Po­lit­i­cal ri­valry that un­der­mines na­tional in­ter­est dam­ages In­dia’s claim to lead­er­ship and dis­torts its im­age as the world’s largest democ­racy.

Southasia - - Front page - By S.G. Ji­la­nee

Per­sonal hos­til­ity seems to be the driv­ing force

be­hind pol­i­tics in the coun­try.

In­dian pol­i­tics have come a long way in their down­ward slide since the days of Jawa­har­lal Nehru. In his day peo­ple dif­fered on poli­cies. But there was no per­sonal vendetta. BR Ambed­kar and Shyama Prasad Mukher­jee were among some noted ad­ver­saries of the Congress. Yet, Nehru not only in­cluded them in his cabi­net, he even en­trusted Ambed­kar the task of draft­ing In­dia’s con­sti­tu­tion. In 1959, when Ra­jagopalachari, the fiercest critic of Nehru’s pol­i­tics vis­ited Delhi, Nehru called on him at Ra­jaji’s daugh­ter’s res­i­dence to pay his re­spects.

No more. That has all changed. To­day pol­i­tics is all about per­sonal ac­ri­mony and vil­i­fi­ca­tion of ri­vals. In U.P. for in­stance, Mayawati and Mu­layam Singh will not share a cup of tea. In West Ben­gal, Ma­mata Ban­er­jee will not at­tend a meet­ing presided over by Bud­dhadeb Bhat- tachar­jee. And in Tamil Nadu, Karunanidhi and Jay­alalithaa seem bent upon see­ing each other in jail.

Even na­tional and state in­ter­ests are sac­ri­ficed to per­sonal hos­til­ity, be­cause a po­lar­ized po­lit­i­cal cli­mate pre­vents evolv­ing a con­sen­sus on key is­sues. Thus, when Sri Lankan navy at­tacks Tamil Nadu fish­er­men, the ri­val Dravida par­ties treat it more as an is­sue that con­cerns a par­tic­u­lar party rather than one that af­fects the state. Sim­i­larly, when the Ben­gal gov­ern­ment was try­ing to keep the Tata Nano in the state, the pol­icy was op­posed only due to po­lit­i­cal ri­valry, even though it de­prived the state of a ma­jor in­vest­ment that was in pub­lic in­ter­est.

An­a­lysts trace the drift to Indira Gandhi’s at­tempt to ‘per­son­al­ize’ pol­i­tics. She was the first to see po­lit­i­cal ri­vals as ‘en­e­mies.’ So much so that she treated Jayaprakash Narayan, with whom the Nehrus had shared an en­dur­ing bond, as en­emy num­ber one and sent him to jail. By im­pris­on­ing him and other Op­po­si­tion lead­ers dur­ing the Emer­gency, Mrs. Gandhi cre­ated the ba­sis for a pol­i­tics that was no longer fought ac­cord­ing to the rules of the demo­cratic game.

Dur­ing Ra­jiv Gandhi’s rule, the fight be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the Op­po­si­tion cul­mi­nated in en masse res­ig­na­tions over the Bo­fors is­sue. In Narasimha Rao’s time the mis­use of in­ves­tiga­tive agen­cies to im­pli­cate po­lit­i­cal op­po­nents be­came the norm. Even AB Va­j­payee, who had much in com­mon with Nehru, did lit­tle to stop the cam­paign of calumny and in­sult­ing re­marks against So­nia Gandhi “videshi bahu,” (for­eign daugh­ter -in-law), when she took over as Congress leader.

And when Ad­vani’s au­to­bi­og­ra­phy was re­leased, all mem­bers of his United Pro­gres­sive Al­liance boy­cotted the event. Sharad Pawar was the lone ex­cep­tion.

A vis­i­ble loss of Prime Min­is­ter Man­mo­han Singh’s grip on the af­fairs of the state has fur­ther com­pounded the sit­u­a­tion. As he ap- pears help­less be­fore the mount­ing tide of corruption and in­fla­tion, am­bi­tious for­tune seek­ers ap­pear to be shuf­fling their feet in the wings to take over from him. Not sur­pris­ing there­fore that home min­is­ter, P. Chi­dambaram told an Amer­i­can news­pa­per that the “Man­mo­han Singh gov­ern­ment was suf­fer­ing from an eth­i­cal and gov­er­nance deficit.” In the af­ter­math of the 2G scam there has been a near break­down in the Op­po­si­tion­govern­ment re­la­tion­ship. The op­po­si­tion boy­cotted the win­ter session of Par­lia­ment to force the gov­ern­ment to ac­cept its de­mand for a joint par­lia­men­tary com­mit­tee, thereby set­ting a haz­ardous prece­dent. It would mean that if a rul­ing party de­ci­sion is not ac­cept­able to the Op­po­si­tion then it would use a pro­longed par­lia­men­tary stand­off as a weapon to force the gov­ern­ment to fall in line.

It would seem as if In­dia has taken a leaf from Bangladesh pol­i­tics, for these are the usual tac­tics adopted by the Sheikh Hasina Wa­jid and Begum Khaleda Zia, heads of the two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties. They take turns as prime min­is­ter of the coun­try. When one of them is in the driv­ing seat the other would go on pro­longed boy­cott of the par­lia­ment. Each launches a witch hunt against her po­lit­i­cal ri­vals.

To­day pol­i­tics is all about per­sonal ac­ri­mony and vil­i­fi­ca­tion of ri­vals.

In U.P., Mayawati and Mu­layam Singh will not share a cup

of tea. In West Ben­gal, Ma­mata Ban­er­jee will not at­tend a meet­ing presided over by

Bud­dhadeb Bhat­tachar­jee.

Their mu­tual ha­tred is so deep and so pas­sion­ate that, af­ter com­ing to power, Hasina had Khaleda evicted from her bun­ga­low in the Can­ton­ment where she had been re­sid­ing since the time when her hus­band, Gen. Zi­aur Rah­man was alive.

In fact she seems hell bent to ef­face the name of Zi­aur Rah­man from ev­ery­thing associated with him. She plans to re­name the Dhaka in­ter­na­tional air­port af­ter her fa­ther Banga­bandhu Sheikh Mu­jibur Rah­man, re­plac­ing the name of Zi­aur Rah­man that it has borne so long.

Even his­tory is sought to be dis­torted to deny Zi­aur Rah­man’s role in the lib­er­a­tion war. All the time it has been ac­cepted that Zi­aur Rah­man, then a Bri­gadier, speak­ing over a clan­des­tine ra­dio from Chit­tagong in the wee hours of March 26, 1971, de­clared in­de­pen­dence for Bangladesh and ral­lied peo­ple to rise and re­sist. This was a known fact, be­cause, Sheikh Mu­jibur Rah­man had been ar­rested by the Pak­istan mil­i­tary and flown away to Mul­tan and other top lead­ers of the Awami League had ei­ther fled to In­dia or gone un­der­ground so there was none to make the vi­tal procla­ma­tion.

But In­dia, as the largest democ­racy, as­pir­ing for lead­er­ship and a seat on the Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, must shed pet­ti­ness. In this con­text, there­fore, Lal Kr­ishna Ad­vani’s letter to So­nia Gandhi, say­ing “sorry” for drag­ging her name into the black money tan­gle, was a wel­come sign of the re­vival of old val­ues. Even though he ul­ti­mately claimed that say­ing sorry did not amount to of­fer­ing apol­ogy, yet he has set a healthy trend. The writer is a se­nior po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and for­mer edi­tor of SouthAsia Mag­a­zine.

Pol­i­tics or per­sonal hos­til­ity?

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