Sunday, July 13, 2008

After the UPA trust vote: Will the Left withdrawal be in national interest?

Unnatural Friends: BJP's Lal Krishna Advani and CPM's Prakash Karat will find themselves on the same line trying to pull down the Manmohan Singh Government over the Indo-US nuclear deal on July 22 trust vote in Parliament: news

THE NATION is inching towards political instability as the United Progressive Alliance is divided on the Indo-US nuclear deal. The horse-trading is on, and the numbers game is in full swing.

There has been a series of debates on the net as to the real issues behind the crisis and the future fallout.

I copy and paste here a few comments I posted in a discussion group during the past few days:

On July 12:

I will add just one sentence: I am extremely disturbed by the left positioning which will ultimately drive them into a trap. They will bring down this Government in the company of the BJP and will, indirectly, be responsible for twin dangers: First, they will not stop this deal; and they will help pave the way for the BJP back to power as this lame duck government will not survive for long even if they win the trust vote on 22nd.

July 12:

I believe things can work to the BJP's advantage, as they stand right now.

1. On July 22, the CPM and left parties will vote against the trust vote; along with the BJP and other parties who are opposed to this government.

2. The Manmohan Singh government will have to depend solely on horse-trading, fortune seekers and opportunists for its survival. People like TRS's Chandrasekhara Rao, JMM's Shibu Soren and others may be available for a price. And this price will prove to be too heavy to pay.

3. Hence as soon as this nuke deal is done, may be by September-October, the best way out for the UPA government to resolve this impasse would be to resign and go for a new poll. They are unlikely to stay on till the next April-May, the normal time for the general election. Even if they try, they may not be able to pull on.

4. The elections will be fought not mainly on this foreign policy issue. There are other things, more pressing, like this spiraling price rise which is unlikely to abate in the next few months. At least it would continue till the next crops, hopefully a bumper one, to reach the market and depress essentials' prices. For that to happen we need to wait till Jan-Feb next.

5. That means, though the UPA likes it or not, they are heading for a snap poll some time later this year. And with the battle raging between the left and the Congress, with the traditional left allies like SP and RJD on the other side, and with the BJP and NDA enjoying the show from the sidelines, things are likely to be a muddled multi-cornered contest that will work to the advantage of the present major opposition alliance.

July 12:

Dear friend, when you say there is nothing unusual about left positioning, I agree. Yes, as usual, it is as muddle-headed as it can get.

But there is everything unusual in the present context. When they vote this Government out in the company of the BJP, they will be abdicating their moral high ground lock stock and barrel. They will not be seen in the company of the Congress as they are mortally afraid of in Kerala; but in whose company they will be? I don't find many friends for them.

By the way, the reading may be different in Bengal. Why did Jyoti Basu say that the BJP is the real and imminent danger?

This is going to be a cynical political battle devoid of principles, and the left will not be able to gain anything out of it. Possibly they will lose much.

July 13:

When I say things could work out in favour of the BJP and allies, I am just trying to present an alternative scenario. I don't like it, but I can't help worrying about it.

First, let us face the fact that in all these past four years of UPA rule, the electoral performance of the Congress in State polls was dismal, to say the least. They have lost state after state and are likely to lose the coming ones too.

Why did they lose? Not because of lack of resources, not because of lack of access to state power, media influence or anything.

Primarily they lost because they were not able to convert their plus points into votes. Karnataka was a classic example. They had everything going in their favour, and they had at least five chief ministers in waiting. The Muslims who were facing Sangh Parivar attacks in areas like Mangalore were all for a Congress win. But things worked out differently. It was the fifth major debacle in four years for the Congress.

Now what is the national scene? The PM is now being painted a weak person, a PM with no base and a person who throws away the country's sovereignty. Is it credible? Is the sovereignty of our country something so ephemeral and skin-deep like chastity that one can lose with a moment's indiscretion?

I thought the left realized this danger. They had a vantage position opposing this deal.
They did it to their best there. But beyond that why do they want this government to fall? If the government falls will they ensure another secular one in its place?
Will they be able to stop the Congress taking the soft Hindutva line they played when they were in trouble, as we saw many times in the past?

No. But staying on even as being firmly opposed to the deal would have given them a better chance to guide the national politics in a more sober, active and healthy way. They threw it out when they decided to pull the rug and then declared they will vote with the BJP on 22nd.

I cannot accept it. Because, I see the left is leaving the arena for others to monopolize at the most critical moment in our nation's life.

It can prove to be another historic blunder. Something that reminds us of 1997 if not 1942.

July 13:

JS writes: We are now negotiating based on a vulnerable situation- a weak government and leadership- we are more in to "pleasing" the US.

I am surprised by this statement. How can one say we are in a vulnerable position, we have a weak government, a weak leadership?

I was reading the NY Times editorial on Indo - US nuclear deal a few days ago which castigated the US administration for agreeing to such a deal that pampers India. They say the US and big powers capitulated before India's emerging power status. They don't want this deal to come through.

Neither do I want this deal. Not because that it would make India a US stooge; but because we can move on even without this.

But I am not persuaded to buy the argument that India would be a stooge of US because of this deal. In the post-Independence days, India was a much weaker country. In 1971 they had sent the seventh fleet to the Indian Ocean to browbeat this country. Indira Gandhi simply laughed at them and went ahead with her own plans, to keep this country safe. She was described a durga.

I do not want to describe Sonia in any such terms. But I am confident this country is strong enough to face such threats, our leaders including the Prime Minister are leaders with real strength.

I do not buy the argument that they are stooges; or they are slaves because they served in the World Bank. This is silly to say the least. They are Indian leaders.

So let us stop this business of competitive patriotism. We have heard enough of this jingoism. At least let us leave it to the Sangh Parivar brothers.

July 13:

Yes, in a way we are now facing the most critical question of what is a government.

For me, a government is an institution that anticipates and foresees national interest and moves ahead to safeguard the national interest. It is the duty of the Prime Minister to lead the country and not be led by others.

It should be so with Dr Manmohan Singh too. Here, he was constrained by the CMP, the document that was drafted by the supporting parties. But this document is the common minimum program and not common maximum program, a Laxman rekha for the UPA Government.

It would lead to a serious governance crisis if the political parties supporting any government dictate what should be the day to day affairs, what treaties they can go into, etc. No country can be run that way.

July 14:

I know there are several problems with it when we are in a coalition or work with a common minimum program. Parties may differ on the actual parameters of working in such a situation.

In the present context, yes there are differences between the Congress, RJD and other UPA partners on the one hand and the left parties on the other. Coalition dharma cannot stop the Prime Minster taking actions which he deems absolutely necessary in the national interest. Dr Manmohan Singh has taken a step which he thinks is in national interest and except the left all parties seem to agree.

So what is the option for the left? They thought there was only one: to withdraw. Right. No quarrel. But what I was consistently writing about here is the future fallout of such an action on the part of the left. Will it help the country, will it prove to be in the larger national interest?

I do not think so. That is why I said the left was making a strategic mistake. I still subscribe to my view on this and do feel that there may be many more from the left itself who may think in similar lines. Let us wait and watch for the future developments.

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