Will the call for conscience vote in the upcoming presidential election in India trigger some unpredictable outcome? An internal rebellion in the Congress?
The nomination papers of B.S.Shekhawat,the Opposition candidate for the Presidency by Natwar Singh,till the other day a leading light of the Sonia Gandhi’s inner circle points to a new development.Mr.Singh is still officially a Congressman,a senior Congress leader with a sort of aura of the Nehru-Gandhi loyalty very much attaching to his persona.And,if Mr.Singh can dare to take on Sonia Gandhi in such a sensitive contest like the Presidential elections,then,what about the more genuinely aggrieved sections within the Congress.There are as many factions as you can count the loyal members in the party and there is no place for guessing the “certainty”,a word made notorious now by none other than the incumbent President, of the outcome of this Presidential race.
One thing is ‘certain’,however.The Congress is very much left to feel the growing loneliness of the leader who is driven not by any visible principles in matters of high state issues.The search and the final zeroing in on an unknown Mrs. Patil for the President’s post has also proved what Sonia Gandhi is like.She is a terribly insecure person and also terribly secretive.See her mid-night parleys with Mayawati,another unpredictable character in Indian politics.They clinch a deal while all the other dependable allies are waiting and watching.Then,a search for an acceptable candidate leads to ruthless elimination,of course on the dogmatic postures of the Left.Then,only a dark horse emerges.
Now,what is the rationale of justifying voting by the Shiv Sena on the strength of the Daughter of Maharashtra and now the Son of Rajasthan!
If the voting is on the bassi of such narrow considerations of sons and daughters of the soil,then caste can also be invoked,as it will surely,given the strength of the caste factor in Indian politics.Then,would come other considerations.So,where do we go from here?From where does the BJP go from a rabid Hindutva to the more liberal face?Yes,Rajnath Singh,the BJP president,has started talking on some “liberal”sentiments,the party’s principles have all gone,with the MPs showing themselves to be any other in taking bribes or indulging in human trafficking.
So,the party loyalty factor is becoming thin and in the Presidential election,party loyalties are likely to be dented.
The one other factor that is very much on everybody’s mind is the money factor!If big money comes into play,then,it will be a real politics of the past kinds.In the 1969 Congress split,in the defeat of V.P.Singh,in the elevation of Chandrashekhar government,we saw the power of the big money.
The Congress party,given its numbers,the UPA allies as they are at present seem seem confident of winning the Presidential elections without any doubt.But certain doubts have come about in the wake of the media reports that the BJP might campaign for a conscience vote by the MPs and the MLAs.The call for a conscience vote in a Presidential election,fortunately or unfortunately,has a pedigree in the Indian political psyche.It was none other than the late Mrs.Indira Gandhi who adopted this”ploy”to defeat her own “official”candidate, Sanjeeva Reddy when she at the last minute turned to V.V.Giri who was the Vice-President then and finally she won her race by defeating Reddy.That led to several developments.One was the famous split of the Congress party and also that saw the exodus of the old guard from the Congress.That exodus also brings to mind the still famous parallel of the 1930s, Netaji Subash Bose expulsion from the party by none other than by the great Mahatma Gandhi himself.When Bose won the Congress President’s election much against the Mahatma’s wishes and when Gandhi’s own candidate ,Pattabi Sitaramayya was defeated Gandhi claims it his own defeat.The retribution was to come so soon and so swiftly.Not only Subash Bose was expelled ,in fact his very Working Committee was dissolved.So,be it Mahatma Gandhi or Mrs.Indira Gandhi,the Congress organisation has a long tradition of imposing leader’s will so ruthlessly and it was never a democratic decision within the party.
Such is the long tradition of a 122 year old organisation that brought us the country’s Independence.
Now,the only change in the scenario and the temper of the times is the fact that Mrs.Sonia Gandhi too has opted for a one-person dictated party management style.And in this she not only became President of the party without any contest,not even any token contest and ever since she became the leader she seems to have gone about systematically side lining the seniors in the party and promoting a nominated culture that smacks of blatant sycophancy.We find the high Cabinet posts are occupied by upstarts and the tainted ones and all the gravitas one associated with governance in the Central government is given up and a subservient Prime Minister is dancing to her tunes.
Now the Presidential election saw another new low in Indian politics.The choice of the Presidential nominee is done by a process that has brought an all- round disappointment and disgust,to say the least.Yes,for the form sake many of the seniors inside and outside the party are keeping mum for the sake of some decorum.
But we can see the process of selection of the Presidential nominee was first by elimination of the very seniors who have obvious stature and seniority in the party and they seemed obvious choice.Second,the others chosen by Mrs.Gandhi were rejected by the Left and almost after eliminating everybody who mattered in the political life of the country,she was forced to opt for a total unknown name,an unknown quantity,if one can say so and the choice was imposed on the nation and the much-hyped Left have found themselves bowled over by the sudden surprise name and they,the poor men,in the desperate situation in which they found themselves suddenly emerged as the champions of the women empowerment! A dubious compliment,considering their own role in the promotion of women empowerment in the states where they are ruling.
The Presidential contest changed from one of choosing the best person for the job to choosing a person who seems by all accounts the least suited.
This has helped the BJP in an unexpected way.First,they have got a chance to input their candidate.Independent candidate B.S.Shekhawat,is an original RSS man and yet he had emerged as a much admired person by all parties and sections thanks to his impartial conduct as Rajya Sabha chairman and also by his own national stature.
