The ADMK chief and one of the Third Front leaders,Ms Jayalalitha has come out with the view that the Third Front,consisting of eight parties, would abstain from voting in the Presidential election.This is an absurd political stand!
After having constituted the Front in a hastily called meeting in Hyderabad and also in Chennai and after taking the bold step of meeting the incumbent President Abdul Kalam to change his mind and making him agree to context and thereby causing irreparable damage to his reputation as well as creating a piquant situation,now to say that the Third Front would abstain from voting is the very height of a moral bankruptcy!Let us hope that the other leaders of the Front,of the stature of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chndrababu Naidu and others dont fall for this line.
It is the duty of every politicial party,big or small,that functions in our polity,must plays its role and participate,in principle,in the election of the highest Constitutional office of the President of India,who is the custodian and defender of the Constitution.
If any of the parties have any objections,it must be again based on sound reasoning and also must be in the nature of a moral stand.Here,there is no such moral principle is involved.We saw the audacious step of going to the extent of persuading the incumbent President to take an impossible stand and thereby making the election process a mockery and now to go to the other extreme of almost”boycotting”the election are all not signs of political maturity,just the opposite!
One hopes there is some measured and mature response from the constitutents of the Third Front.Once again,the Front shouldn’t succumb to any temptations of immediate and short term gains or “deals”! The Third Front has an opportunity to prove its worth and trust.People’s trust in the leaders and the parties is the ultimate test.Given their exemplary leadership qualities and proven track record,the Third Front leaders must rise up to the occasion and come out with a reasoned stand and must cast their votes in the election process.
There is now the clear lineup of the parties and the candidates in the highly charged Presidential elections.The two candidates have been identified and enough muck-racking has been dug up,there have been extensive coverage of the mutual mudslinging.The two candidates stand exposed for their lack of expected probity in public life,they are now clearly seen ,for all their long innings in politics,they have enough chinks in their armour that does enough damage to make any average voter,be he or she,is an MLA or an MP to think twice before choosing to exercise their vote.If it is really expected of an MLA and an MP to choose to vote and exercise their conscience as will,there is going to be real trouble.The party whip might not be there but there is what is called some moral boundaries in public life.
After all the President of India is not an ordinary responsibility and there could be times that might test the nerves of anyone with any vulnerability to trip.And it looks there are enough ammunition for the future and it cant be an easy task for the new occupant to rest in a mental peace with any clear conscience.There are murder charges,there is bank funds misappropriation,moral deviations etc.The Indian public is now well posted with such details,the print and the TV media have been active,the proposers of the Pratibha Patil,for instance,the one named,Mr.A.B.Bardhan,the CPI leader, is accused by Karan Thapar on his popular programme,the Devil’s Advocate, that in case any future problem arose then he,Bardhan and he alone should have to take moral responsibility for standing by the candidate,both Bardhan and Pratibha Patil are from the Vidharba region and as such his endorsement matters a great deal.Of course Bardhan has angrily reacted and since then is a bit active in going about defending his decision and also cautioning people that the Presidential election must not be brought down to the level of a municipal election! And it looks the Presidential election is attracting more public attention and the players,the major and minor parties are also coming into the intense pressures to choose their voting preferences by a range of considerations,party loyalty,to regionalism to caste and even gender and what have you.Shiv Sena for one has changed sides and this time it is working against the wishes of the NDA and also others like ,for instance,George Fernades who has asked Mr.Thakeray to rise above parochialism,and work for nationalism.That seems a good argument. Mr.Thakeray working for the Congress candidate? That looks silly and also that seems to negate all that the Shiv Sena has stood for all these years.
There are parties like the JD(S),the two factions,one led by Deve Gowda and the other by the splinter group.Whom the two factions vote for?A clear case of contradiction and confusion!
So too every other regional party.
The one sticking point now is the role of the parties aligned with the Third Front.Whoever floated the Third Front now look like leaders with no direction or thought for what they should be doing next!Such a directionless party leaders are the ones who persuaded an otherwise decent person like President Abdul Kalam fall for their bait!They disturbed his mental composure and the poor man gave in to the temptations of power and a false glory,a second term!This very soon got exposed when the Third Front leaders didnt keep up their promise of getting back!The result was that the President’s office was dragged into the unsavoury controversy,all sorts of ordinary men ,the Cabinet ministers took pot shot at the incumbent President to the embarrassment of everybody.
The Third Front could muster the numbers or an argument to get out of the situation!So,it looks the Third Front itself was surprised to find the President to open up his inner mind and reveal his ambitions and once caught in this manner,the Third Front had no retreat mechanism to save it all the ensuing embarrassment.
So,the next day,the President has to make a hasty retreat and that left the Third Front and the President also with a bad dream.Till now,the Third Front didnt dare to stand up and show up its face!
Yet,one of the leading lights of the Front,namely,Ms.Jayalalitha,the ADMK chief is now coming out with some lame excuses for not voting for any front,her contention is that in her individual capacity she would prefer to abstain from the voting in the ensuing election.
