While President Pranab Mukherjee Sunday got unqualified support from parties across political spectrum for his “populist anarchy” remark in the Republic Day-eve speech that was construed as a veiled attack on the AAP government in Delhi, many regional parties disapproved of his “catastrophic” fractured mandate comment with CPI veteran A B Bardhan terming it a “very political speech” and stating that the President “more or less” supported the idea of a two-party system in the name of favouring a stable government. Strong reactions of regional parties, the potential constituents of a third alternative at the Centre, were in sharp contrast to those of the two major national parties — the Congress and the BJP — which, for once, took a united stand supporting Mukherjee’s views.
“The President’s speech was good. I support his contention that we need a stable government in the country,” said BJP chief Rajnath Singh also welcoming his remarks against “populist anarchy”. Endorsing the President’s concern about a fractured mandate, BJP patriarch L K Advani said, “Even I think that this time a government with full majority will come to power.” As for the President’s dig at the AAP about populist anarchy being no substitute for governance, Advani said, “I do not prefer to pass comments on someone on this day. But it is important that the President chose to make remarks on this (populist anarchy). The person whose function is to maintain order starts talking about anarchy is distressing. Now that the President has also commented upon it, I totally and strongly endorse it.”
Regional parties had a different take though. “One-party rule is a distant dream as the next Lok Sabha is also likely to be a fractured one. The President may have a noble thought but the current reality is different. National parties are not able to bring the country under their control, and several regional parties have emerged as more powerful in their respective states. Apart from established regional parties, there are newer ones also — like in Andhra Pradesh and elsewhere — so they cannot be ignored in the present political scenario,” Sudip Bandyopadhyay, Trianmool Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, told The Indian Express.
“It was a freewheeling speech and I would say, on general principles, he is right. But I don’t think it was a partisan comment, he has said what he felt,” said Saugata Roy, another senior TMC leader.
The SP endorsed the President’s caution against populist anarchy but voiced its disagreement with his message on fractured polity. “In a democracy, people are free to vote their choices. In situations where national parties have failed to meet the aspirations of various sections and regions of the country, people have voted regional parties that they think champion their interests and aspirations.
There is nothing wrong. So, if that results into a fractured mandate, so be it. I think, Hon’ble President should not bind the people about their political choices,” SP general secretary Naresh Agarwal told The Indian Express.
“In the name of avoiding a fractured verdict and favouring a so called stable government, the President has more or less supported the idea of a two-party system. To him, everything else is fractured. Apart from the Congress and the BJP, everything else is fractured and also cannot give stability. It is a very political speech, which one does not expect from a President of that calibre,” said Bardhan.
On Mukherjee’s observation that the government is not a charity shop, Bardhan said, “Subsidies meant for the poor are construed as charity. Then what did he, as Finance Minister, give in ample measures to the corporate houses? The revenue forgone for their sake! What was that charity?”
JD(U) secretary-general K C Tyagi had a different take. “The President, while addressing the nation, spoke as an elder statesman. His views reflect the wisdom piled over a 50-year experience in public life. His advice against populist anarchy is meant for Congress, BJP, SP and AAP, who are all engaged in competitive populism. Is it not ridiculous for a party to promise free laptops to people when it cannot supply power to even charge them? The country has very high hopes from the President during the coming days too,” he said.
The Congress welcomed the President’s speech. AICC general secretary Shakeel Ahmed said, “The President is the constitutional head of the country and his views should be taken seriously. What he felt he explained to the people of the country and we should all take note of it and ponder over it without giving it a political colour. I don’t think it was a political speech.”
AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh said, “The President never mentioned Arvind Kejriwal or the AAP. He was just reflecting on the general trend. Does he (Kejriwal) have any problem with the word anarchist?”