Not too long ago, I had christened the Left as the National Bureau of Moral Certification. Tuesday’s trust vote has had one single salutary outcome: this malefic bureau stands dissolved. Coupled with the CPI(M)’s expulsion of Somnath Chatterjee from the party, the Left has exposed itself for what it is. While commentators dwell on whether there were any real victors in what happened at the end of the rather listless debate in Parliament, for many of us the outcome signals the shaking of the Left monkey off our backs.
It is a sign of India’s fragile polity that a moribund grouping like the Left has been able to hold the country to ransom for so long by playing up to the chattering classes in the name of secularism. Nothing that the Left does from now on will make a lot of our liberal voices change their minds about their greatest Himalayan blunder as well as their greatest perfidy. The tragedy that has unfolded in the last 15 days also serves as a warning to all those who think that the greatest challenge facing India is not poverty, or the alleged embrace of the US, but the brand of jehadi Hindutva that the BJP and the Sangh parivar represent. In the name of high principles and morals, the so-called secular formations would sup with the devil to get their squeaks heard.
While the Left crows about the sordid drama of certain BJP members exhibiting wads of currency notes in Parliament allegedly given to them by the ruling coalition as an indication of the hollowness of the UPA victory, its stern yardstick hardly ever extends to the spectacle of its moral corruption. Not only is the Left’s moral complicity evident in handing over the ever-shrinking liberal space to the BJP, but also in striking coalitional deals with every other political formation that has had more than a cordial relationship with the BJP at one point or the other.
Forgetting for a moment the complex brand of politics that Mayawati practises, the sight of Prakash Karat in happy consanguinity with N. Chandrababu Naidu, the man who kept the NDA government alive for a full term and refused to vote against the NDA when a confidence motion was debated and voted on the question of the post-Godhra riots in 2002, is nothing but comical.
There has also been excess of sanctimonious verbiage around falling standards of Indian democracy. Politics in India has always been seen as morality play, and moral posturing is a national pastime. Politics is about give and take, about deal-making and capturing, holding and perpetuating power. The question of ends and means is a contentious one, but it is not easily resolved by paying lip service to the Gandhian legacy. The lack of morals in politics is not resolved by resorting to moral sermons but in helping to bring about good politics. In that arena, every single political formation is in favour of the status quo and against radical political and electoral reforms in the country.
Manmohan Singh must be an amused man. He has been called a stooge of the Congress President, labelled a weak Prime Minister and branded as an agent of America. His only fault has been to have remained silent. The media have also indulged in giving him epithets that he neither owned nor disowned. In a country where the middle classes pride in being non-political, he was seen as someone who represented the managerial-technocratic bent of that class. Little did they realise that even the Manmohan of the 90s was also someone who identified with a certain brand of politics that was a break from the past. In a polity where politeness and modesty are seen as signs of weakness, it was easier to stick these gratuitous labels on to the PM.
After the trust vote, the very people who gave him a halo of purity are ready to label him as an astute and seasoned politician. While they have in the past gone to town over Sonia Gandhi’s sacrifice of office and position, they are hardly likely to say so of Singh. The fact is that the PM was ready to sacrifice everything — government, office and personal credibility — for what he believed was in the national interest and went ahead to accomplish it in whatever manner it took to accomplish it. This is true sacrifice and audacity. Singh, unlike the Left, never once lost sight of the larger political question: not to turn the country over to the BJP.
Jyotirmaya Sharma is the author Terrifying Vision: Golwalkar, the RSS and India