The debate over strong and weak Prime Ministers!

There is a furious debate in the Indian media, more on the more powerful and impactful TV news channels than in the drab and dull print media. It is all about how the now on the defensive-Congress led coalition facing up to the determined challenge posed by the formidable Opposition Prime Ministerial candidate L.K.Advani who heads the BJP coalition.

Yes, the stakes are high for both the Congress and the BJP, as the current election scenario is entirely a changed one. There is the any number of combinations in the Opposition ranks in the so-called Third or even the Fourth front.

The regional allies, the once and even now powerful allies, all of course driven by the caste and personality based egos, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Mulayam  Singh Yadva and Paswan, the three formidable caste leaders who pose a threat to the Sonia led Congress which strictly is not a cohesive coalition at all but just a convenient grouping centering around the vague notion that once a ruling group would somehow remain and likely to become another ruling group, whoever joins or leaves at whatever point of arrivals and departures, so to say.

Yes, we can see the otherwise very competent Sharad Pawar, they split Congress leader from Maharashtra talking and doing things that might look very confusing to the ordinary outsider eyes but a very big opportunist politician whom no one takes very seriously and more so no one trusts him than himself about his own so-called strategy to become the next Prime Minister.
What a shame for a man who rose in the ranks of the Congress but now for all practical purposes a deserter, if we can use such a term for this otherwise India’s richest politician who has so much money floating around him in so many avatars!

The others, Lalu Yadav have become now a great headache for Sonia Gandhi. Poor woman! She trusted him so much and so long but now the senior man turned a maverick, he talks everyday a new thing, now his trump card seems to be his secrets about how the Congress was party to the demolition of the Babri Masjid. So, the Congress is caught on the wrong foot. So, Lalu can’t be relied at all when it comes to selecting the new Prime Minister. Certainly, he would ditch Sonia and Manmohan wont matter in the matter at all. So too the other two cow-belt leaders: Mulayam, no one knows for sure in which direction he is heading. He seems to be friendless now, the CPI(M),the most talkative party now, its General Secretary seems to have so many tricks up his sleeve. Karat might join with Mulayam only when there are numbers from the Amar Singh stable, Amar Singh is the one who is capable of buying up the numbers with the power of money. Oh, now money flows in the Indian election process like the water in the India’s rivers. Everyday, the police seizes the currency bags from the speeding cars and vans all across the states in Karnataka and AP and not yet in TN.

The going average rate of payment per capita as on date in Karnataka and TN at any rate is Rs.2,000  voters! The flow of liquor is no less steady. Every day newspapers report the exact seizures. Yes, after all how long one can hide the funds, the size is so huge that one can’t hold it in secret for long. Now, every candidate, both in the North and in the South files along with their nomination papers their assets. The average Indian candidate in the elections is now a crorepati. Also, the candidates are become bolder and more honest with their accumulated wealth. They try at least to explain with their electorate that they earned the wealth in politics. To that extent, the Indian electoral process is becoming more open and more transparent.

The next Prime Minister?
Yes, the next Prime Minister is the hot topic now.

Surely, Sonia Gandhi seems to be banking upon  the poor or helpless (or more cunning than all of us?)Dr.Manmohan Singh. Singh was heavily dependent upon his carefully cultivated image as the most honest man, more transparent and more efficient. Now, the myths are falling one after another.

The latest TV news channels debate this topic more often and more stridently. The other day, Karan Thapar, perhaps the most sought after anchor, in his very highly rated Devil’s Advocate show got together some of India’s very  senior media hands, Inder Malhotra, Chandan Mitra, and Satyavradh Chaturvedi, the AICC hand and one or two others. The topic was how strong or weak is the Prime Minister Dr.Singh. And consequent upon this question was Singh’s credentials for his claims. The anchor posed the question how strong is Dr.Singh. The experts said that one’s strong or weak personality springs from his innate moral strengths. Said Chandan Mitra, the promoter and editor of the newspaper, Pioneer that Dr.Singh signed a sworn affidavit to say that he is a habitual resident of Assam to get elected to the Rajya Sabha. This, the PM, has done for four  consecutive terms  since 1991. While, said Mitra, with biting sarcasm, everyone knows, the whole country knows that Dr.Singh is not a native of Assam but of far off Punjab. In fact, even I don’t know, Dr.Singh was my contemporary at Oxford in my time, where Singh was born and what was his native place or his place of birth or upbringing.

