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03 July, 2012

Uncertainty in politics

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

India’s major national parties are in the throes of crisis. Their internal problems may have their impact on developments at the national and state levels in the months ahead.

The Congress, which heads the ruling United Progressive Alliance government, has lost its second most important Cabinet minister, Pranab Mukherjee, having picked him as its candidate in the presidential election to be held this month.

An astute politician, Mukherjee was perhaps the one most qualified to be the prime minister. Congress President Sonia Gandhi having chosen Manmohan Singh, a non-politician, for the post, it fell to him to handle sensitive negotiations. Apart from being finance minister, he was chairman of most of the Cabinet committees.

The prime minister’s decision to keep the finance portfolio with himself and to distribute the chairmanship of Cabinet committees among several senior ministers testifies to the paucity of talent in the party’s higher echelons.

Mukherjee has the support of several parties outside the UPA, including the Janata Dal (United) and the Shiv Sena, which are constituents of the rival National Democratic Alliance. The Congress party’s largest partner, the Trinamool Congress, has set its face against his candidature, but he is set to win, thanks to the wide measure of support from outside the UPA.

So far there is nothing to indicate that the switch of loyalties by some partners of UPA and NDA in the presidential election signals the beginning of a realignment of forces at the national level.

Most Congressmen regard Sonia Gandhi’s son, Rahul Gandhi, who is general secretary of the party, as a future prime minister. His attempts to rejuvenate the party in Uttar Pradesh, the original home of the Nehru Gandhi dynasty, have not been a success. However, no one in the party sees it as a reason to delay his induction as a minister and eventual elevation as prime minister.

While Sonia Gandhi can easily bring about changes at the national level, she finds the going tough at the state level. In Andhra Pradesh, the largest state where the Congress still has primacy, the revolt by family members and followers of former Chief Minister YS Rajasekhara Reddy has administered the party a rude shock.

The party’s top leaders in Maharashtra are under the shadow of scams. In Kerala, the caste and religious forces on which the party has relied for sustenance have become an acute source of embarrassment.        

The Bharatiya Janata Party, which heads the NDA, too, is facing serious troubles. Since its long-time prime minister-in-waiting Lal Kishen Advani is too old to be in the reckoning, a frantic search is on for a new candidate.

The Hindu rightwing Rashtreeya Swayamsevak Sangh, the power behind the party, wants Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi to be projected as the presidential candidate. Nitin Gadkari, whom the RSS pitch forked into the party chairmanship some time ago, has started preparing the ground to bring Modi to the national stage. Young parliamentarians like Sushama Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, who lead the party in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha respectively, resent the move.

The RSS can smother all opposition to Modi from within the BJP but it will have a hard time selling his candidature to the NDA constituents as he bears the odium of having presided over the 2002 pogromme against Muslims in Gujarat. The Janata Dal (U) has made it known its opposition to Modi in no uncertain terms.

Like the Congress, the BJP, too, faces internal problems in its strongholds. In Karnataka, BS Yeddyurappa, who was forced out of chief ministership in the wake of grave corruption charges, is seeking the ouster of his successor, DV Sadananda Gowda. Former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vajayaraje Scindia, who is hoping to stage a comeback riding the anti-incumbency wave against the Congress government, is encountering opposition from a dissident faction.

The Left parties, which once played a role far in excess of their natural strength in times of political uncertainty, are no longer significant actors on the national stage. The largest of them, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, is in deep trouble in its traditional strongholds. The Trinamool Congress, which put an end to its unbroken stewardship of the West Bengal government for 33 years, is making it difficult for the party to rebuild its shattered base. In Kerala, several CPI-M leaders are in custody in connection with murder cases being investigated by the state police and the Central Bureau of Investigation.-- Gulf Today, Sharjah, July 3, 2012.

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