Tuesday, June 24, 2008

US ....Nuclear deal ....other issues ....and our poltical parties

There is something strange and even funny about the way our political leaders treat elections. The recent instance of this coming to the fore is the way in which the various leaders of the ruling UPA and the Left parties are behaving over the Indo-US Nuclear deal. And the mainstream media, of course, is agog with the fall of the Central Government and elections even before April-May 2009.

Well. The ruling Congress-led UPA would have gone for early elections. The Lok Sabha would have been dissolved by now or in the next couple of months. This was the basis for an agreement between the Left parties and the Congress in November 2007 when the details of the Nuclear deal and the IAEA safeguards were to be discussed in a committee consisting of leaders from these parties. The leaders as well as all those who have even a fleeting knowledge about the issue knew that there was no meeting ground between the Left and the Congress on the deal and that the two sides could part ways by this time.

Neither the Congress nor the Left leader, however, expected this horrible thing called price rise then. The political reality, until February-March 2008 was such that the BJP was on a low and the party began preparing for a difficult election ahead. The naming of L.K.Advani as Prime Minister in the waiting at a time when the UPA was steering towards elections in September-October 2008 was reflective of the party’s desperation. The BJP, after all, knew its weak spots in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan and also aware of the fact that its fortunes were on a course of permanent decline in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Maharashtra even while it had retained Gujarat.

The Congress-led front, meanwhile had unleashed itself into a state of battle-preparedness. The Union Budget in February 2008 with the massive loan waiver scheme was reflective of this scheme. It did appear that unlike in May 2004, when the Congress just tumbled into victory and the BJP suffered a humiliating defeat, elections in September-October 2008 would put the Congress on a strong wicket. The time was ripe for the party to put Rahul Gandhi at the helm!

Alas! Crude oil prices began shooting and along with that something went wrong with the market. And the vegetable shops and the grain shops turned into platforms where the people began cursing Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram and Sonia Gandhi for the difficult times they were put to. Rising prices, our leaders knew, were bound to send the ordinary voter into a rage. Our leaders also knew that their explanations that prices of essential commodities were beyond their control and that the voter will show his anger against the party now in power.

Well. To cut a long story short, the ruling combine realized soon that Rahul Gandhi is bound to fail in a context of overall discontent against the Government and that the rise in prices was a more serious issue than the danger-posed-by-communal-forces. The BJP, meanwhile, realized that the party will only have to stay there in the political arena and the people will vote for its candidates because that was the only way they could register their anger against the ruling combine.

The Congress party’s allies too realized this soon. The RJD, the DMK, the NCP and the LJP cannot afford to fight an election now in September-October 2008. But then, they are also not as committed as the Left parties are to an ideology that sees the Indo-US deal as inimical to the nation’s interest. The Left, one must state here, is unmindful of its electoral prospects or its clout in the Government and is seriously committed against the deal. The Left leaders do know that there is very little chance for them to retain all the 60 Lok Sabha seats they have now.

The Congress, meanwhile, is caught in a bind. Manmohan Singh, its mascot, is as committed to the deal with the US from an ideological standpoint as much as the Left is against the deal. Prime Minister Singh will not back out of this as much as the Left will allow the deal to pass. It is a make or break situation because the basis for their stands is ideological than posturing. That Manmohan Singh looks at the deal in the same way as he perceives the market-is-supreme philosophy is a fact that many others in the Congress are aware of even if they do not belong to the same league.

And we have Sonia Gandhi, whose innocence is to that extent that she does not understand any aspect of the debate. While she is committed to Manmohan Singh in a manner for reasons that she continues to see him as her own handpicked nominee, she is also aware that the Left parties cannot be wished away because their support is inevitable for her own sake. And as for her son and the Congress party’s rising star, Rahul Gandhi, one has not heard anything from him on the issue. This enlightened young man, we are informed, is busy recruiting ``talent’’ into the Congress establishment.

And when all this is happening, one is also constrained to comment on the sensation that is now being created by the media: That thing about the fall of the Government and early elections thereafter!

Well. I have just this short argument for this. The Indo-US nuclear deal does not require Parliamentary sanction. That means, the Government is within its rights to go to the IAEA with its safeguards agreement and take the deal to its next stage from where the US alone will have to carry it forward. India will not have anything to do after that and wait for the nuclear power plants land on our shores and get erected all over our coasts; to shut down our own thermal plants and hydel stations in due course and depand on nuclear fuel from the US thereafter. Our own coastal communities shall vacate their abodes, give up fishing and look for manual jobs in the plants.

And when the Lok Sabha convenes for the Monsoon session, the BJP could move a no-confidence motion. While the BJP MPs will then taunt the Left parties to vote against this Government for having went ahead with the deal, the Left MPs will taunt at the BJP for having initiated talks on this deal when Vajpayee was the Prime Minister. The two sides will accuse each other of double speak and let things pass. The UPA Government will survive the Monsoon session as well as the Winter session in December. And elections will be held in March-April 2009!