It’s almost a fortnight since the Congress won an overwhelming mandate. In the days that followed, the nation, tickertape still in hand, sensed what would follow: a confident, unburdened government laying out its plans according to what it thinks best for a dynamic, 21st century India.
Three days after election results, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had even announced that there would be a 100-day action plan sought from each ministry in the new government. With 11 days having already passed since the ‘historic win’ and portfolios yet to be handed out, do we sense utter confusion when there should have been total clarity? Forget the honeymoon period. The Congress-led UPA government’s second round already smacks of an after-party hangover.
The fog descended the moment a hysterical soap opera in Chennai was allowed to script the composition of the Union government in New Delhi. The affairs of wives and children and family feuds being sorted out through ministerial berths at the Centre can’t be a clever procedure. Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) patriarch M Karunanidhi’s bait of UPA support for a nice, hefty succession plan seems to have been taken hook, line and starched veshti.
After taking an initial stand that the openly feudal demands of Mr Karunanidhi would not be considered, the Congress leadership seems to have buckled to the blackmail. Sure, there is that something called ‘political compulsions’. But if a party gets an overwhelming mandate to settle the furniture according to its taste, one struggles to understand why rickety deckchairs are being brought in. Whichever portfolios Messrs MK Azhagiri, Dayanidhi Maran and A Raja of the DMK now get, it wouldn’t be unfair for other satraps to believe that much more than just political elbow room can be gained if the right churlish noises are made. And why only UPA allies? Even within the Congress, there are now growls for a piece of the pie. Why should we, they exclaim with a certain logic, be denied goodies when goodies are being doled out to noisy but ‘less deserving outsiders’?
We are keenly aware that Mr Singh was reluctant to hand key portfolios to those he did not deem fit for the job only a week ago. This also applied to Congress ministers in the previous government whose track records were seen as below par. Now, with the swearing-in of a different kind of hiring criteria in the offing, we might as well be back to the compromise policy that has marked the way ministerial cards have always been shuffled and dealt.