How it would transform Indian politics?
A new Indian political flavour, this new coalition of regional and smaller parties? Yes, it looks like that. So long it was the two big national parties that headed the coalition politics in India.
Now, it is the regional parties, the smaller parties that are converging towards a new coalition. Or, a new coalition dharma! To that extent, the new coalition must only bring better to the people, the citizens. The more oppressive, the oligarchy-like domination of the rather rigid, undemocratic party structures that characterise the Congress and the BJP, might, let us hope, give way to a more open and a more tolerant and divergent points of view that might be reflected in the new front.
Coalition politics in a democracy could contribute to much good for the people. On the whole, coalition politics enlarges the freedoms of the individuals, the citizens. Sometimes, as in the present situation in India, coalition politics could also cause some deeply-rooted problems. In India now, there is a fairly well-laid foundation for sustained economic growth. Yet, there is also cause for concern, agricultural crisis, rural India’s many issues left unattended, so there are inequities etc. But again on the whole there is cause for optimism on the economic front.
On the political front there is an air of lack of openness in governance, there is unaccountability, there is the dual nature of authority etc.
So, the formation of the Third Front, on-Congress-led and non-BJP-led front could contribute to some evolution and some maturity of democracy.
There is some hope for the formation of two broad-based economic and social philosophy and also very likely for a dilution of the virulent rightwing communal approach by the BJP-led front. As for the Congress-led front, it is very likely in the event of the Congress not winning enough seats to form a government on its own, nor even not winning the last tally of 145; there could be a more viable alternative in the Third Front, more left-centered approach to economic development. Whatever be the rhetoric, whatever the Left may expound or Mr.Chandrababu Naidu says about the need for an alternative economic policy, it is very unlikely the already grown economy, as it is based on the thrust of the private sector can be reversed. Be it W.Bengal where the Buddhadeb government tried only the industrialisation route based on big industrial investments by the private sector or in AP where Mr.Naidu himself has initiated the World Bank-funded big projects model, the need for faster growth would be the common shared economic philosophy in the India of the new millennium.
May be, we have to improve our governance, our public services delivery model etc. Here again the common problems for all parties are the same. Dynastic politics, large scale political corruption, the increased entry of criminal elements in politics, the consequent fall of the Parliament and the ineffectiveness of the Executive and the rising judicial intervention etc.
So, coaltion politics, whoever leads it, seems to have new Indian flavour of its own. It is worth watching and learning from the new patterns of political behaviour on the part of our leaders and parties.
Coalition politics sometimes can prove to be very cosy and comfortable. That is for those who seek status quo for various reasons. After some initial years of political instability India saw a return to a stable political regime, first under Vajpayee and then now under Dr.Manmohan Singh. If the present regime if to be recalled in later years, it can be called by various names. One sure name would be it was so cosy and so comfortable! That is for those who didn’t want to rock the boat for the simple reason there was no need for any of the allies to do so, for they got more than what they expected and sought(as in the case of the DMK) or for those (like the Left) who sought power and prestige without any accountability there couldn’t have been any other coalition like Dr.Singh’s. Singh was amenable to all sorts of pulls and pressures, he bowed and obliged and he after some initial ‘trys’ simply gave up all pretensions to any major economic reforms. He chose to sail with the wind and he is a lucky man, he managed to survive so long without trying so hard, as even his self-confessed mentor and guide, the unfortunate late Narasimha Rao had to endure so much infamy in the big corruption deal to stay in power. Oh, compared to such pressures Dr.Singh is perhaps the luckiest Prime Minister of modern India. His is a smooth sail.
Now as if to disturb his peace and the peace of others in his camp, no less that of Sonia Gandhi or for that matter, the more ambitious ones, from Vajpayee to Advani, the news about the formation of a Third Front in the recently concluded meet in Hyderabad must have come as a galling upset.
Why? The Third Front leaders are no strangers to some of the still-power-seeking seniors in the Congress and the BJP. The Telugu Desam Party of Chandrababu Naidu was part of the BJP team for long. It was only a long time after he detached himself from the NDA fold. As for the ADMK supremo, Jayalalitha, she too was part of the NDA in the first round and when everyone is waiting this time she might again come round to its fold she seems to have jumped on the bandwagon of a Third Front and more to her luck she was anointed, unofficially we are told, as the leader of this new Front. Of course, everyone of the more ambitious and even more powerful at the all India level in the Third Front, for men like Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chautala of the INLD, they know well that it is better to entice the ADMNK supremo than antagonise her or give room for any of her unpredictable tantrums and so they all gamely stood around her and gave her a new legitimacy to her. May be she is the best qualified, better endowed. She can surely speak English with a convent accent! And that is no easy asset when she speaks in the august company of men like Mulayam Singh, mar Singh and Chautala, not to mention Chandrababu Naidu who all knows the power of the film glamour in Indian politics.
So, we are now with a Third Front in the making. There are now in the first round 6 regional parties in the Front. The Front is counting upon the Left, as the CPM and the CPI are also shouting lately about the need for a Third Front. So, what they would do now? They would leave the UPA and join the new Front or they come out with some lame excuses not to antagonise the Congress?
The Left’s credibility would be tested, if any such test is needed afresh. Knowing their past, their past history of twisting events to suit their own hybrid and narrow outlook that has lately landed them, the Left, in a deep crisis of sorts on their home turf, both in W.Bengal as well as in Kerala, the Left have to do some new twist of facts or phrases to justify what they would be doing in the days and months before the 2009 elections.
