A prime minister in purdah
The pusillanimity of the current political leadership was much in evidence this fortnight. First, let’s take on the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP]. They stalled the Parliament on the issue of what is now called ‘Coalgate’ without seeming to care for a statement from the government explaining its side of the story. The Left block was willing to let the government defend its indefensible position, which would have also got the BJP in the trap for its role in the 1998-2004 period.
But the BJP is a party in suspended animation. For it needs to wait much of its time watching four more cases in the Supreme Court relating to the Gujarat government and the party. These are cases about the riots post-Godhra carnage. These are the cases of 2002, which have taken all this time to reach the apex court.
The BJP has been told, say sources, by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh [RSS] that it will have to approach the next general elections with Narendra Modi as the leader, provided he is not discovered as the butcher of the state by the court. Clearly, the party has run out of choices, stuck as it is with the Delhi, or its mohalla leaders, like Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj.
So, they stalled the Parliament, preventing it from undertaking a debate on coal bed allocations by the Manmohan Singh government because, as Sitaram Yechury of the CPI [M] recently pointed out in a national newspaper, they would have got entangled in the scam had they allowed a free and fair discussions on the subject. After all, the BJP had its share of Pramod Mahajans and Arun Shouries who thought that a national resource did not have any owners. Hence, it could be looted under any circumstances.
On to the Congress now, which is pussyfooting all issues that need leadership from the top, be it Parliament or the Non-Aligned Movement [NAM]. Fellow senior journalist and one of the few foreign correspondents in Indian newspapers, K P Nayar of the [Kolkata-based] Telegraph newspaper has shown how the prime minister of the country, Manmohan Singh, has sought to avoid the US leadership after a NAM summit, be it in Havana or Tehran.
For, after Tehran, Singh should have gone to New York to attend the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly in September. Apparently, according to Nayar, Singh didn’t go to this annual jamboree after the Havana summit and will not go after this Tehran summit. For most of this summit, India has been used by the Iranians in good measure to underline their own national interest to show that they are not isolated in the international arena as the American policymakers want them to be.
India, on the other hand, with its nominal leader, Singh, has been more or less MIA [Missing in Action]. The team held these ineffectual bilateral meetings with Pakistan, where the headlines were predictable. This is the prime minister, who had threatened to quit office on the Indo-US civilian nuclear deal if it would not have gone through. Such was his ‘courage’ of conviction.
These days he periodically assures the janata that he is not leaving. And his apologists try to show how much command he has on the economy. Well, we have seen through that also. When the inflation rate in the country was nudging ten per cent, his ministers, most of whom are commission agents of some form or the other, were saying laughably that ‘the farmer’s were getting enriched in the process.’
So, this is the country we live in. This is the country which does not react to farmers’ suicides in thousands in Maharashtra or Gujarat. It does not react to the statement of a Narendra Modi that malnourishment in the state is caused when women, especially, don’t drink milk. It cares little of what the world thinks of it; be it fellow NAM members [India, just to remind the delusionals, was the first advocate of non-alignment in a world that was being divided into two camps] or its strategic partner, the US.
This is a country in which its prime minister would have liked to be in a purdah, where he could have continued to do his own thing to the country and no body would have been there to question him. And this is the reality that is driving us to a general election which will be a battle between opposing parties led by a dim-wit of 80 years of age on the one hand and a mass murderer on the other. What would be the fate of the country, only its people can tell.
Pinaki Bhattacharya is a senior journalist
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