Yes, Dr.Singh managed to become the Prime Minister of India without getting elected directly  to the Lok Sabha, the House of the People as it was the custom and tradition.

This is a serious blot on the character of the man who claims to be an honest man, a man of great integrity and moral stature.

So, when Advani charges  the Prime Minister as the country’s most weakest Prime Minister since Independence, it hurts the Congress party’s prospects as the most democratic-minded party and the most open party for all sorts of people, all sections, sects and religions and segments.

Is the BJP is a position to win the elections?

You can’t dismiss the BJP right now lightly. The once might Congress-led alliance is now  gone. All the powerful regional parties, from the most secular to the most casteists, from the Samajwadi, RJP to the DMK and the ADMK and even the parties like Telugu Desam and others are all calculating the prospects for themselves in the post-poll scenario.

If the numbers favour them, then even the CPI(M) join hands once again with the Congress. If the numbers favour themselves, then any party might join hands with any other party to make a claim for Prime Ministerial job. There are so many in the line. From the old horse. Deve Gowda to Mulyama Singh Yadav to Paswan to even Mayawati and Jayalalitha and even Naidu. Who knows the Left might thrust upon the nation some utterly unworthy candidates, they are not averse to do this, see what they have done for the choice of candidates for the high Constitutional offices.

So, there is utter cynicism to despair to some faint hope that after all a great country like India might throw up some worthy personality.

As for L.K.Advani making it this time, there is some hope that he could still make it, the last chance for the war veteran. And mind you, the BJP as a party is highly motivated and has some of the most talented Indians in its ranks.

So, when it comes to make a dispassionate judgement, there is every chance that this time the Congress only has a very fant chance to make the government. While the chances for the  BJP and the non-BJP and non-Congress forces to make up a coalition government the chances are fifty-fifty!

There is very little news in the Indian media, both print and TV news channels, about the G-20 meet and the participation of the Indian Prime Minister as one of the countries of the G-20.The developed countries have a great role, as next to the USA, it is the European countries, UK, France and Germany, and then among the countries from the East, it is Japan in the developed category and then China and India as the two big developing countries.

But even among the developing countries, India has a role only so far as we are able to impact or get impacted by the global economic crisis and that too as we are affected by our falling economic growth, as because of the American imports are in the decline, as our exports to the USA are under great strain and our outsourcing business is under pressure because of Barrack Obama’s “Buy American” policy of almost banning outsourcing.
The current world reality is that among the developing countries, America is relying more on China’s support and help, rather than needing India’s help, as there seems to be none at all as on date.

The US economy’s troubles we need not elaborate here and yet we can have some idea if we know some statistics. USA lost 2 million jobs in the past three months and the number of job openings is down 33% from a year ago. There are multiple crises, joblessness to homelessness to mortgage failures to outrageous bonus paid out of the government bailout money that had enraged the entire country and the President, given his image as an “ultra cool persona” lost his cool obviously and he said he was “angry”. So the popular upsurge against such outrages had caused a great nation-wide populist anger and populist pressures to behave. Both the government and the very many institutions, notably, the trouble created banks and insurance companies.

So, the American President comes to the G-20 meet, not as a confident and cool man but as one who has been mildly reminded as ineffectual and also very confused. Many of his nominations for high profile jobs in his “ministry” as well as in the treasury had fallen through owing bad judgments and poor scrutiny and other casues.

So, the new and young and shall we say the inexperienced US President comes to London and when he meets the other nations’ leaders, the only expectation is what would be the outcome after meeting such leaders like UK PM and other European leaders who are a bit disappointed by the new President’s approach to the various world issues like Iran, Iraq and more significantly to Russia.

The economic crisis in USA can’t be solved by the US alone. It requires the help of many countries, in particularly, the help of China which has not only the biggest investor in US treasury bonds, China is also now capable of investing in the IMF which is emerging as the key institution in solving the world’s new economic crisis which is the biggest crisis since the first world war, it is said.

The Obama administration has made the fortifying the IMF as one of the primary goals of the G-20 meet.

Why?

