Incipient power struggle in the Congress Party?
Yes, Pranab Mukerjee raises the question in time!

The next General elections are near, who would lead the Congress Party’s election campaign? Yes, it will be Sonia Gandhi! Then what is the party’s manifesto? And the Government’s policies on various issues?

Indian polity today is beset with a new set of issues and challenges!  The Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) is likely to be Navin Chawle.  He is a tainted official.  Already the CECs, the retired Supreme Court Chief Justices have been nominated to Rajya Sabha and even made ministers. So many of the likely new CEC’s Emergency days activities are now coming in the press.  More likely to come in the future. How the present day Congress Leaders’ MP finds were given to Chawla’s twist.

So, what would be Sonia Gandhi’s attitude towards veteran Congress Leaders now out in the cold>  All Wonders! Surely, she cant continue in her post for ever.  Already she has been there in the job for over 10 long years. Democracy is now already crushed.  How long people have to wait to have good governance?

Sonia Gandhi is reluctant to fill Cabinet vacancies.  Her fears; insecurities, and parannia have weakened the party and the functioning of the government.  In such a scenario, it is natural for the people to expect her to give legitimacy to the Indian political system by following well-laid down conventions.  She should honourably elevate Pranab Mukherjee to the natural successor to Dr.Manmohan Singh to take over the government after the elections.

Mukerjee is a very senior leader and his remarks would have more than mere speculation! Even the Prime Minister must have his own inner thoughts and self-doubts about his continuation as Prime Minister. There are very many clear reasons why there could be a change at the top and also there could be even intense struggle for staking the claims for the prime political post.

Sonia Gandhi may not be the sole decision-maker. Even after she nominated Dr.Singh as the Prime Minister she couldn’t have her way when it came to nominating candidates for the President of India and Vice-President. The Left came in and blocked her favourites. Likewise, this time too after the elections there couldn’t be any certainty. In such a scenario, Dr.Singh might clearly might even become a liability!

After all he has no base of his own. He is purely at the mercy of Sonia Gandhi. Mrs.Gandhi herself might not have the sole decision-making luxury.

There are now more politically savvy friends, allies and even adversaries for Mrs.Gandhi to take note of. There is the Samajwadi Party duo, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh. Also, there could be others. Who knows even her present dependable allies like the DMK or Lalu Yadav might not become so dependable.

The Indian National Congress is an old party, it is with a history of 123 years old, to be exact.

Yes, it is one of the world’s oldest political party like, say the European political parties like the German Social Democratic party or the French Socialist party. In the UK we have the two very oldest political parties, namely, the Conservative and the Labour party.
In the USA of course we have the other two great parties, Republican and the Democrats.
Now in India, we have   a great democratic political tradition and our democratic experiment is six decades old and except during the aberration of the Emergency years, we have had a glorious tradition of defeating the Emergency rule of Indira Gandhi and re-established the democratic polity.

So, this democratic predigree of the Indian polity is India’s great strength and the outside world looks to India as a great success story. All our neighbors are faced with crisis in the democratic experiment and we provide in a more justifiable way a source of inspiration to pursue a more liberal and open society political agenda. This is no self-boast or any empty claim. Our friends and opponents alike would concede we are a nation that stands apart when it comes to some of the great political principles of governance and adherence to some basic civilized norms.

The late Ernest Baker, the great political  thinker and writer and scholar(he was at New College, Oxford from where I had learnt more about his Greek scholarship, he was also a tutor for Harold Laski at the same College and  I was a great follower of Laski in his glory days, though lately now I had to revise some of his more extreme views).Anyway, Baker had said and I read it more than once somewhere that of all the Constitutions of the world, Indian Constitution, said Baker, embodies the best thoughts and ideals of Plato and Aristotle and others. That was a long time ago.

I often wonder whether any of my countrymen, more so the present crop of politicians now in India know these past great thoughts about India and the Indian polity and its Constitutions.

Anyway, these thoughts came rising to me when I read just now what the senior Congress leader, Pranab Mukerjee, India’s foreign minister said about the political succession.
As everyone knows, inside India at any rate, that in India now there is a curious sort of political arrangement.

Dr.Manmohan Singh is now Prime Minister for almost a full-term. He is a learned man, an economist by training and an economic administrator in his career and as such his nomination by Sonia Gandhi has done much good to the Indian polity.

This much is conceded by everybody.

But now, the Indian polity is also undergoing some strains. There is the global economic recession. Then comes the latest Mumbai terrorist attacks.

Now comes the election-eve thoughts, the time for a new election and as such the thoughts are about the new alliances the political parties are forging.

It is in this context, the thoughts of many, inside as well as outside the Congress party are about whether the incumbent PM would be renominated or whether new face would take over.

So, there is some disquiet in the Congress camp. Those who are not happy with Dr.Singh, plainly an intruder and not a traditional Congressman and therefore it is only natural that those who had grown in the ranks of the party would nurture some ambitions to aspire for the highest job in the government.

Now, the peculiarity in the Congress party is that it is seen as a dynastic party. The Nehru-Gandhi family had dominated for long. But lately, the polity became fractured and the new coalitions brought many outside faces. In that tradition only we see  Dr.Singh, an utter outsider, for most part he was a faceless bureaucrat, he was honestly a man with no conviction of his own, he was all  man for all masters, an obedient servant at  that, he was a trainee under the blatant Marxist and Communist, the late P.N.Haksar who advised and misled Indira Gandhi to split the Congress party in 1969 with his “stray thoughts” that led Mrs.Gandhi for astray with the very senior leaders were all ill-treated and that led to the split. Then, Dr.Singh served all sorts of masters, from Chandrasekhar to V.P.Singh to Narasimha Rao.

