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Standing at crossroads

Difficult times are here for the UPA government, which technically still has six months to go before the expiry of its term, writes Pankaj Vohra.

india Updated: Nov 03, 2008 01:19 IST
Pankaj Vohra
Pankaj Vohra
Hindustan Times

Difficult times are here for the UPA government, which technically still has six months to go before the expiry of its term. It is getting increasingly evident that the countdown has begun and the allies who should be sticking together in this moment of crisis have started playing their own games. As expected, the Congress may end up holding the baby with all the negatives of this government pushed into its account.

The country appears to be on the brink of a civil war. There is a ‘Bihari vs MNS’ situation in both Maharashtra and Bihar. There is ‘Jammu vs Kashmir’ feeling even as the state goes to polls over the next two months. There is tension between Christians and Bajrangis in some states. Hindu-Muslim relations are not getting better with each community eyeing the other
with increased suspicion. There is an economic crisis.

The class disparities, too, are becoming greater and more pronounced as the media has contributed in making the common man aware about the lifestyles of our rich and famous. Regional and linguistic chauvinism has raised it ugly head. The Maoists
are holding regions of the country to ransom. Above all, terrorism continues unchecked.

The dismal picture gets worse if one realises that the government continues to be inept, indecisive and impotent. Instead of acting firmly to send the right signals, functionaries of the government are busy speaking in different voices with no regard for the principle of collective responsibility. Two Cabinet ministers, Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan, joined hands with their rival Nitish Kumar to take the Congress and its Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to task for what is happening in Maharashtra to Biharis.

Another ally, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Karunanidhi, has come out openly in support of the LTTE, the terrorist outfit that was behind the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) has identified itself with the Maharashtrian cause without being rabid about it. Newfound allies like Amar Singh are embarrassing the government repeatedly by demanding a judicial probe into the Jamia Millia encounter with the objective of cornering Muslim votes.

The intelligence agencies continue to be clueless about the perpetrators of most blast cases. The arrest of some Hindu fundamentalists in connection with the Malegaon and some other blasts indicate that the forces that had ganged up to assassinate the Mahatma in 1948 were re-grouping together. Last, but not the least, are the Islamists who are bent on creating huge trouble in our secular land.

There are all the symptoms of India getting Balkanised, something about which Indira Gandhi used to warn us about in the early 80s. The irony is that the country today needs someone like Indira Gandhi to hold it together. The Prime Minister should stop being diffident on most political issues and take up the challenge. He already has Sonia Gandhi backing him. He needs to do some plainspeaking with his colleagues and tell them to put their weight behind him instead of running in different directions to consolidate their own vote-banks. He must tell those managing the economy to stop giving out World Bank prescriptions and using terms that the common man cannot relate to. The rest of his colleagues should also stand up for him. If that does not happen, the Congress must know who its friends are, instead of being misled by casteist leaders and vested interests within the party. It should distance itself from such forces.

Iqbal’s famous couplet says it all: “Oh Fikr kar bande museebat aane wali hai, tere barbaadiyon ke mahware hain aasmanon mein, na samjh hoge to mit jaoge Hindustan walo, tumhari dastaan tak na hogi dastaanon mein.” (Oh common man, a huge crisis is brewing. There are dangerous indications in the skies. If you do not take control of things, the day is not far away when your story will not be part of an anthology of stories recorded by history.) Unless the UPA leaders have collectively decided to hand over the reins of power to the saffron brigade or forces that may emerge after the parliamentary polls. Between us.