The pity is that the other leaders of the Third Front,notably,Mr.Mulayam Singh and Chandrababu Naidu and others haven’t come out with any clarification at all.That is the real embarrassment.This is not the time to maintain such silence.At least there must be some attempt at a consensus building.This is not happening.This is a great pity and a preciously loss in pub,ic opinion making.
The whole;e country is watching this election with such keenness that the Third Front owe to the country some reasonable explanation and articulation of their ideological cohesiveness and some mature direction to the country’s affairs at a crucial context.
In fact,much more than a mere voting process is involved here.Any abstention in a Presidential election itself is an aberration.
What is involved here is the evolution of our democracy,the way the present chaotic coalition is operating with no cohesion or any common core,only dictated by survival instinct.Otherwise,the every process of the selection of the Presidential nominee would not have gone through the way it went.The Left must be seriously concerned about the way it was ambushed by Mrs.Sonia Gandhi.She first enters into a “secret”deal with Mayawati,it was a deal and that deal might spell disaster for future politics if ever the details come out one day or other.The Left knowing well the serious charges that are pending against the UP Chief Minister and yet was willing to “negotiate”with Sonia Gandhi over the finalisation of the candidate.In the event,when the Left looked like a triumphant ally by rejecting one after other the candidates put out by Mrs.Gandhi ,then suddenly,gave in when Sonia Gandhi threw in the name of Pratibha Patil! That was a moment when the Left was caught unawares!
Here is a woman candidate for the post of the President of India and what a great triumph,the Left wondered.To add to the triumphal moment Mr.A.B.Bardhan also brought in his personal knowledge of the candidate from Nagpur!So,the issue was settled.Neither Sonia Gandhi knew Pratibha Patil’s antecedents nor the Left.Now,having been caught by the exposures,the Congress has no defenders,the defending has to be done by Sharad Pawar from Maharashtra.The other leading Maharashtra politicians in power in Delhi are keeping mum and this has further embarrassed by the Congress leadership.There is now a public outcry from 10,Jan Path as to why the fellow Maharashtrian leaders are standing up for Pratibha Patil.The Maharashtra list is long:Shivraj Patil,Sushilkumar Shinde,A.R.Antulay,Murli Deora,Vilas Muttemwar,Praful Patel Ms.Suryakanta Patil.Poor men and women leaders!They know the embarrassment and so they have kept a distance.So,will Sonia ever hand out any retribution?It is unlikely.
Now,as for the Third Front,the Front’s vote matters a great deal when you take into account the 50 per cent mark the first round voting must reach.Otherwise the second preference votes might come into play.Such a prospect might tilt the balance in favour of the Opposition candidate!
So,the Third Front knows its voting strength.Though even then,the Congress candidate has a comfortable tally to see her through this election,it still has a critical role for the Third Front to take part in this crucial Presidential election,if only to show that it is a serious political formation,as it has also took an active and even a dramatic turn was given by its meeting with Kalam and persuading to stand again for a second term.For having taken such an active role in tilting the election balance to the discomfort of everybody,now to say they will abstain seems a clear betrayal of the people.Or the people’s trust in the Third Front.The Front might then be looked upon as an unreliable and tricky men and women who cant be relied upon in future!
So,the case for the Third Front taking a clear and principled stand cant we overstated.
Here are some inputs.
The Third Front members,notably,the ADMK and the Telugu Desam were once part of the NDA government in Delhi.So,there is nothing new or objectionable to get back to the side of an one time ally.There is no ideological contradiction and even the talk of communalism and secularism doesnt make sense given the fact every party has played up the caste and communal card in some form or other.That is the compulsions of a coalition regime.given Indian complexity.
As for the Samajwadi Party,it is now time to take a broader stand against one ideology as represented by the Congress-Left coalition.Yes,the CPM is a friendly ally of the Samajawadi Party as well as the Telugu Desam.The CPM also cohabitated with the ADMK.So,they are no “puritans”when it comes to cohabitation with anybody!
So,the Samajwadi party must play a leadership role if it has any idea of aiming at the New Delhi leadership role.
One last thought.In a large democracy like that of India,we need at least two leading political formations,as in the USA and UK.Yes,in the UK,there is a third formation,the liberal party but then it doesnt matter much.
If any serious leader in India is really serious to direct the Indian polity to move towards a more mature path,then we need to give a concrete direction towards a two-party formation.Then only the party in power at any time will exercise some self restraint and play some constructive role.Otherwise,we have to push out a politician as done in the UK.first against Thatcher and now against Tony Blair.Our democracy is not yet that mature enough to take up such pushing.
So,it is better we pursue the more orthodox path.Let us strengthen our democracy.In that light,it is imperative that Samajwadi party doesnt take any short-term view and look at issues at a broader and long-term point of view.
In that light it is only natural that Samajwadi party vote for the Opposition candidate and thus give a decisive push towards a informed choice for the votes,that is all the MLAs and MPs who would be expected to exercise their votes in a legitimate manner.
So that our parliamentary democracy becomes more rooted in some basic principles and not sway by some blandishments,as the Congress secures votes from all sorts of parties and individuals.