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Time for consensus politics

chandigarh Updated: Dec 11, 2013 09:51 IST
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The mandate in the Delhi assembly elections has become a riddle. The BJP, the single largest part, has shown its inability to muster numbers for achieving a simple majority in the assembly. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the game changer, has decided not to stake its claim and to sit in the opposition.

The Congress has accepted its role of opposition. Due to the absence of a clear mandate and the unswerving stance of political parties, the question in everybody's mind is: will there be a repoll?

The 66-year-old Indian democracy has seen many phases. Every phase has a solution to the previous scenario and leaves a question mark for the future. After Independence, the country remained under the umbrella Congress rule for 20 years.

During that time, the opposition was fragmented and the TINA (There is no Alternative) factor was in favour of the Congress. In 1967, the fragmented opposition made a concerted effort to improve the unity among the opposition parties and the country witnessed non-Congress governments in states like UP and Punjab. But these governments of conglomerates of different parties could not last full term and were dissolved by the Congress on one pretext or the other. The failed experiment of 1967 bore fruit in 1977 when the Congress was routed after Emergency and the first non-Congress government came to power at the Centre under Morarji Desai.

The Janata Party government lasted two and a half years and became a victim of clash of egos among the leaders. It also gave birth to an era of 'Aaya Ram Gaya Ram'. After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, the sympathy wave gave an unprecedented majority to Rajiv Gandhi in the 1984 general elections. In 1989, the Bofors issue became the election issue and snatched power from the Congress, paving way for the non-Congress government under VP Singh with outside support of the BJP and the Left parties.

The government could not last its full term due to the Mandal-Mandir issues. The 1991 general elections witnessed the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The sympathy wave again paved way for the minority Congress government headed by PV Narasimha Rao with strong numbers to the opposition benches. Though the Narasimha Rao government lasted its full term, the Congress failed to return in the 1996 general elections.

Watershed in Indian democracy

The 1996 general elections proved to be a watershed in Indian democracy when the BJP became the single largest party, the Congress was next and the Third Front had also good numbers. From 1996 to 1998, each year witnessed a new prime minister.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee became PM for 13 days as President Shankar Dayal Sharma invited him to form the government. Thereafter, HD Devegowda became the Prime Minister as a leader of the Third Front supported by the Congress. The Congress pulled the rug from under Devegowda and the Congress again supported the Third Front to form the government under IK Gujral which could not last long and paved way for the fresh general elections of 1998.

The political turmoil culminated into a bi-polar polity -- National Democratic Alliance and United Progressive Alliance. The NDA ruled the country under Vajpayee from 1998 to 2004 and thereafter the UPA under Manmohan Singh has been ruling the country.
Since the country is going to the general elections in 2014, the mandate of four states is the reflection of what the people of India want in 2014. Good governance has been rewarded in Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Bad governance has been punished in Rajasthan, meaning thereby that the people are not going to tolerate non-performance and bad governance in future also.

Time for mature politics

The mandate of Delhi elections has many latent messages for mature politics and performance. The decision of the BJP and AAP of not staking the claim to form the government shows that the leadership of both parties is well aware that the electorates of Delhi are not going to tolerate the politics of 'Aaya Ram Gaya Ram' and they will have to bear the brunt of people in the forthcoming general elections.

Since the AAP has contested the election against both the BJP and Congress, it can neither join hands with the BJP nor the Congress. No party is taking the risk. The mandate of Delhi warrants the elected representatives of different parties to practise mature politics, shedding parochial party interests or short-term gains. Can't the BJP, AAP and Congress agree, with a positive approach, to let the BJP, the single largest party, to form the government with a minimum agreed programme or issue-based support. If feasible, Delhi would set an example for consensus politics for future.

(The writer is a senior BJP leader and former Punjab minister. Views expressed are his own)