The real worry is for the Congress and more so for the BJP.
The Congress, being the oldest party can take some comfort for they can rely upon some states where they have been in power and also even now in power. As for the BJP, it is in real trouble. Apart from its internal squabbles, apart from the unsuspect silence and silent moves and even a cold war between the top two, Vajpayee and Advani, there is the total disarray of the BJP in a state like Jharkhand where the former chief minister Babulal Marandi had come to Hyderabad and he had succeeded to position himself with the new grouping. So, he can play his role adriotly, as he is the credible alternative to the two main players in the state. So, the BJP is really alarmed about the new political alignments that are in the making.
The unveiling of the new coalition at the national level holds dangerous port rends to the Congress also. Why?
The UPA is now facing a serious anti-incumbency factor. The Congress has failed to win elections in the Assembly elections and in the big Mumbai and Delhi municipal elections. Though Goa is a real relief it is not a big state. The real test will come only when Congress makes any serious efforts in the bigger states. In UP, it is a washout. UPA is the whipping boy now for all sorts of failures, from failing to control prices to preventing the farmers’ suicides to the steep fall in agriculture production to the blatant admission of failure and to go for large scale wheat import. If really American wheat manages to enter India, then there can’t be a greater irony. UPA would be blamed for long for bringing back the Americans into the one sensitive sector where India managed to keep it out for so long. The Indo-Nuclear deal itself is now proving to be a big embarrassment and one doesn’t know how long Dr.Singh’s cosy existence would last and how long the UPA would tolerate the series of failures on the economic front. Already, the CPI has come out vocally against continuing with the UPA. Once some leak occurs then it could prove to be a flood. The regional allies, at any rate the one like the DMK is not a trusted ally. Its one-point agenda is to fight its home enemy, namely, the ADMK and so the DMK would be watching how much prominence Ms.Jayalalitha gets or given by the Third Front leaders. Once she is seen as rising in the political graph, the DMK could prove to be a troublesome ally which it in fact is!
Already the JMM, now a partner in the UPA has said that it is discussing the invitation extended to it by the TDP chief to come to the new Front.
There are other issues. The Communists are very opportunistic fellows. They are now in alliance with the DMK in Tamil Nadu. The anti-incumbency factor is now very much in favour of the ADMK, given the family quarrels within the DMK family itself. So, the Communists could switch sides with the new front. Also, the question of some popular perceptions about the sort of policies that would appeal in a general election. The BJP’s one handicap is that it is seen mostly as a communal party, so the so-called secular parties might feel hesitant to join it in any open manner. But there won’t be any dearth of persons to jump the guns once an election is over and once the BJP is seen making a bid for forming the government. In the past, even the veteran Congressmen switched sides to become ministers under Vajpayee. As it is the Indian political parties don’t subscribe to any credible and clear political ideology. It is only the popular perceptions that seem to count as it present. Otherwise, the current trend towards private sector driven crony-type capitalism serves all parties well. No credible leader is seen with his or her own political ideology. Even Mayawati who is seeing herself as a future Prime Minister has any such ideology, the casteless society would be a clever ploy to win the numbers game.
Indian economy, luckily, is on the upswing thanks to a combination of several factors, global as well as domestic factors. The new technological revolutions, the it and telecommunications, have transformed the Indian economy into one of the fastest growing service economies, the middle class is growing, the employment base is widening, there is the consumer boom, urbanisation pace is getting quickened and a new generation has no patience with any isms as such at present.
This serves the current crop of politicians who are also quickly promoting a sort of dynastic politics. So, it would a free for all for some more time. For how long? It is difficult to say. There would be no clear-cut ideological political divide as we see in mature democracies. The road towards a two- party democratic politics is rather uncertain. So, for some more years, we have to live with the changing coalitions, the new coalition after the 2009 elections or even before the date are still in a fluid situation.
But one thing seems certain. The UPA as it is is unlikely to continue after 2009.The Left might not also get the same numbers. As for the Congress it is likely to get the current tally reduced or at best raised a bit more. Not enough to give it a clear majority.
So, the whole political environment from now to the next general elections would be marked by a sort of musical chairs. In that sense, Indian politics might become more exciting in the next two years, more exciting than in the recent past for there won’t be Dr.Singh to lead, more likely a political figure. Who knows that Sharad Pawar or Pranab Mukerjee might get a chance, as Pawar is still a force in Maharashtra with 48 seats and also a foothold in Goa? To that extent, that would be a healthy democratic political growth.
Much would depend upon the outcome of the Third Front leaders playing a careful role in every possible situation, like the Presidential elections, then, in the subsequent events that might point towards the next general elections.
In terms of talent, the Third Front is much ahead of the BJP and also in some aspects, much ahead of the Congress which is tied to some unspoken protocol of pleasing some leaders openly, some others not so openly! It is simply because we have the court culture, the sycophancy factor and also, more importantly the leaders’ self-perception of their own inadequacies to be where they are!
It is democracy that matters in the end. Indian democracy has evolved and it has now acquired much depth and inner resilience of its own. The media, more so the electronic media is becoming powerful. The sting operations had brought out many a skeleton from the cupboards. Politicians have to live in fear. Corruption, criminality is still there. They too might get exposed and dealt with, given the civil society activism and the public interest litigation and the Right to Information Act etc.
So, welcome to the Third Front and whatever it promises are welcome news for the citizens.