IMF is what is called the lender of the last resort and this role now seems to have become very critical in restoring the health of many nations’s economies. But then the IMF needs funds. The US Treasury Secretary says, the man who once worked at the IMF  and he must be knowing what he is speaking about, he says that the IMF needs to be injected with more funds, as much as 500 billion dollars in order to enable the institution to do its job effectively. Japan and EU have each pledged 100 billion dollars, the US signaled that it would match the same sum, though it is said its money would take a longer time to come! Congressional approval needs for the US to do it.

China with its mammoth foreign exchange reserves, is the next obvious donor, it is noted by one and all!

Where does India come in?

Nowhere, it is obvious. Because neither the Indian Prime Minister nor his battery of officials around him and also travelling with him, dont seem to think it is important to inform or educate the opinion at home or abroad. It is a great pity.

India has a Prime Minister who is not only weak, after a major surgey, he is also weak in the perception of a wide section of opinion, both at home and abroad. His image is also poor in other respects.

Not long ago, he was seen befriending Obama’s predecessor by “stooping to conquer” and addressing the then US President as saying in his face” the Indian people love you, Mr. President”. Such a remark didn’t go down well with his own countrymen and who saw in such an expression that the entire Indian country’s image was tarnished, as seen as a weak nation with a weak Prime Minister who didn’t observe proper protocol on such occasions but also didn’t adopt correct balance as it is the meeting between two sovereign nations but also as one of statesmanship that would impact and colour the relationships in the longer term as well.

So, what would the Indian Prime Minister would be talking with the new US President this time?

How would India establish its relationship with the new US administration? What would be the opening remarks on such momentous occasion?

No one thought of asking such questions either before the departure of the Indian Prime Minister or even after the Prime Minister decided to make his first foreign journey after his long recovery from his medical problems.

This has also added to the discomfiture to the party he is supposed to lead in the crucial general elections and where he is projected as the next Prime Ministerial candidate and yet he is viciously attacked by the Opposition as weak and unsure candidate given the Congress party’s own dilemma. Sonia Gandhi, the party president, is also unsure how the election outcome would work itself out. Nor is she sure of retaining Dr.Manmohan Singh’s candidature for the Prime Ministerial job. There doesn’t seem to be a clear idea as to what is the thinking inside the Congress party. Though the party is a national organisation, it is just a fiction that it is a nation-wide party.

It is almost wiped out or at best a very insignificant presence in the major states like UP and Bihar and the rest of the so-called cow-belt of the Hindi heartland where the opposition BJP is a strong contender for votes.

Nor the Congress party is a really genuine democratically-constituted party. It is as it is now constituted ,is a party of new style careerists, those careerists who have migrated to the party as it is a cosy conclave of power seekers and power brokers where the old style dedicated Congress workers or party leaders who came from traditional Congress families. It is a party of upstarts, those who found the political careers as ministers and party functionaries, a highly profitable job hops, more lawyers, more retired government servants, even such high Constitutional office holders like former judges of Supreme Court and Central Election Commission and such other office holders, including the incumbent Prime Minister are all now Congress party leaders and office holders and wielder of power.

With the result, the image of the Congress party, in spite of it being the ruling party, is not taken seriously buy its own current allies who are still in the ruling coalition and  yet they are contesting against the  very same Congress party that had given them power and status as powerful ministers!

So, what credibility and image the Indian Prime Minister would be carrying with him when he travels abroad and meet the world leaders. Practically very little if at all!

Nor is the Prime Minister on any sure ground when it comes to high economic policy making. Nor, when it comes to making any new foreign policy moves.

The Indian foreign policy establishment is also very weak and very cursorily constituted.
There is no full-time foreign minister and he is also burdened with additional charge as the finance minister too!

What a rationale the Indian government makers are following?
The very same US President is widely ,though in subdued  tone, is criticised for not filling up some of the very crucial slots in the US Treasury, a powerful economic engine for managing the US economy.

So, what is there for India to walk to the US President and present him with the Indian counterparts? There is neither full-time Indian finance minister nor a full-time Indian foreign minister! What sort of competence you can attach to Sonia Gandhi who is seen as the power behind the Indian Prime Minister?

The world would only laugh at the Indians sense of political judgment and political immaturity. It is political immaturity and political incompetence at the worst kind we have in India at present.

And now, what sort of talk we make on the solution of the Indian economic problems?
The Prime Minister convened a high power meet in Delhi, before his departure. It consisted of the Indian corporate world. Fine. But then, observers must have noticed, it didn’t contain a single face that represented the new economy!

