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Do we, the People of India, have any option?

Petrol price hike has again fuelled the catfight among political parties to come to power at the Centre. But do we, the people of India, have a choice? We are caught between the devil and the deep sea, writes Tajinder Bains

chandigarh Updated: May 29, 2012 18:21 IST
Tajinder Bains
Tajinder Bains
Hindustan Times

The nauseating smell was in the air for quite some time now. But, as the proverbial mother of goat kid, we were hoping against hope that the petrol price hike won't be effected by the UPA-II. This was all the more expected after the severe drubbing the Congress received in the recent assembly elections in the country.

Petrol price hike has once again fuelled the catfight among political parties of all hues, who now smell, after this hugely unpopular decision of the UPA government, that the next general elections could be their chance to come to power at the Centre.

Leading the pack is the BJP, which boasts of old warhorse in Lal Krishan Advani and PM-contender Narendra Modi, not to talk of Sushma Swarajs and Arun Jaitleys waiting in the wings to get to sit in the prime ministerial chair.

But whether the BJP has the wherewithal, or any outside chance, to return to power at the Centre by upstaging the tottering UPA is a question that begs an answer.

Let us look further.

After the exit of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the principal opposition party has been left with no leader who has a pan-India acceptance among people. The BJP may, occasionally, remind people that Advani is still around to take another shot at that elusive PM chair, he is not likely to become the prime minister any time soon. Also, there is no emotive issue like the Babri Masjid at hand to propel him to the topmost executive post in the country.

Not only hardcore Hindus, who were disappointed undoubtedly by the failure of the BJP-led NDA dispensation to come up with a Ram Mandir at Ayodhaya, when in power at the Centre, Advani's candidature is likely to face a powerful opposition from a large section of the electorate, who may still be suspicious of his credentials as the top executive of the country.

Another BJP leader Narendra Modi might have rewritten political history in Gujarat, but he may also fall by the wayside when it comes to garnering votes in the general elections. He may have committed voters in his political kitty, but they could mostly be confined to Gujarat. At the most, he can bag quite a few MP seats for the party from his home state, but can't do much elsewhere.

As for Sushma and Jaitley, they may be good orators but their performances in the past don't make them vote-catchers for the BJP per se.

During the two-day executive meeting of the BJP, its spokesman Ravi Shakar Prasad tried to invoke the Vajpayee magic by quoting him and reminding people of his rule, but this could very well end up as futile exercise.

Here, one point worth mentioning is also the track record of the BJP in handling corruption that has mired the political sphere.

By not taking any exemplary action against former Karnataka chief minister YS Yeddyurappa and his Uttarakhand counterpart Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, who faced serious corruption charges before they were unceremoniously dumped, the BJP has made itself prone to Congress barbs that the opposition party is not serious in tackling corruption and is only indulging in a bit of sabre-rattling to keep the ruling party on tenterhooks.

Coming to the Congress, let us explore the unenviable situation it finds itself in. With the advantage of hindsight, it can be safely presumed that the Congress was not expecting a second innings at the Centre after the 2009 general elections.

However, the clean image of Dr Manmohan Singh helped the Congress make a comeback, though with the help of crutches provided by its not-so-dependable allies. The party however interpreted this tenuous public mandate as a carte blanche to do whatever it liked. So, we saw a situation where the PM could not determine who would be on his cabinet, or who would be fired for not obeying his orders or advisories.

So, we have a PM who has no mass base to assert his position. A lame duck prime minister, even with a clean image, is none the better to govern a country like India, where scarce national resources are up for grabs for anyone who knows the system and how it operates. So, we ended up with 2G scam and many other equally politically damaging sagas tumbling out of the UPA cupboard with unerring regularity.

This not only took off the sheen off the Congress but also the much-touted clean image of Dr Singh. While the allies enjoyed the perks of power, they conveniently jettisoned the Congress whenever the occasion arose.

It is quite strange that the Congress president Sonia Gandhi, not to talk of Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, does not even react to political developments on which the people do want the know her stand. All the principal ruling party does is deploy motor-mouth leaders to defend the indefensible, without making the groaning public any wiser as to how the government of the day is going to rescue them from the runaway rupee devaluation and shrinking FDIs.

The Congress is speaking of no policy paralysis during public discourse, but it is an undeniable fact that it is stuck in the morass, that is of its own making.

As for outfits like the Trinamool Congress, AIADMK, DMK, Samajwadi Party, BSP and leftist CPI and CPM, they have their respective areas of influence and committed votes, which they protect with full force at their command.

And since both the Congress and the BJP have not been able to breach their vote bank so far, the two principal political parties have been virtually condemned to be at the mercy of one or the other outfit at any given point of time.

So, where do we go from here? The performance of both the Congress and the BJP leave them with nothing to brag about. People seem to be wary of both, caught as they are between the devil and the deep sea.

To sum up the whole situation, both the Congress and the BJP might boast of good orators, but they severely lack in leaders with vision. And a leader with vision is what India needs most. Will we get one in the near future? I will keep my fingers crossed!

First Published: May 24, 2012 19:55 IST