between the so called secular and the saffron camps. The Congress has reasons therefore to go into an overdrive to protect its power turf.

The unfolding campaign depicts the non-Congress parties and their leaders as small time players, who cannot be expected to pursue policies that look beyond their vested interest. And support to them is depicted as sure invitation to the forces of disintegration. In so many words the message is that the nation is safe if it is with the Congress hand.

Surely it goes against the wisdom of the people of the country, who have elected Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal, Navin Patnaik in Odisha, Nitish Kumar in Bihar, Akilesh Yadav in Uttar Pradesh, Omar Farooq in Jammu and Kashmir, and Jayalalithaa in Tamilnadu. BJP has reasons to be upset with the way its regional satraps – Narendra Modi and Shivraj Singh Chouhan including, are projected as leaders with a narrow vision and with an agenda that expects national interests to be subservient to the regional interests.

Will such a campaign pay dividends? Well, panic reaction is no substitute for good politics both in the short and near terms.

(This commentary first appeared in The Hans India, English daily from Hyderabad on Mar 30, 2013)

No game-changer electoral game

By Malladi Rama Rao

CONGRESS politicians of Delhi school seldom speak their mind. When they do, they are careful enough to not harm the interests of the high command and at the same time they ensure that their place under the Banyan tree is safe and secure. So much so, the comments of Chief Minister, Sheila Dixit (76), against the Delhi Police are good food for thought.

On the Women’s Day, she lamented that her own daughter felt insecure in Delhi as it became a crime capital of India. She did not field the obvious question – if a CM’s daughter, who enjoys the protective ring that is available to her mother, finds it unsafe, what about ladies from aam aadmi households, who travel by buses and three wheelers, and are, therefore, exposed to the dangers from a Ram Singh lurking in the shadows. None of them would like in their worst dreams even to go through the hell suffered by Nirbhay last year.

Sheila Dixit could have taken up the issue with Police Commissioner but didn’t. Not even with the Union Home Minister, Sushil Kumar Shinde (71), her contemporary in Congress, to whom the Police Commissioner reports.

What a shame it is for the Congress, which is ruling Delhi and the nation? And which is about to seek a fresh five-year mandate soon.

This is not for the first time that she has been targeting the City police but it is certainly the first time when a chief minister has expressed lack of confidence in the police setup.

She is not new to the corridors of power. She has been the chief minister of Delhi for more than a decade. She may have got the job on the platter because of internal equations in the Congress that had something to do with a Telugu bidda. Like her, all those who were part of that particular equation had found luck smile on them even before the Congress –led UPA happened.

Well, it is a subject matter good enough for a wider public debate in the context of Congress politics after Rajiv Gandhi. When will such a debate take place? It is difficult to crystal gaze.

The celebrations marking the fifteen year rein of Sonia Gandhi (61) as Congress President offer a perfect backdrop to undertake a retrospect and prospect for the 127-year-old organisation that had seen several splits down the years.

Sadly, at the moment the issue appears destined to be a Friday resolution that Parliament sees listed on the agenda but seldom comes up for discussion.

Undeniably, political calculations have pump-primed Sheila-speak against the police. The Nirbhya tragedy had brought people to the streets. Their anger was targeted at the Congress.

Neither Sheila Dixit nor her high command ventured out when the young and old made India Gate the Tahrir Square of Delhi. In fact, both simply vanished from the front lines ignoring the fact that the problem confronting the police was political at the core and not a mere law and order issue.

But then, Sheila is a hardcore Delhiite, who did her apprenticeship under Uma Shankar Dixit, her father –in-law and home minister in the Indira days. She knows the survival mantra. And it’s that the best way to deflect public anger is to speak their language. This is what she has been doing after the lead taken by her lawmaker son, Sandeep Dixit. He did it rather crudely though.

The law of Delhi is such that the Chief Minister has to knock at the doors of the Union Home Minister in case of a dispute or discard with the Lieutenant Governor. Often, the Home Ministry’s bureaucracy sides with the resident of the Rajnivas.

During her spat with the Police Commissioner, the Babus of North Block threw their weight behind the policeman. Rarely the IAS fraternity sides with the IPS but in this instant case they did because of the fear of getting engulfed.

In matters of Delhi police, the chief minister is kept in the loop by way of courtesy or to put more bluntly because of the old bureaucratic mantra of keeping all politicians in good humour. This arrangement suits her, and that was why she did not murmur in protest even once in the past decade plus of her stewardship of Delhi government.

Electoral calculations are what make her turn against the police. She may not be alone in such thinking. Otherwise, fellow Congressmen of Delhi would have made her life miserable. For them, she is an outsider still, as her place of birth is Merut in western UP. They have been tolerating her because she is in the good books of 10 Janpath. Post-Nirbhay, her NGO-centric son, has been made a spokesman of AICC.

So, will Sheila’s gamble pay off? Will people fall a prey to her bait? Difficult to say though from all accounts she knows her onions. Election is a big ticket exercise.

As of now, this much can be said, going by the past precedents.

Chidambaram’s budgets have not won elections. His dream budget made his Prime Minister Deva Gowda dream big and the voters to ignore them both.

With every passing day, it is becoming clear that in his bid to please Sonia Gandhi, who has to win the election for the Congress, and Manmohan Singh, who has to run the government, Chidambaram has ended up serving neither.

An articulate driver of a Maharashtra RTC bus offered an insight into what may be in store during my journey from Nasik to Pune the other day.

Speaking a mixture of Marathi and Hindi, he said, “In Gujarat, the roads are excellent. So are their buses. Our roads are potholed and busses are rickety. There, it is only BJP. Here there is Sena, RPI and BJP. All are just small fray. Congress is corrupt. Inefficient. So, what? People will stamp on the hand once again!”

A TINA factor at work for Sheila and her high command? We will have to wait for a while to know.

( *The comment appeared in The Hans India on Mar 16, 2013)