No new achievers and shakers and movers! No Narayanamurthy or a Kiran Mazumdar or a Captain Gopinath, all who had created a new image for Indian corporate success stories. That showed the old mindset, the old world of bureaucracy and the old style almost feudal mindset of the very Indian corporate world and that, in our considered opinion, doesn’t give a correct picture of the Indian successes nor about the current Indian concerns like the steep fall in number of employees, in the IT sector and where the human resources are heavily concentrated and where urgent protective policies are called for.

The economic stimulus packages are called for sector-wise and it is the US-India linkages are needed to be reworked and re-established.

The US President seems to be a bit innocent or unconcerned or not prepared either by his policy advisers about the future course of the IT and the outsourcing industry in the already highly globalised world.

The US industry can’t hope to recover or pull back from its current crisis, without reducing its costs. It is in the area of reducing costs and making a virtue of cost advantages, the Indian IT prowess comes into top priority for the US economy recovery path.

Yes, India may not be able to match the Chinese ability to lend to IMF and effect quick or immediate recovery. But then, there can’t be any sustainable recovery without cost savings.

It is here the Indian IT industry would truly emerge as a world class world saving economic recovery tool. One wonders whether the Indian Prime Minister consulted widely and had a wider perspective about the recovery of the global economy and India’s precious role in that.

So, there are so many dimensions to the current economic recession and also for the economic recovery plan.

One also wonders how far the economic advisers of the PM, all dyed in the wool routine workers in the already thick and rule-bound circuit of the Delhi environment and a very insensitive machine at that would be viewing the economic crisis and the way out of it. Even as the election process is on the Indian government thinks fit to award the pay packages to its 4 lakh and odd PSU employees!

What is the wisdom here?

One wonders and hopes for the Prime Minister to return from London with some glory!

Photo Courtesy : Corbis News

The first-ever “festival of Poland” in South-east  Asia, offering music and poetry, movies and seminars on Polish history and culture, was held in Bangalore just recently.

Oh, what an experience! And Poland? Yes, Poland is a great tragedy once it was!
Poland that was destroyed from the world map, history and politics for over 125 years! Poland was divided into three pieces and “owned” and brutally dominated by three empires, Austria, Prussia (Germany) and Russia!

Yes, history was this way.

And a people were so dominated and transformed. But Poland was a great country, a great culture and it is now too!

Chopin was my first introduction to Poland. Chopin, I appreciated before I knew what Western classical music was like! Then later came the Polish poetry. Czeslaw Miloz became my inspiration! He won the Nobel Prize and also another Polish poet, two Nobel Prizes for Polish poetry within 16 years of each other!

Yes, there is something great and powerful in Polish culture and this festival brought home to India and Indians in ample measure.

Polish people are great survivors, this festival brought home repeatedly by many speakers>
The theme of the opening seminar I attended was devoted to the idea of Poland and the idea of India.

What a great theme! The speakers were world leaders in thought and diplomacy.
The Polish Ambassador was there, so too the former Ambassador, a great Indian authority, he spoke Sanskrit and Hindi fluently, a great linguist and a philologist. The others on the panel were Krzysztof Zanussi, Polish film director, and Joanna Erbel, Polish sociologist and photographer. They are all in their own ways distinguished and very knowledgeable about the world, about India as well!

It   was a seven day festival and appropriately, it seems, the venture of the festival was at the Alliance Franchise in Bangalore.

It was an eye-opener for the audience, mostly Indians who had had varied exposures to the outside world.

The high profile day was the one on discussing the idea of India and the idea of Poland. The current ambassador of Poland to India: H.E. Piotr Klodkowski and also a former ambassador of Poland to India! Name: Prof.K.M.Brski who is a long time  expert on India, he did his Ph D in Benares University and speaks fluent Hindi and Sanskrit, soo to the current Polish Ambassador! There were also a few more Polish experts, one a sociologist and one an artist, cinema historian and so on.
The audience, though small, were members who were distinguished in so many fields.
There were also great many artists, musicians, peace activists and poets and so on.
The Bangalore School of Music was organizing this festival and it is a pioneering promoter of Western music in Bangalore.

