Full innings

The commencement of the last session of Parliament last week marked the successful culmination of Dr. Manmohan Singh’s 13-party coalition government.

Written by Rajeev Shukla | Published:February 20, 2009 12:41 am

The commencement of the last session of Parliament last week marked the successful culmination of Dr. Manmohan Singh’s 13-party coalition government. I remember when Dr. Singh stood to take oath as Prime Minister; leaders from BJP had even made dire predictions of the government’s collapse within six months. I remember a private conversation with Atal Behari Vajpayee,who was the only opposition leader of import to have correctly ascertained the inherent strength of the UPA coalition. Vajpayee even predicted a full term for the government.

The Congress-led coalition had its share of bitter sweet experiences,but it never came close to turning into a government of compromises. On the contrary,Dr. Singh’s government never shied away from taking big decisions,even at the cost of aggravating its coalition partners. Even in case of the contentious Indo-US nuclear deal,while every effort was made to convince some coalition partners and win their trust and support,the government did not waver from its conviction.

The success of the UPA government proves that a coalition government is successful only when a major political party is leading the alliance. Coalition experiments of Third Front and United Front failed for this reason alone. Inevitably,these alliances end up disrespecting the electoral verdict as the single largest party has provided only an external support.

Pakistan’s new war

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari’s confession that Taliban is a major threat to the existence of Pakistan has hardly surprised me. In my Rajya Sabha speech immediately following the Mumbai 26/11 terror attacks,I clearly pointed out the complete helplessness of the Pakistani government in dealing with the rogue fundamentalists led by Taliban and Al Qaeda. While everyone has been blaming Pakistan for the Mumbai terror attacks,the Pakistani regime in fact has no control or influence over these fundamentalist forces. Pakistan’s media and its people have ignored this bleak reality for far too long and they have paid a heavy price so far.

At some time in the recent past,the Taliban realised that there was no point in invading and controlling Afghanistan,which is a barren state anyways. Pakistan on the other hand was a lucrative target; it has food,money and modern cities with complete socio-economic infrastructure in markets,roads,telecom and medical facilities. The Taliban sought and formed a cartel with other major fundamentalist forces like Al Qaeda,Jamaat-e-Islami,Lashkar-e-Toiba and aimed to capture Islamabad.

The sudden surge in terror attacks against Pakistan army,police and its military establishment in the recent year or two is a pointer to the gradual realisation of their strategy. That Taliban and the Al Qaeda militia have been trained by Pakistan’s ISI is the biggest irony of it all; they fully know the strengths and weaknesses of Pakistan’s military and easily exploit them.

All is not lost still and Zardari’s realisation of this threat is a positive sign. The next step is to realise that in the fight against Taliban,the world community is on his side. South Asia needs a civilian and democratic government calling all the shots in Pakistan and it is time that the Pakistan political establishment capitalised on this fact to mount an all out offensive against rogue fundamentalists.

It’s cricket

Union Minister Pranab Mukherjee was right in his disclosure that he was offered the post of BCCI president by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the early eighties. Gandhi indeed had a keen interest in cricket and she wanted to promote the game. When there was a call for an effective BCCI president three decades ago,the then BCCI officials approached her to suggest a candidate. She immediately suggested Pranab’s name.

However,Pranab politely declined saying that he did not know anything about cricket and could not handle its management. Later Gandhi made a proposal to NKP Salve,who accepted and became the BCCI president in 1982. Gandhi’s decision was proved right soon when India won the 1983 World Cup; Indira Gandhi later hosted a reception for the victorious team at the prime ministerial residence.

The writer is a Rajya Sabha MP from the Congress party

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