Also,secondly,the hastily formed Third Front,also came to play a very critical role by dragging the name of the incumbent President,A.P.J.Abdul Kalam who also surprised the nation with his secret desire to play some politics even at the late hour!Whatever image he might have had with the people,he proved that when it comes to politics he is innocent or his innate cleverness only helped to damage his carefully cultivated public person.Who in such high positions can expect to go smoothly?None!Kalam proved to be an Indian in his materialism and he wanted to enjoy the high ceremonial and protocol-driven office for some more time.Poor man,he fell so flatly by succumbing to such temptations or aberrations?He didn’t become wiser so quickly either.He wanted”certainty”of all places,in politics and in a highly charged political context like the election of the highest Constitutional office! Anyway,Kalam would find a bigger foot-note in history books for his last-minute temptations! Yes,history is a funny and also a cruel judge,it doesn’t excuse trespassers!It will always would assign a place,even as a foot-note,much amusing reading material for future historians and readers as well! That is history for those who didn’t have a grounding in such social sciences,more so for those who are experts only in rocket sciences!
That would also explain how Kalam was such an innocent after all.He was a scientist and a bureaucrat,he was never a thinker in his own right,nor an intellectual given to much introspection! Such is the distinction between humanities and social sciences on the one hand and sciences and technologies on the other.See how many times in recent experience we find the big shots be it in corporate India or in government who stumble when they try to justify their own flawed vision,be it singing the national anthem or playing sycophants to the powers that be,be it when they lower the political processes or moral standards.
With so many of the highly experienced and highly qualified advisors by his side,the Prime Minister is not able to impress the country by any of his articulations of the larger issues that concern or agitate the country,from nuclear deal to dealing with Chinese claims on our territory or responding to so many disasters,natural and man-made(farmers suicides).
There is total insensitivity in this government when it comes to responding to peoples’ miseries. This is an urban-centered Government,comfortable in urban drawing rooms and unwilling even to travel outside the Capital.There are ministers who haven’t even visited the many state capitals!So,this is not a truly democratic government,constituted in a genuine democratic manner.The choice of ministers themselves is very arbitrary and chosen on very unjustifiable arbitrary manner,seeking for personal loyalty,irrespective of any loyalty to the principles of the party!
So,the call for a conscience vote in the Presidential polls has rattled the party and its allies.
There are any number of Congressmen who feel their due contribution for the party has gone un rewarded.
So,if the BJP and its managers and the unsaid and unseen sympathizers,among the corporate,join together they could play a havoc with the party loyalties.As it is being discussed those who are above 60 years of age in the Congress party might feel disgruntled and their frustration might show up in the voting.Then,there are any number of internal divisions within the Congress at the state levels.
The Congressmen in a state like TN are divided between themselves,more on the lines of who are siding with the state level power-wielder,the DMK and the ADMK and ,given the lower levels even the MPs have fallen lately,money power can cause much damage.
So,there is a real chance that there could be cross voting or second preference votes.
Whatever be the outcome of the Presidential election,the next big thing,the general elections of 2009 would be the still bigger and more fatal attraction for the players.
Already,the Congress party has alerted the state units,it called the AICC and the state party chiefs,the BJP is also on the war path to ensure discipline in a party that one boasted of such a discipline.Today,the bJP also became a mass organisation,no more a cadre based party and also there are MLAs now in the party,in Gujarat and Rajasthan,asking for the state chief ministers to resign.
The Third Front parties and their leaders too have to come out with a credible argument why they are playing the role they are playing in the Presidential race with a clear sense of responsibility.They must either articulate their larger national role,they have to align with either one of the two formations.At present they have not done so and even their choice of a leader for the Third Front looks like caught in overweening ambitions of one or two individual leaders.This is a negative factor in their formation and they are yet to prove their credibility in the coming days,at any rate in the context of the Presidential race.They cant abstain from voting in the Presidential election,as it prove their total irresponsibility in such a major context.So,the Third Front as it is,is burdened with a moral imperative.They have to articulate and they have to show to the nation they are serious leaders with a future.
The Left too,with all their bravado and talk for some illogical and abuse theories,they are as confused as the other Third Front parties.The Left supports the UPA out of compulsions,to save their skin in the West Bengal and Kerala developments and also find some rationale for doing what they have been”forced”to do by the Congress.It is significant that Sonia Gandhi didn’t trust the Left and she negotiated a deal with Mayawati in a more ruthless way.That paid her off well.So,she presented the Left with no choice but to go with her.The Left’s ambitions to have a Left candidate for the Vice President’s post are misplaced for they don’t seem to have much room for manoeuvre,given the other allies also nursing this ambition.
So,in the 2009 elections,the Left might be forced to take less number of seats or…
Also,in the 2009 elections,the Congress must have to come out with some credible manifesto or a slogan that can win votes for the party.
As it is,the prediction is the party might end up with less number of MPs.
Unfortunately,politics has been lowered to a lowest common denominator. Devoid of any clear articulation or the burden of explaining to the people,everyone seems to enter politics through all the wrong means has become rather a paying proposition.So,we find all sorts of undesirable elements in seats of power and they seem to be crowding out the space for any ideological cohesion ever emerging in the major parties.
So,a period or a phase of unprincipled politics of convenience and power-grabbing in the name of democracy? It looks like that at present. Given the utter cynicism that marks the major players in the power game.