What came out so dramatically from the panel discussion on the themes of the ideas of India, the ideas of nation, country and people were the very original presentations of some of the ideas.

The first day and the third day saw some more special music and operatic performances. The classical piano recital was by the well-known Polish musician and singer, Ella Susmanek, Professor of music, Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music, Warsaw.

There was also a very artistically displayed exhibition of posters displayed on the glimpses of contemporary Warsaw. This was a very culturally enriching and enduring experience indeed!

For example, Poland, we were told, belonged to what is called the Western Europe, a Latin culture country with 95 per cent Roman Catholic religion as the dominant religion. While the history of Poland is such that it was wiped out of history for over 125 years! It was curved into three parts, each occupied by three empires, Prussis, Russia and Austria!

So, when the Communism came Poland became part of Soviet Russia and as an Easter European country! Eastern Europe was a part of the Slavic-Orthodox Church of Russia.

So, the Polish people survived and their struggle for survival was based on their culture, their arts, literature, music and painting and cinema.

So, for long Poland was and even now  known for its high achievements in music(Chopin was Polish and a nation icon),literature(Polish poetry won two Nobel Prizes within 16 years interval and Poland itself is a free country now only  for just 20 years!

So, the distinguished speakers all said that Polish people are the great survivors.
Now, the Polish experts as well as the Indian participants brought home to the Indian audience and to the foreign audience who were present the following highlights about India.

India became a British colony, unlike the Poland which was ruled by the Germanic and the Russian autocracy. The Russia and the Germans were notorious for their brutality, unlike the British occupants of India, the British, said the Polish scholars, brought to India some of the best benefits, best railways, rule of law etc. Unlike the Russians who imposed their poor manufactured products like worst airplanes, cars, unlike the Polish products that were very good but prohibited by the foreign occupants.

Even today, said the Polish visitors, the Russia sense of justice is zero, no respect for rule of law and  there is as much oppression in the Russia of today as it was when the Soviet Russia  occupied Poland.
So too German brutality. Some of the harshest words were used to describe the German and Russian brutality.

Then, it was also pointed out that the current and future challenges are while India has a Hindu majority syndrome that affects the relations with Pakistan and Bangladesh being the Muslim majority nations, while Poland is still faced with the problem of how it is integrated with the European Union.

Whether EU and India can save the world? One asked from the audience. Pat came the reply from the ebullient Prof.Brski: USA is the fatherless child of Europe If India and EU can articulate human values and non-violence as a new millennium goals, then perhaps, USA can be tamed into serving the larger cause of humanity.

While India had had also experienced wars, the South Indians for the last 200 years never had any experience of wars and brutality.

May be that may be one reason why the literature from the Southern states doesn’t have that fire and tumult one finds in the Polish poetry and literature and the arts, said one participant.

As for education in today’s world, there were so many indications in the festival’s programmes. Institutions like Alliance Franchise now conducts language courses in so many parts of India and learning foreign languages and their cultures, cuisine and mixing with the foreign guests in our midst surely is the next progression of ideas in education.

Said one Polish scholar: learning English is a wasteful activity! It is for trade and business and may be science. But for articulating ones thoughts and ideas, it is the French subtlety that is needed!

Yes, the idea of India and the idea of Indians as a people need more subtle interpretations than just as statistics or rates of growth!

Image Source: polandforvisitors.com

There can only be two political fronts in Indian politics!
The Third Front is a passing illusion only!
Parties must spell out their basic ideologies!

Party leaders, prime ministerial aspirants must be exposed on the TV channels and media outfits!

I write this as a long-standing Congressman (I enrolled myself as a Congress party member, as early as 1962) and a party activist and an intellectual.

This is election time. Is this also the silly season, as they say in the West? It looks like that.

Just now I read a newspaper line. It runs like this:
The power of ideas on the ideas of power!
Yes, this is all about what a political ideology is all about. As I write there is a high-power Chinese

Congress that runs on the lines of a National Peoples” Congress. The language of the Congress that has drawn up a renewed political blueprint that would be defining the basic belief system, nay, the very basic political belief system for the people of China.

In brief, the Chinese say that the Chinese believe in one-party rule, the Communist party will be the one and only party and the Chinese would reject Western style democracy, further “liberalisation” (whatever it means) and also the Congress talks in so many words issues of political stability and development, two key words but they mean totally different things in China and also, say in a country like India.

