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"Take time to deliberate; but when the time for action arrives, stop thinking and go in."
- Napoleon Bonaparte

Coalition ‘Tamasha’ – Are Two National Parties Losing the Plot ?

Tumkur (Bangalore) - 12th March-2009, The launch of Third Front.

This could be one of the most important and decisive day for the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. It may be the first step towards our suffering in the hands of Opportunistic Coalition, conveniently disguised as the 3rd Front. This is a group of desperate political parties, with no ideological commonalities, coming together with only one agenda – how to control Delhi and serve their own vested interests.

Most comically, every constituent of the so called Third Front has a prime ministerial candidate. It seems the only reason, these parties are coming together, is the chair of the Prime Minister. Left being the only possible exception, as they have mastered the art of enjoying power without sharing the responsibility.

Left parties are a desperate lot, having been thrown out of power by UPA and with a real prospect of loosing heavily in West Bengal & Kerala. They are at the forefront of this Third Front ‘Tamasha’. Left leaders are accumulating frequent flier miles at an alarming rate running from one state capital to the other, begging regional satraps to put together this ragtag coalition with no common ideology or an agenda for the governance.

Both national parties and their respective coalitions, namely NDA and UPA, may not get enough seats to form the government on their own on May – 23rd. If so, this so called Third Front, whose constituents have mastered the art of opportunistic politics, will come to power and take this nation downhill.

This is not the first time that we are faced with such a dire situation. We have a short memory, and history may be about to repeat again.

In 1977, a coalition in the name of the “Janata Party” came to power but it disintegrated in just 2 years despite people’s disdain for congress and Mrs. Gandhi for imposing the emergency from 1975 to 1977. She was back in power in 1979 with a majority.

1984 was the last time when this nation gave a clear mandate to a national party when Rajeev Gandhi came to power with an absolute majority on a sympathy wave in the wake of the assassination of his mother, Mrs. Indira Gandhi. But he was done in by the Bofors scandal and his confidant, Mr. VP Singh.

1989 saw our first experiment with the coalition politics. Mr. VP Singh, who became the prime minister in a coalition government, ended up creating unimaginable social unrest in the name of “Mandal and Mosque”. He also succeeded in bringing the nation to the “Brink of Bankruptcy”. VP Singh was defeated and now long gone, but we are still suffering the scars of “Mandalization of Indian Politics”. We also had to pledge our Gold to avoid the payment default to international lenders, due to the economic mismanagement of Mr. VP Singh and his coalition partners in the preceding 2 years.

1991, people were fed-up and they gave congress the mandate to rule. Mr. Narasimha Rao ran the government and initiated economic reforms. The period from 1991-1996 was reasonably stable except for the episode of JMM being bribed to buy their loyalty to support the congress government.

1996, the nation again suffered the unstable coalition governments. We endured 3 Prime Ministers in 2 years including Mr. Devegowda who was ousted before he could settle in the power seat. Mr. I K Gujral followed as he was no threat to anyone and he departed without doing much, as was expected from him. Ms Mayawati brought down Mr. Vajpayee’s government when he lost the no-confidence motion by just one vote.

1999, people, fed-up with the coalition drama, gave NDA, led by Mr. Vajpayee, a decisive mandate. He ran a successful coalition government. This was the first time after 1989 that a coalition government completed full 5 years and credit goes to Mr. Vajpayee’s statesmanship and acceptability among the NDA partners.

2004, it was "India Shining" which got NDA out. But this time UPA coalition government had to use the crutches of the wily left parties. All through, left played truant and held the government to ransom. They enjoyed the trappings of power without sharing the responsibility of governance. This coalition did more harm than good as governance, development and reforms took a back seat while the government was busy managing coalition partners.

As we can see, ragtag coalitions have not worked in this country but unfortunately since 1977, we have to suffer them after every 5 year stint of a stable government. We seem to be heading in the same direction this time around too. But Indian electorate, especially the so called educated middle class seems to be apathetic and blissfully unaware of the looming danger.

But why only blame the electorate? What choices does he have?

I feel the blame for this dire situation lies with the National Parties too. They have been steadily loosing their vote share (BJP had 22.2% and Congress 26.7% in 2004 election) and they may loose even more this time around. But national parties have done precious little to stem this decline.

They have behaved like regional parties raking up emotional and religious issues, which no longer pay dividends. They practice dynastic and caste politics fielding candidates based on their caste and religion. They are devoid of a national agenda, a slogan which will appeal to the majority of this nation. They have no fresh ideas. They do not have role models who will appeal to the youth and the middle class.

National parties have failed to acknowledge the fact that the economic resurgence of India has created a class of society, a large potential vote bank, which believes in the politics of good governance & development. Since national parties do not have what appeals to this class of society, they have chosen to ignore them.

This has alienated their largest potential vote bank – the Middle India, 40 Crore strong and growing, which is educated, secular and wants good governance. This Middle India has lost faith in the current political class and thus have chosen to disengage. This explains the shrinking vote share of the national parties as they are not adding any new voters and at the same time they can not compete with the regional parties which survive and thrive on opportunistic local agenda including caste, region and religion.

Whichever of the 2 national parties chooses to reform itself and is able to engage with this Middle India by having an agenda and role models who appeal to them, will have the last laugh. If they don’t, soon they may no longer remain national parties.

The possible setback in 2009 elections may make them deliberate on a strategy to engage Middle India. Lets hope that having lost the plot, old thinking politicians of national parties will make way for the new generation with new political ideas and ideologies, which will appeal to the 40 Crore strong Middle India. That’s the only route to survival for the 2 National Parties.

I have seen traces of this realization in the BJP and am witness to their openness to engage with the 'Middle India.' Lets hope and pray that this tribe grows and succeeds, both within the BJP and the Congress, as "India Deserves Better"!

RK

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