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April - May 2009


Editorial

Who (among these) is the fittest to lead the largest democracy?

by Krishan Ralleigh


“I love India not because I cultivate the idolatry of geography, not because I have had the choice to be born in her soil, but because she has saved through tumultuous ages the living words that have issued from the illuminated consciousness of her great ones.” Rabindra Nath Tagore.

To Tagore the greatness and invincibility of India lies in the spoken and written literature of ancient Rishis and saints which are our heritage, whether we live in India or in any other part of the world. India’s general elections for the 15th Lok Sabha is a continuation of that heritage when those who governed India got their legitimacy from the people.

In his treatise ‘Nitisara’ (The science of Polity) Rishi Shukracharya said, “Public opinion is more powerful than the king as the rope made of many fibres is strong enough to drag a lion.”

General elections reflect public opinion. The leaders elected, working together could work wonders for the country. The Prime Minister of the country is the leader of these leaders or at least a majority of them. He, by virtue of his position, becomes the destiny of its people for a certain number of years. He may lead the country for sixteen years, as Jawahar Lal Nehru did, or for seventeen years, as his daughter Indira Gandhi did; or for a few months or weeks as some prime ministers did in the stormy years of Indian politics in the 80s and 90s.

Atal Behari Vajpaee was the first non-congress prime minister who lasted almost four years. His government was a coalition of parties which worked together to take India forward; but he lost to the Congress and its allies, who under the name of secularism joined together to defeat National Democratic Alliance, a group of several parties led by Bhartiya Janata Party having the largest number of MPs in the Lok Sabha.

The Congress, after the election in 2004, secured more votes than the BJP; and thus was able to form government under the stewardship of Dr Manmohan Singh who was appointed to hold the position by the Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi. The Position of Prime Minister in a parliamentary form of government is ‘primus inter pares’ i.e. the first among equals. Thus it is the Cabinet which is the main executive body elected by a majority of MPs who have voted together either as one party or as a group of parties. In the UPA cabinet, the leader, i.e the Prime Minister was not even a member of the Lok Sabha. He owed his position to the President of the Congress party i.e. Sonia Gandhi.

The Congress, in the coming elections has till now formed alliance with Trinamul Congress of Mumta Banerji and National Congress Party of Sharad Pawar; both offshoots of the Congress Party. It has failed to carry with it either Samajwadi Party of Mulayam Singh or RJD of Lalu Prasad Yadav (a cabinet minister) or LJP of Ram Vilas Paswan( also a cabinet minister). In the South, the DMK of Karunanidhi and IADMK of Jaylalitha are sitting on the fence; and may decide only after the elections. A wise step indeed.

The so-called Third Front is the hotch-potch of Left parties (CPM, CPI, Forward Block) and Deva Gowda’s Janata Dal in Karnataka. Mayawati, the chief minister in UP is hoping to be invited by this Front to be their choice for the Prime Minister of India after the chaotic results that, many predict, would be inevitable after the elections.

Chaos in Indian democratic system is what these leaders desire. Only out of chaos, the Naxalites and the fundamentalists would gain ground. It was out of chaos that the Maoist gained power in Nepal. The Maoists, hobnobbing with avengelical christians in Orissa, West Bengal and Karnataka are a threat to Indian democracy as much as the Islamic fundamentalists who with the support of some elements in the neighbouring Pakistan are bent upon destroying democratic system not only in India but in the West too.

The Congress party can still hold the Centre, if the National Congress Party and Trinamool Congress come back in the fold. They left the party because they were against Sonia Gandhi becoming Prime Minister. She, wisely, opted out of that position, recognising the hurt it would cause to the national sentiments of people who love India in the mould of Rabindra Nath Tagore. She frankly does not inherit the greatness of India although she has adapted herself to the ethos of India; and would like her son Rahul Gandhi to play his role in shaping the destiny of India.

If the Congress party wins, Manmohan Singh will stay as the Prime Minister. The end-result will be that the Prime Minister may have more sway over his cabinet. Will Sonia Gandhi like that? Her ambition of bringing Rahul Gandhi at the helm in near future is possible only if Manmohan Singh voluntarily decides to take retirement.

In the Bhartiya Janata Party, the situation is as fluid as in the Congress. LK Advani will be the next Prime Minister if the BJP and its allies have a majority. The problem with the BJP is that even if they are able to concoct a majority in parliament, it may not last for five years. Advani is already 82. Who will take his position? Rajnath Singh is a second rate politician; does not have the same stature as Modi or Arun Jaitley, unless he can deliver a majority of BJP MPs from Uttar Pardesh.

Political parties are essential devices to organise public opinion and represent them in the corridors of power whether in states or at the Centre. Bhartiya Janata Party under the able stewardship of Atal Behari Vajpayee has gradually influenced a majority of India’s burgeoning middle classes; but it has yet to influence the rural masses of India.

The Congress party on the other hand has inherited the old Indian National Congress that fought for indepndence against the British rule. Under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, It organised the rural and urban masses to oppose the British Raj. It succeeded in achieving the goal of independence; but failed to keep the unity of the country. The partition was, in a way, defeat of Indian National Congress and that of Mahatma Gandhi. The consequences of that defeat are being faced by India with increasing intensity to the extent of the possibility of a nuclear holocaust on the sub-continent.

That’s why the Bhartiya Janata Party has become more influential and powerful to form governments in various states of India. It has to organise public opinion throughout India and at all levels of the society. The rural masses are as important as the newly rich urban middle class. Upwardly mobile techies should be welcomed as much as the so-called dalits, scheduled castes etc. The top leadership of Bhartiya Janata Party should involve all in the great renaissance of India coming out of the decadence of a thousand years. It should share with the present Congress party, the heritage of freedom movement as well as the great inheritance of ancient India. In short, the people should have a choice between LK Advani or Manmohan Singh. In case they both fail, the future of the nation could be in peril. LK Advani should understand this basic truth as should Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. Any alliance with smaller parties based on regional, religious or caste basis is like a poisoned chalice. They, and the voters in India, should beware of the trap of short-term gains. The future of Indian democracy in India is of utmost importance. It is the essence of India’s heritage and the harbinger of renaissance in the society.

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