The point here is that in India the basic political issues are totally different. India is based on, let us says openly, on the Western style democracy, a Parliamentary democracy at that and also based on a written Constitution that has stood the test of time.
Our Constitution is very elaborate, unlike other major Constitutions of the world countries, in UK there is no written Constitution, in the USA, and its Constitution can be copied on 20 pages of a size pages, while even the European Union Constitution is very many pages of a bulky volume!

Also, the Indian political system is the largest democracy in the world and now we are in the midst of a General Election that would see 70 crore people voting, the largest exercise of vote in any democracy in the world.

So the stakes are high and everyone who is a leader of the party or parties, major or regional have high stakes.

In India there are so many positive developments. The Election Commission is widely admired. Yet, the recent controversies raised by the recommendations of the Chief Election Commissioner Mr.N.Gopalaswamy and the government’s almost summer rejection of his recommendations and the almost immediate appointment of Mr.Navin Chawla as the next CEC, in the midst of the General Election process on April 21st and the case now pending before the Supreme Court on the same subject-all don’t make for transparency in governance. If any, the very  way the government has left the recommendations of many an expert committee or panel to go for a transparent mechanism in the appointment of  members of the EC and the CEC, in particular with the involvement of the Leader of the Opposition, all don’t also speak for the sagacity or wisdom of the government. The incumbent Prime Minister also comes in for criticism for his almost subservient role in the coalition government.

Now, coming to the Indian election process under way, we see the political parties taking some adventurous stands. Almost every party seems to have taken the cue that this is the time to have the maximum demands made and the most of the opportunities in gaining more seats and more share in the power cake!

So, we see the bonhomie that seemed to have developed between the UP bosses, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Sonia Gandhi had evaporated. For all practical purposes the SP-Congress alliance is over. So too the over-ambitious and over demonstrative ambition of Sharad Pawar is ebbing and lowering almost every passing day. That is the nature of his power games. So too the relations of the Congress, the principal ally and its major partners.

No one is willing to give Sonia Gandhi much room for manoeuvre and she is almost stopped at her doors. Only the DMK, the tired and tainted DMK is willing to concede the wishes of the ally. For the very reason, the supremo is on sick bed and had lost all credibility with the voters and the public and corruption is his major strength and money power seems to have been his major source of voter deception and given his desperate need to survive he might go to any extent to keep Sonia Gandhi firmly on his side.
The only new element in this election seems to be not the pre-poll alliances; it is the post-poll alliance everyone seems to be counting for their future!

Yes, the current alliance-seeking is anything but so opportunistic and so unprincipled. So, every political party, including the two major parties, namely, the Congress and the BJP, seems to be succumbing to very thin ice of somehow surviving on unprincipled alliance partners, if it comes to that.

It is here we like to forewarn on such dangerous alliance-seeking.
Such an unprincipled move is fraught with unforeseen dangers.

Such dangers might even lead to extremist elements, both left and right, nay, even to separatist and linguistic chauvinist elements.

Indian history of the recent past itself is of sufficient warnings.

Even the otherwise, weaker parties like the CPI (ML, now has become bold enough to context some 8o seats on its own! Imagine what the CPI (M), not to speak of the CPI, is capable of doing if the combined Left can acquire enough muscle.
So, let the two major parties realise, it is either the Congress or the BJP that is capable of leading any alliance at the Centre.

Other smaller parties, regional and state level parties realise that it is the post-poll scenario that should lead to a new form of poll alliance. That alliance should be based on the broad ideological paltform, one of left of centre, as the Congress ideological platform is likely to the right of centre, and the BJP led alliance partners would veer around.

Now, what is the principled alliance, if any?

This is a relevant question. A question relevant only for a few days at least, it seems.
Mr.Pranab Mukerjee, the unsung hero of the present government, thoroughly burdened with as many as head of some 55 ministerial committees, he is both foreign minister and the finance minister. One wonders whether Sonia Gandhi is trusting him or just burdening him with so much heavy load with a vengeance!

Now, in an interview to a major economic daily, Mukerjee sets out what he thinks is the major difference between the Congress and its major rival, the BJP.

