Millennium Post

Finance minister to president

A powerful politician in his heyday agrees to get jettisoned, Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed became the fifth president of India. Do we see a similarity between him and Pranab Mukherjee? Was it a fait accompli for Pranab Mukherjee with no option for refusal? In Indian context, it is difficult to accept an extremely powerful politician voluntarily moving out from a position of power.

In India, governance, economy, you say whatever, is in ruins. Pollsters predict no third term for Congress. A sharp turnaround must come urgently. Obstacles are to be removed.

Pranab Mukherjee, the second-in-command of Sonia Gandhi, is also the
de facto
prime minister. He functions as a cabinet minister, spokesperson, facilitator, and a negotiator. Pranab is better known today as a troubleshooter. Is he also partially responsible for creating the trouble that he shoots?

Communist Party Marxist believes in the principles of democratic centralism, which means centralised leadership based on inner-party democracy under guidance of centralised leadership.

United Progressive Alliance (UPA) experiments with a similar mode of governance. With winds blowing their way during UPA-I tenure, all went fine. Under difficult times UPA-II’s discipline and governance is floundering.

Pranab Mukherjee as the finance minister must find ways to wriggle out of the blame piling on him. The powerful industry lobby is against him, and that includes international names like Vodafone with their parent countries backing them to the hilt. The way out is more trouble created and more troubleshooting. With prime minister’s maneuverability restricted and Pranab undermining powers of even Sonia Gandhi, he is the obstacle that must be removed. And the opportunity of elevating him to the largely ceremonial presidential office is the best option. A scenario has to be created by which it becomes his
fait accompli

In this drama steps in Mamata Bannerjee. Enjoying excellent rapport with Sonia Gandhi, she too wants Pranab Mukherjee out. The finance minister wasn’t obliging her and showed no intention of rescuing his home state from the financial mess.

Meira Kumar, our present Lok Sabha speaker, has a pleasant disposition, excellent rapport with politicians of all hues, and most importantly is from the backward caste. Her candidature would have enabled Pranab Mukherjee to find an escape route. Meira Kumar’s aspirations were nixed in the meeting between Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee.
Mulayam Singh Yadav steps in with Mamata. The names of a former prime minister, a former Lok Sabha speaker, and the current prime minister were declared. Interestingly, none was seriously contacted for their assent to contest.

Next morning, Mamata Bannerjee returned to Kolkata, her work done. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) still differs on Kalam as the presidential candidate. Mulayam Singh Yadav, as was widely expected, changed position. All cried hoarse that he ditched Mamata, knowing very well he will do so.

Pranab Mukherjee was left with no alternative. The powerful politician of four decades ironically had a state satrap as his adversary. Pranab babu’s fait accompli, which he knew for long, was to fight or perish. He finally had to give his consent, and was expectedly picked as the UPA’s candidate for President. Immediately thereafter, Narainaswamy from the PMO appealed to Mamata to reconsider her decision. The West Bengal state Congress changed tack and has gone soft on Mamata as recent news pour in. A start was made to rebuild unbroken bridges for the gullible
aam aadmi.

Mamata Bannerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC) will not be expelled from the UPA-II and its cabinet of ministers. Financial packages to states will follow. Once she gets the goodies, Mamata will have little or no compulsions to block economic reforms.

Mulayam, on the other hand won’t get the leverage to dictate UPA-II. Industry will be happy. UPA-II can hope for the international economic scene to improve. Year 2014 and the general elections are still two years away.

Anindya Dutta Gupta is a PhD research scholar at Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University.
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