Today, Indian politics is, to use a colloquial term, in a tizzy. First, the government is in an unstable situation. Why, the very governance is almost derailed. The Prime Minister might hold on but he is too much exposed to various criticisms. His word doesn’t carry much weight. There is not much indication that the economy could be pulled back, as the PM, imagines. Who takes decisions? The bureaucracy is too demoralised. The very council of ministers is in a disarray. See the number of portfolios that are left vacant or the numbers clubbed together. Mr.Kapil Sibal’s words don’t carry much weight, be it the IITs or even the other branches of the educational tier. And he is also burdened with telecom.
Where is the chance for any new momentum?
So, in the current times of economic crisis and no hope of any restoration of morale in politics and public life, what would Mr.Pranab Mukerjee the new Rashtrapahy is likely to do, likely to hope to achieve something his predecessor so famously did to discredit the very high office under the Constitution. Mr.Mukerjee is a veteran. But what is his past history? What is there to write home about?
What about Pranabda’s track record as the Finance Minister? Mr.Yeshwant Sinha, a former finance minister himself under Vajpayee says (The Economic times, 25 June, 2012) as “resounding failure and leaving the economy in deep crisis”.
Now, politics has become a field where you hang around for a job, for an office. So, the very high offices of the polity, from the top to the bottom, are devalued. There is no core, no moral core, no binding ideology. No one seems to believe in any belief system, there is no clear vision. No one is there to articulate. Sinha also blames the current troubles for Sonia Gandhi’s wielding all the powers”, with neither the Prime Minister nor any other minister, having any freedom to act and do things and correct mistakes.
Sonia Gandhi’s time also is seen as over. How many more years she hopes to hang on herself? She remains the longest unelected president of the party. She is no Mahatma Gandhi. She is for all practical purposes, an ordinary ortal. So, she has to make way for a transition, sooner the better.
Given this scenario, the Opposition is also divided. In fact, divided clearly right in the middle for every segment, the BJP, the Left and even the NDA. The allies, oh, with Mamata and Sharad Pawar, what is there much to write home about?
So, with a veteran like Mukerjee, what we can hope for? Hope for the best? What is that best quotient?
First, Mr.Mukerjee’s history. He comes from a district which I know well, Birbhum, in West Bengal. It is where Santiniketan is located. When I was at Santiniketan the hero for students was Jyoti Basu who was M.P. for Bolpur which is the Parliamentary constituency for us, the students. (Now, it is the constituency for Somnath Chatterjee, I think).
Why I say this is that Mr.Mukerjee, now the new hero for Bengal under Mamata Banerjee, didn’t even go to college at Santiniketan, his home village is not far from Bolpur. Mukerjee went to a college at Suri, near Santiniketan but for Santiniketanites, it was a very backward town! So, Mukerjee comes from a humble background and his present eminence is well-earned. I congratulate him for his successful political career. Unfortunately, politics seen today as a career, not a goal for public service and a national duty.
For leaders like Manmohan Singh and others too politics is another career. What a fall!
Now, as for Mukerjee’s rise, he owes it to Mrs.Indira Gandhi who in his attempts to humiliate her opponents, like Kamaraj, Atulya Ghosh and Morarji Desai and other senior Congressmen, she used Mukerjee as a tool.
As she did in other states!
I was eyewitness to Ajay Mukerjee, the senior Congress leader who came to see Kamaraj, as the Congress President to complain about Atulya Ghosh, who was then treasurer of the Congress party and I was working at the AICC at Jantar Mantar Road and I had seen before my eyes how Kamaraj humiliated Ajay Mukerjee and after he went back to Kolkata he formed the Bangla Congress and Mukerjee then was a follower of Ajay Mukerjee and that was how Pranabda’s political career started.
But for Kamaraja’s then ill-advised act, the Bangla Congress wouldn’t have been born, Jyoti Basu’s own career as Deputy Chief Minister wouldn’t have started and later the Communists would not have gone about becoming the force they became. But these are all now in the realm of speculations, might have beens!
Now, Mukerjee rose in the Congress undergoing so many humiliations, first, under Mrs.Indira Gandhi, then under Rajiv Gandhi and later under Sonia Gandhi, apart from other intrigue makers at the Congress durbars of various categories.
Now, will Mukerjee rise above the rut and play a very statesman-like, independent and a very committed guardian of the Constitution?
This is the very critical question.
The Constitution, both the spirit and the letter, requires that the concept of Parliamentary Democracy must be enhanced and much life imbued into it.
The Prime Minister must be elected to Lok Sabha and also the Prime Minister must be elected by the Parliamentary party and the PM must have his prerogative to form his Cabinet. Now, the very reverse is the practice! Party President herself is unelected! Now, she proceeds to select the PM, she names the Cabinet Ministers and even the major policies, the National Advisory Council is an outside body and as such she dictates the direction and even the details of some of the most populist, impractical schemes whose implementation has a direct impact on the deficits and inflation, right?
How does Mr.Mukerjee as the Rashtrapathy is going to correct these distortions? Will Mr.Mukerjee rise up to this challenge?
The entire country would be watching his moves. In the country today there are so many undesirable developments. The media is not free, or it rather irresponsible too, tied to the establishment and the corporate power wielders and power brokers. We saw during the telecom scams, how the biggest corporate houses played with the system, with Neera Radia tapes etc. reveled.
So too the bureaucracy. Delhi corridors are too crowded with the retired bureaucrats. The PM can be accused of retaining and going for retired hands, in preference to new talents from the party ranks and even the academia and the corporate world.
The PM might change under Mr.Mukerjee’s watch. Why, even the next government formation in 2014 might have the stamp of Mr.Mukerjee’s moral calibre.
Surely, Mr.Mukerjee must reverse the current distortions.
There are so many sensitive reforms, from Constitutional reforms to electoral reforms to Lokpal and other major reforms, reforms of a highly political and constitutional nature and also that would have an impact on the very quality of our national life.
Corruption I didn’t mention. Nor the black money business! They are too complex and needs much detailed discussions.
Let us hope Mr.Pranab Mukerjee sees this historic opportunity to serve India in all seriousness and with the needed weight of moral commitment.
Image source : thehindu.com