What is Congress basic ideology? Mukerjee says it is the Congress after independence it is a socio-political coalition. The UPA, says he, has a common minimum programme based on ideological commitment. While the NDA alliance was, says he, based on opportunistic alliance! He also says the UPA alliance is secular while that of the NDA was communal. Centre-state ties are natural in a federal setup, says he. Disagreements give strength to the political system. Fine.

The rest of his interview is replete with wordplays. Government, a facilitator rather than a regulator etc is plain escapism. Rate of growth was the only mantra of the last five years. Unfortunately, now with the international economic recession, even this was denied by the ministers for long and now only at the election time they concede the economic crisis, now no one talks of economic growth rate!

Thank god, Mukerjee is now with the 26/11 and he has no time for anything else.
Now, as for the BJP, it is faced with a new type of dilemma. Many of its trusted allies, including the Shiv Sena, Biju Janata Dal and even the JD (U) in Bihar are not willing to give the BJP and in particular to the L.K.Advani, the chance to take things for granted when the next government formation comes.

Every other senior or regional chieftain is eyeing the Prime Ministerial gaddi.
It is also ironical the Left has developed its own strategy or the tricks of the trade and pitching for at Third Front of regional parties.

Whatever the outcome of the election results, it is clear whether the Congress can form the government or some surprise will overtake it.

Most likely, the Congress might manage to gather around itself many of the regional outfits and who knows the Communists can be brought back to support the coalition government at the Centre.

What will be the most surprising outcome is the possibility of the Congress forced to sit on the Opposition benches.

Then, the chance for a Third front candidate might arise.
If it is the BJP, then also the question would arise how long the BJP government, if at all, might last.

The proliferation of more parties is not a healthy sign. That would only contribute to the instability of the polity at the Centre.

What is needed is a new articulation of political beliefs based on some of the current ideological thoughts as we find in the West, in the USA and   the Western European nations. In the USA we saw an altogether new phenomenon of Barack Obama coming as a bolt from the blue with his promise of change. A change was what the American people opted for.

Like that, in India too we need a new change. A radically new change for a more transparent political system, a totally new step to clean politics, gets rid of corruption and criminalisation.

An end to dynastic politics is what the country cries for. Unfortunately, there is return of dynastic politics in almost all parties.

So, if some new wave of disenchantment is created by a new articulation of what ails our polity, then, there is still hope that people might vote for a non-Congress government. That is to be seen as the days unfold and the parties settle down with what is possible with over-weaning ambitions of individuals and their own family concerns.

There are so many causes for serious concern in Indian polity.

Sonia Gandhi, the leader of the oldest party in the country seems to imagine that she would put together again a coalition of parties. What she has by way of a far-sighted vision for India? Almost nothing.

She also seems to imagine that by throwing up the name of Manmohan Singh as the next Prime Minister she can keep the party ready for her son to take over.

This is, in my view, a very dangerous thing to do. And whoever are party to this view, whoever advises her to take this view as the right one are in the same position of those who were once close to Indira Gandhi and who advised her to proclaim the Emergency.
Sonia Gandhi must stop and think about the long-term consequences for taking such a shallow view.

India faces real threats, first from lack of a widely held political belief. The Indian National Congress must sell out its basic political beliefs. It must believe in democracy within the party and within the country.

Now, there is no genuine transparency in the Congress party, the President is already in office for ten long years without any election whatsoever.

So too the selection of Manmohan Singh might have been an excuse last time. Not anymore.

There must be a genuine electoral process.

Let not Sonia Gandhi imagine for one moment to trust the Left as partner.
The Left, along with the new outfit like the CPI (ML) is trying to context very many seats in so many states and if the Left, the CPI (M), CPI and the CPI (ML) combine together they might go for some adventurous steps, even they might dare to suspend the Constitution or take the cue from other countries, they are the admirers or silent supporters of the Chinese system.

So, this is the time to take some clear, principled stand in aligning with the unprincipled and even authoritarian parties. So too the ties with alliances of convenience.

In major states the Congress is now zero. In TN, W.Bengal, in UP and Bihar.
There is a need to think afresh and even willing to lose seats and yet we have to forge alliance with some principled parties.

All this calls for a deeper think-tank like policy making body within the Congress, drawn by people who needn’t be close to Sonia Gandhi. They must have unimpeachable credentials.

The Congress party as the largest with the largest presence rather in all states has much at stake.

