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A hung Parliament

india Updated: Nov 27, 2011 00:26 IST

Politics in India has one favourite format that never loses appeal with our politicians: the pot calling the kettle black. Last week we saw the Grand Old Pot asking the Not-So-Visible-Kettle to play by the rules as Par-liament came to a standstill even as the crucial winter session started. By not playing by the rules, what the Congress meant was the BJP's decision to boycott home minister P Chidambaram in Parliament for his alleged role in the 2G scam. If memory serves me right, the Congress conducted similar sniper-firings at George Fernandes, the then NDA defence minister, for his alleged role in the Coffingate scam.

No one's really clear about what purpose such individual boycotts serve. In Fernandes' case, his name was cleared, life returned to normal, with only lost parliamentary days showing up as collateral damage. Last heard, the whole point of having Parliament was to have a venue where issues - including those pertaining to alleged misdemeanours by individual ministers - could be thrashed out and debated on.

So far, there has been little of that, whether it be regarding how to deal with the charges against the home minister, or how to tackle the wildfire of inflation, or regarding the fate of the many bills that are hanging fire. I can't see this phantasmagoric deadlock being resolved any time soon.

And it's not because I'm a dyed-in-the-wool cynic who looks at a half-empty glass and finds specks of dirt on the glass surface. It's simply because the current deadlock seems to serve both sides of the fence quite well.

The BJP, in its ever-diminishing wisdom, has decided that unless Chidambaram steps down, it will continue to make a din. (Prodigal girl Uma Bharti has announced that she will burn down the first Wal-Mart store if and when it opens shop in the country. So much for BJP taking the nation into the big, bright, competitive world of 2014 India.) The government, in its vacillating wisdom, has reacted by saying that first, it needs to have its say and only then can the Opposition argue its nefarious case.

In this scenario of a very resistible force meeting a very moveable object but with either side pretending to be otherwise, both government and Opposition hope that the other side doesn't back down in a hurry. That way, the government has a neat excuse and can tell the people with all the sincerity it can muster these days that it is the Opposition that has tied its hands and is stopping it from conducting crucial, pending business - including the tabling of the Lokpal Bill. The raucous limbo in Parliament also allows the Opposition to go and tell the same people: Look at the government! It's using us to kill time and postpone important national business.

With both camps in 2012 assembly polls mode, they will be busy accusing the other of obstructing democracy. Can you really blame some conspiracy theorists for seriously wondering whether the Congress and the BJP have come to, as they say in Delhi corridors, 'an understanding'?

So who wins? Certainly not the people, whose representatives in Parliament look more intent on waiting to see what the other side does. It would have been grand if, instead of setting off the alarms that had been placed under his feet, Anna Hazare had made a finger-wagging appeal for Parliament to get on and do its job. (Instead, the media picking up and running with his silly response to the assault on Sharad Pawar was as easy as dismissing Sachin Tendulkar before he reached his next hundred.)

Even if our attention is more fixed on the government's spree of crashes, the BJP is clearly running on an empty tank. The party's decision to zero in on Chidambaram is being perceived in certain quarters as a deal struck between BJP leaders and Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa. In the (Poes) garden of Tamil politics, the AIADMK chief's non-fondness towards the Congress MP from Sivaganga is legendary. With 2014 not too far away from 2012, could a request from Chennai to target Chidambaram be the coupon to a future BJP-AIADMK pre-poll alliance? It also certainly doesn't hurt the BJP to do the RSS a favour by singling out a home minister who has openly been critical of 'Hindu terror' organisations.

Much of all such theories are, of course, theories. But what is actually happening is the kind of negative politics that can only provide ammunition to the 'extra-parliamentary' forces led by the likes of Hazare.

What we are seeing now in Parliament is an irresponsible force meeting an immobile object. That's bad news for the well-being of an irresistible nation on the move.