Next general elections stir up New Delhi atmosphere!

The Congress has neither leader nor a credible manifesto!

The next general elections looms large on New Delhi skyline. Even if the Congress is driven into total  silence, after the stunning defeat in Gujarat and followed by Himachal, the Opposition parties are becoming more active and more vocal too. It is the dissenting stance of the CPI(M) over nuclear deal and also its talk of a third front without the Congress that is causing worries in the Congress.

The latest development on the  failure of the IAEA talks   seems to have come at a time when the party and the Prime Minister in particular are not sure of the future of politics in the country. The Congress party is faced with the dilemma of what to do with Dr.Singh who is now widely  seen as a liability at the election time. Singh might have given a credible performance  during the last four years. But then it is like a peace time Prime Minister. Can he make a war time PM?

And that is when the BJP, the one and only credible alternative has put up the formidable Advani as the Prime Ministerial candidate? Advani for his part is doing everything, almost everyday, to make the life of Dr.Singh miserable. The PM is no match for Advani’s political stamina. Now, he wants the PM to confer the Bharat Ratna title on Vajpayee. Who can say no to such a request. At least, the PM must be diplomatic enough to say that was a nice request. Even this much of courtesy the PM is not able to show. And what sort of public image and public empathy the PM would command?

There is every reason to suspect the PM is already aware of  the usefulness of his services to the party is over. So, who knows he might be contemplating his own private plans for a contingency. That is why we see lately the Pm is not even coherent, he is talking out of tune in all forums. His speeches are becoming lackluster and he is just content to do his official duties in a routine and businesslike manner. There is no public face to the activities of the Indian Prime Minister. This is not the way the PM’s visage is seen by the Indian public so far. As Advani said often, the Pm is not a political person first and this shows.

The nuclear deal failure now seems real for the time being and there are strong reasons to believe the Indian government hasn’t given enough attention to the safeguards side of the deal and there is also principled opposition to the deal from international as well as national civil society groups. Apart from other things, no one can take the nuclear deal’s many far reaching implications lightly. First, the time table for the  final clearances is not also conducive to the Congress party’s plans to go for the mid-term polls. In the meantime, the second aspect is that even the large sections of Congressmen, may be excluding Sonia Gandhi and the PM and the Foreign minister, are not very enthusiastic with the deal, as they all know this deal is not a sure winner of any general elections! Sonia too might know this. Mr.Mukerjee is also a very experienced man and he knows he holds the baby just to please the  Congress  president.

He has to humour the Left, as that is his brief and he has no great interest in the nuclear deal as that is only Dr.Singh’s personal commitment to George Bush. The third point is that in the meantime there is the  letter signed by 120 individuals sent to  four dozen countries that make up the nuclear suppliers group and also NGOs from 23 countries have also signed up and asked the NSG and the IAEA not to give approval to the deal as that would mean(this is the important point) that India only would be given “special safeguard exemptions”. This in effect would mean and set a precedent that while all other nuclear weapon countries are bound by not to make further new weapons and test them, India would be exempted from such obligations.

This in effect would mean that India has both the latest nuclear technology as well as the right to produce nuclear weapons making!
This step is not honestly in tune with the Gandhian ethos of Indian peace credentials and also the very thesis of Dr.Singh’s nuclear deal’s fuller implications are not spelt out by the Indian Prime Minister.

Civilian nuclear power itself is suspect. It has not got that great priority, given India’s slow contribution to nuclear power grid. The real  purpose, the real danger is the future of India’s nuclear weapons making strategy.

And for this unforeseen danger or potential for new dangers, can the country believe in Dr.Singh’s capabilities. What is the PM’s political credibility to undertake such a far-reaching deal? Nothing! Yes, this is a harsh view but it is in the interest of the Indian public someone has to ask such a difficult question.
There is no free political atmosphere too in the country, even inside the Congress party there is no one, and it seems, who is willing to raise such questions.
So, the real long term implications and the short -term political liabilities make the deal a real headache to put it mildly. It is better to forsake the deal as the as the author of the deal in the interest of the country as well as the party.
Such is the line of reasoning that seems to run through the elite sections of India.
Party politicians can’t be trusted on such highly sensitive and controversial question and it is a price not worth paying at this juncture of the country’s movement forward.

The mood at the present moment is all about what sort of alliances that would be formed and who would be the potential Prime Minister from the Congress side.
Pitted against L.K.Advani, the public would expect some one who could stand up to the BJP’s aggressive stances on various issues.

The BJP is already launching a series of yatras and creating awareness of the current issues. The Vidharbha kisan yatra in the midst of the farmers’s suicide-tainted region is certain to raise many emotional chords across the farmers regions in the country. Rajnath Singh might not be a star vote gatherer. But surely his 250-km Sevagram-Akola stretch of the kisan yatra is bound to have some impact on the disappointed farm sector.

The BJP has called for a total farm debt write-ff and also promise of fresh farm loans at four per cent of interest. These are surely likely to create a favourbale impact on the community. Rajnath Singh is the first BJP president’s visit to Sevagram.

The moos in the country is to search for a stable central government. So a stable government needs a strong leader.

The successive sweeping victories in the Assembly elections for the BJP has given it  a new mood of confidence and somewhat an aggressive confidence.
Whether this new confidence would bring in the allies needed to forge a credible alternative to the Congress-led alliance is a moot question as of now.
As for the third front, even now, it remains an inconclusive front. It all depends upon where the current imponderables, ADMK and the UP Mayawati would jump in and whether they can afford to go alone and upset the current lineup. Also, the brave and empty rhetoric of the Left can’t be taken seriously given their critical dependence on the Congress’ own left image or centrist image.

The Congress has of course some inherent strength. Its secular credentials are well-established and well-taken by the friends and foes alike. The Left knows well that in the final reckoning, it has to come to the Congress side, in case its current bravado to forge a new third front collapses. It is very likely to  collapse ,given the ladies’s mood swings! Both J and Mayawati are known for their moods and tempers. Politics doesn’t give any leader the luxury of mood swings. Or, you end up like Trinamul leader.Full of fire and brimstone and yet you end up as a nonentity, with all your capacity to stir up  things.

In politics, you need some stability first within your own party and then you must have some stable vision and really some genuine political agenda. All these and much more the oldest party has. It also cuts across regions and creeds and classes.

If a clear leadership profile emerges from the Congress then it can hope to come again successfully. For this to happen, Sonia Gandhi has to take some hard decisions. She has, it seems, no alternative to ease out Dr.Singh and give him an honourable exit. Next is to put forward a collective leadership alternative. All these are tough questions and only a true leader with true leadership qualities and  certain risk taking  can tackle.

Every election is an important election. This time too it is going to be an important and interesting election.

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