The Indian media and the establishment had been very kind to Dr.Singh. That is all. That is why he takes credit and he was never open-minded and so he never let anybody knew that it was his master, the Prime Minister, P.V.Narasimha Rao who took the “political” decision to open up the economy, Dr.Singh just went along with the government decision, though he was made the Finance Minister. Rao said that much when he was asked whether it was Dr.Singh who opened up the economy. Rao famously snapped back “He was my finance minister”!

Yes, that says it all.

Now, whatever be the truth, we can see now that when the India economy has been impacted by the economic recession, Dr.Singh, an expert no doubt, hasnt chosen to explain to his countrymen what the economic recession means to India!

Never for once he went on the TV or through a press conference or chose any other appropriate forum to explain and convince the Indian people what the economic recession means and what his government intends to do.

This is no strange aberration. This is Dr.Singh’s pattern or his severe limitation. He always takes the most central of positions on any issues and this we can see even now on the Mumbai terrorism.

What leadership he would give now, in the emerging crisis, no one knows.
In a perceptive analysis, a leading columnist once captioned the article as “Decoding the Manmohan Singh enigma”(The Hindu)

He visited the USA where he said to George Bush face, in a very rather embarrassing manner, embarrassing to Indian people and others “Mr.President, the India loves you”!
The column notes: “After the longest overseas trip the Prime Minister was back.
During his trip, twice, the PM went off the cuff and on September 25, (2008) when he was just a handshake away from the US President, the PM went into a rhetorical over-drive. For nearly five minutes he spoke extempore, the praise he showered on his host seemed to have come naturally out of his heart. This was Manmohan Singh uncensored. Usually such talks are vetted by four of five aides.

Says the column: Usually such an “India loves George Bush” song would not play well at all in Lucknow or Hyderabad, he still belts it out. Did the occasion overwhelm his better judgment? Obviously it did! There was tension, the President was under extreme pressure and the Indian PM team itself was unsure whether such a meeting would come through and when it actually materialised we find the Indian PM giving himself out!

Then came the next question abroad his flight back and the question were: ‘Whether he would the PM candidate again?

“He simply ducked it”: “The Congress party has several leaders who are equally or better qualified than I am “Concludes the column: “He was not going to let the calculating Congress crowd gang up on him”.

Dr.Singh is a calculating man, a calculating politician by now.

So comes the Mukerjee interjection now.

When unasked about the political succession now, in a very different context, during the NRI celebrations in Chennai, Mukerjee deliberately brought in the name of Rahul Gandhi as a possible future Prime Minister.

Why Mukerjee brought in Rahul Gandhi at this juncture?

Mukerjee knows well that Rahul Gandhi is a long way behind. The young man is still too young and inexperienced.

It is clear enough that in any alternative considerations, it is Mukerjee’s claims that stand out. Mukerjee knows this more than anyone else.

Who can come in the way of Mukerjee staking his claim?

None, as we can see as of now.

Mukerjee knows well the time is right now, the time is very near, the time is running fast. So, he had to position himself when the time is right.

So, by throwing Rahul Gandhi’s name, the foreign minister has raised the issue wide open and the subject would at least be debated once again openly, at least for some time.

And above all else, in a time like this and in a matter like choosing a Prime Minister, we have to realise and everyone has to know that India and Indian democracy would be better served only by a leader who is elected in some ways and not by nomination of a career bureaucrat.

Dr.Singh having been his entire bureaucrat has proved to be   needing so many other vital needs of a democratic leader.

Unfortunately, there is not enough in-depth discussion or debate about the Indian democracy and its success and deficiencies. Unfortunately what we have as political literature is all by bureaucrats and not any discussion by political leaders of political thinkers. When we had leaders like Gandhi and Nehru, we were all idealists and they were leaders of high calibre.

Now we have at best all become cynical about the sort of leaders we have now.
This cynicism, under Dr.Singh, only grew and not dimmed.

First, Indian democracy is rated high in the international arena and a Prime Minister must articulate his views more naturally and spontaneously. This Dr.Singh is not cable of. Second, Indian leaders have to interact with world leaders. USA, UK, EU nations, the Middle East and Russia and China and Japan have all have their own strengths. One wonders what sort of grasp Dr.Singh has in international affairs. Certainly, he had diluted India’s image as a Third World leader and a leader of the non-aligned and had almost turned India into a sort of US ally. This, in the long term, is likely to damage India’s image and its stature in the eyes of the world. This is a big short-coming.

Third, Dr.Singh, being a career person, is not a leader and he is not inspiring others. See, he is not capable of spotting talents and even filling up his Cabinet which is empty of many key portfolios.

Finally, Indian Prime Minister must articulate his views on many things. This Dr.Singh doesn’t. He avoids Parliament, press conferences. As a scholar and expert, he hasn’t authored any intellectual writing in the last 40 years. Says his own past students!  And also there is a fatigue of a lackluster face. Let us remember there comes the anti-incumbency factor after some time.

Given the very fast changing coalition formations, with SP making things hard for the Congress in UP, the West Bengal Congress or even the Leftists might give some room for Mukerjee to throw his hat into the ring.

Who knows when pressure mounts up from the Left or from Mayawati, the Congress might opt for some new face, new name. That could be Mr.Mukerjee. God bless him!

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