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The changing post-poll landscape

The new Lok Sabha is taking shape and so is the future strategy of the Congress. Meira Kumar as Speaker is obviously Congress’s answer to Mayawati and that is a big throw for the next UP and Bihar elections. Giving NCP three jobs is meant to buy them over for the Maharashtra elections which are […]

Written by Meghnad Desai |
June 7, 2009 3:40:51 am

The new Lok Sabha is taking shape and so is the future strategy of the Congress. Meira Kumar as Speaker is obviously Congress’s answer to Mayawati and that is a big throw for the next UP and Bihar elections. Giving NCP three jobs is meant to buy them over for the Maharashtra elections which are imminent. So Congress is now going to be in a permanent election fighting mode.

The UPA,plus its hangers on,will add up to 300 plus seats leaving the government in a fairly comfortable position. The question for the Opposition is,what can it do? As of now,the BJP and the NDA are in disarray. The JD-U is trying to pick a fight with the BJP,perhaps with an eye on the Bihar elections where they can win on their own. It can see that the BJP is a losing partner. Navin Patnaik has set Nitish Kumar a good example.

The BJP is having one of the classic crises of a party which has twice lost elections. It is regressing back into its RSS womb. I recall this is what the Labour Party did when it kept on losing elections. It took three straight defeats before Labour Party abandoned its old beliefs and reformed itself. As of now,it looks like it will take a third defeat for the BJP to cut its umbilical cord with the RSS and become a seriously modern party. BJP has in its genes the capacity to become a good right wing business friendly party instead of a medieval Ramasetu chasing,Muslim bashing party. But I doubt it will do so yet.

The problem for the BJP,and indeed the Left,is what are they going to do in Opposition. Their election attacks on UPA—Advani on the Prime Minister and Prakash Karat’s tantrum on the nuclear deal—failed to stir voters. But now they have an opportunity. Given its history,one can safely predict that the Congress will begin to act in a high-handed,authoritarian fashion given its large numbers. I gather that Rahul and Priyanka admire their grandmother more than their great grandfather. That points to a neglect of democratic traditions. Indira Gandhi invented the doctrine of the popular mandate which allowed her to invade the sphere of the judiciary. There is a warning in that history likely to repeat itself.

There is already a crisis of public institutions in India. The neutrality of the Presidency was luckily not tested in this election but there were fears before May 16 as to how Pratibha Patil would perform if the result had been less clear cut. She herself announced that she was seeking independent advice from retired Attorney Generals because she could sense the anxiety. The CBI has been subverted for political purposes. The Mulayam Singh Yadav case showed that the CBI blew hot and cold depending on the exigencies of coalition dharma.

The BJP and the Left will do well to become guardians of people’s freedoms. The BJP will have to restrain its parivar thugs from attacking Christians and Muslims and any dissidents whose art or literature they don’t approve of. Once they do that,they can reclaim their proud moment during the Emergency when it was the Jan Sangh,along with the Old Congress discarded by Indira Gandhi,who fought against her tyranny. It is this task which will be required again to be performed. 

The Left has less of a good record during the Emergency and events in Nandigram were alarming in their starkness with which CPM party cadre took the law into their hands. The Left is better at defending freedoms when in Opposition and awful where it is in power. But luckily soon they will be out of power in West Bengal and Kerala. They can freely become defenders of people’s liberties across the whole country.

The UPA will guarantee steady economic growth and by and large good treatment of the minorities. The long term neglect of Muslims may yet be reversed. But India also needs a Rule of Law rather than a rule of politics. The Opposition will need to work on that front as the government will not do so.

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