Sonia Gandhi alone can’t be left to decide things. She may be seen as a powerful leader. She is not. Her competency is yet to be tested. She is not, as can be seen from a distance, very comfortable in her roles, as a party leader, or as a “king-maker” either. Her choice of leaders, in critical high Constitutional posts are uniformly flawed. The occupants of such offices are all small persons; they have lowered the image of India in the international areas.

India needs a robust presence in the international fora and that can be provided only by people of stature and some intellectual caliber.

Sonia Gandhi hasn’t asked one single question in the last Lok Sabha or participated in any major debate and proved her calibre.

So, the country can’t be laid waste at her command for a long time.

The major political party must be saved from one such unproven individual. The sycophants around her might protest. That is a hallow gesture. That is all.

The Indian state needs a broader alliance of all major sections of the Indian society, all major regions and the people of different beliefs and ideological spectrums.
Our historical legacies are broader. Our threat perceptions to the current Indian state, from terrorists, from threats from across the borders, in our neightbourhood are all real.
We have to contain irresponsible allies and over-ambitious allies and hold them in check.
So, elections might come and go. Our men and women in power must ponder over their own inner motives and ask their conscience. Are they are there just out of some base motives or are they committed to stand up and serve the country in times of deeper crises?

These are not questions that won’t go away by just shutting our eyes and holding deaf our ears!

Indians of thinking types must answer some uncomfortable questions. The time is now and here!

Photo Courtesy : Henri Cater – Busson

Elections, 2009: the big power game is here!
Unprincipled alliances, yes, that is election is all about!
But India needs to follow principles!
Indian Prime Minister, whoever he or she is, must adhere to some principles!

Yes, the time is here right now. We are somehow come to have a government in India that is while being democratic in form, it is not in spirit!
There is an unelected Prime Minister who has come to mean many things to many people in India.

A Prime Minister just as a cover for the arbitrary exercise of power by one individual, one family that seems to own the Indian National Congress leaves a bitter taste indeed.

Now, with the elections on the way, will there be any change in the grand scheme of India? Not very likely. There are, if any, only unprincipled alliances.
What is common now between the Congress and Trinamul Congress?

Or for the matter, between the Congress and the DMK? Or for the Sharad Pawar and the Shiv Sena? Or, for the CPI (M) and Jayalalitha who had openly invited the Congress to align with her. Or for Deve Gowda, who in the morning was negotiating with the Congress and once the announcement of elections were made joined hands with the Third Front?

So, here is a great danger waiting to hit Indian value systems.  Then, who cares?
Yes, that is the attitude! No. That has a danger whose potential can be unpredicted. Who knows, given Sonia Gandhi’s series of missteps, that is the very generous way of saying things, there have been so many contradictions and distortions that have been built into the Indian polity.

The spaces that were distinct in the separation of powers under the Constitution are now missed and there is a great deal of arbitrary and personal power that is centered on one individual: Sonia Gandhi.

She is no Indira Gandhi either. Nor is she capable of understanding India well either. India is a great and diverse country. India has so many new challenges; she is not at all capable of leading the country through some principled path.
There are so many ominous signs.

She is not even capable of growing the party that got independence in the major states where it was once the strong force. So, she is destroying the Indian National Congress in serious ways.

The party is also not democratically constituted.
There are no ideological articulations.
There are too many careerists in the party holding crucial powers.

The high Constitutional offices are handed over to sort of subservient individuals.
The mood of the country is one of hopes and also depression, more so in the current economic environment where some 10 lakh jobs of mostly youth are hit.
There is unemployment syndrome that is gripping the country.

There is a need to give new hopes and new aspirations and new articulations to lift the country out of the current sullen mood.

Surely, Manmohan Singh must call it a day. He must not be seen as acting in secret understanding with Sonia to promote her young son to the highest post in the country. The past is a warning. So, let not everyone of us join in the current mindless chorus of getting Rahul Gandhi elected to the Prime Minister’s job. Not right now. Time is there yet for him.

Now, we need a Prime Minister who has some personal principles of conduct for himself or herself. This is absolute minim um for any gentlemen to aspire for the position of Prime Minister.

The Indian Prime Minister must be a person who has public stature. He must know the world, must be capable of engaging a leader of the stature of Barack Obama, the US President.

Who has such a stature in the present context?
No one as we see right now. A true leader emerges only through a democratically elected process.