Group President, Group Managing Director & Editor In Chief: Dr.Shelly Ahmed

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Congress-BJP government?

By M H Ahssan

A small news item that appeared in the papers last week may have slipped by most readers. It reported how the Congress, the BJP and the CPM had all joined hands in Sikkim to form the United Democratic Front, an electoral arrangement that will fight the Sikkim Democratic Front led by chief minister Pawan Chamling in the elections later this year. Sikkim politics barely makes news nationally and certainly not in Mumbai. But this was an intriguing bit of news -- the three political parties who are at loggerheads in a tie-up!

By a coincidence perhaps the former BJP ideologue Govindacharya held a press conference in Ahmedabad where he suggested that the two big national parties come together in a joint front. His logic? This would avoid instability, which was sure to follow if a motley Third Front was formed in the absence of any big party getting enough seats. The two big parties together had 282 seats in parliament; this time round, Govindacharya predicted, they would get 252, which was still short of a full majority but would be the single largest combination.

It is a tempting thought, on the face of it. Neither of the two big parties looks set to reach even the 150 mark, leave along a full majority. None of the other parties, barring the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Left are likely to get more than 60 seats. The regional groups are too localised to make an impact on the national scene. The only possible option, going by past history, is for a collection of several small parties, with nothing in common between them who select a compromise candidate as the prime minister.

Again going by experience, this will be a shaky arrangement that will fall sooner than later: VP Singh, Chandrasekhar, HD Deve Gowda and IK Gujral, the examples are too many.

At a time when India faces so many challenges on the economic and security front, can we afford this kind of instability? Why not pool your best political talent and form a National Government which will work towards addressing these problems? Further, goes the argument, both the big parties have much in common. They both are for economic reforms, for the Indo-US Strategic partnership and for a tough approach towards terror. Indeed, as Govindacharya said, the BJP is "a saffron Congress".

Govindacharya is not the only one to have proposed this idea. The academic Meghnad Desai had suggested this a few years ago and the business community has always been an enthusiastic votary.

Two broad questions arise from this proposal: firstly, is such a coming together possible? Second, and far more important, is it a good idea?

Stranger things have happened in Indian politics so no one can ever rule out such an alliance. But it is safe to assume that it is not going to happen too soon. The so-called commonalities apart, both are extremely different kind of organisations. The BJP is ideology driven and its members have a clear idea of what it fundamentally stands for; the Congress is a broad church, absorbing every kind of ideology within its folds. It has always had leftists, rightists, border-line Hindutva types and socialists among its members, often at the same time. Yet they are all Congressmen and women. The BJP adheres to a well-structure outlook, dinned into each and every member by the RSS and too much deviation is simply not possible. The twain, therefore cannot meet because these two worldviews cannot be easily reconciled.

Then there is of course the question of who leads whom. This will be no ordinary coalition -- who will dominate the arrangement? Given the levels of polarisation in Indian politics, can the leaders of two parties reconcile themselves to working together? What price stability, then?

Democracies by their very nature look chaotic and coalitions more so. Everyone pulls in different directions, pushing their own agendas, whether it is a multi-party arrangement or a two-party one.

India looks even messier than other countries. We look at our plethora of regional parties and cringe and the absence of a national agenda. We think our democracy has got out of hand -- if only we could be like Singapore.

India is too big and diverse for that. Even these two parties will represent just 50 percent of the country, if that. A national government of two parties will shut out the aspirations of a large section of the population which will never get proper representation, simply because the two giants would dominate. Mayawati is within an election of becoming the prime minister; she or any other Dalit would never get a chance. Rag-tag coalitions may look like a farce; a government by the two national parties would be dangerous.

We don't know the result these elections will throw up, but whatever it is, that is the collective voice of the people. That has to be accepted. In the final analysis, it is they and not a small section of the population which thinks it has all the answers, who will count.
Post a Comment