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Barbed Republic

 Editorial. John Dayal. January.XXVI. XIV

 

The Republic of Barbs

 

Dr. John Dayal By Dr. John Dayal

 

Flying high?

 

 

Arvind Kejrival-fnbworldNarender Modi-fnbworld

 

Rahul Gandhi-fnbworld

A no holds barred campaign for the general elections expected in April or May this year forms the backdrop for the celebrations of the 65th Republic Day of India on 26th January, marking the day when the new Constitution was promulgated, marking the final break of the country from the colonial era.

 

 

The otherwise joyous occasion, a public holiday marked by grand parades in State capitals and the national capital New Delhi, where India displays its military might in a public showcasing of ballistic missiles and marching columns, is this year being held in a noxious cloud of electoral invective, posturing and theatrical street confrontations that would be farcical if they did not have seeds of a potential constitutional crisis.

 

The week leading up to the big day saw three seminal events involving the three major political entities seen as the main contenders for power in future The discourse so far has not involved regional parties governing the large states of Uttar Pradesh, Bengal, Bihar, Tamil Nadu and Orissa who, actually, will be the king makers as members of future coalitions, but that is another story.


 Indian band ready for
Republic Day

 

The first major event was a meeting of the Congress party’s top national leadership where its vice president #Mr. Rahul Gandhi was chosen the leader of the election campaign, but was not named the candidate for the post of prime minister if the party were to win.  He spoke of programmes for the poor, the religious minorities and women and youth, but could not spell out a strategy that would help the party come out of the charges of widespread corruption in its ten year rule, and involving its top ministers and political leaders.  His mother, Congress president Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, had the final say in not naming Rahul as the Congress Prime Minister in waiting.


 

She vetoed a cacophony of sycophantic voices that clamored for Mr. Rahul Gandhi to be appointed the party’s candidate for the top post in government if the party’s United Progressive Alliance won a majority in the polls. Mrs. Gandhi, with her impeccable political instincts, guessed correctly that Rahul would be an easy target, if not exactly a sitting duck, if the campaign became a confrontation between him and Mr. Narendra Modi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s anointed candidate to head the next government. She did not want the focus to be on personalities, a sort of a political duel between her son and his arch rival Mr. Modi.

 

The second event was the BJP’s own National Conclave and then its core group meeting of its Council where expectedly its disappointment it being denied an easy target in Rahul Gandhi overwhelmed whatever policies it wanted to announce to woo the voters. Mr. Narendra Modi has, since his being named the party’s election leader, been hankering for a direct fight between him and Mr. Gandhi on the pattern of the #American presidential campaigns where Republican and Democrat nominees slug it out across the nation. Much of the time of the meetings was spent in the top leadership slamming Mr. Gandhi for chickening out of mortal combat.  It was left to Mr. Modi to articulate, in the time left, his vision for India and the party’s policies for the future.  He disappointed on both counts, pandering to industry and commerce in his focus on good governance and prosperity. His vision for a united India, which covered the party’s core support base, left out religious minorities, the Dalits, the Tribals and people on the margin.

 

The third event was bizarre, a confrontation between the Aam Admi Party leadership and government, which is on control of the government of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, and the Union Government ruled by the Congress. The irony that the AAP rules with the ‘outside’ support of the Congress was not lost on anyone. AAP founder and Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal led a sit-in near the Home Ministry after Delhi police, governed by the union government, stopped his march to the offices of the Union Home Minister, Mr. Shinde.  Mr. Kejriwal said he wanted to protest against the highhandedness of the police which had refused to carry out oral orders by his ministers – one calling for the arrest of some African women suspected to be involved in human trafficking, and the relatives of the husband of a women who was allegedly been set aflame by them.


Mr. Kejriwal accused Mr. Shinde of being on top of the corruption chain that began with police constables and involved senior officers including the Delhi Police Commissioner. Mr. Kejriwal’s sit-in, close to the Republic Day parade venue, has divided the people of Delhi, his supporters applauding his challenge to the Congress government; his opponents saying the pre-election posturing exposed the man’s lust for power. Lost in the fracas was the promise of a decisive struggle against corruption which had first caught the imagination of the people and catapulted Mr. Kejriwal from street agitations to the chair of Chief Minister.

 

The strength of the Indian republic has been its commitment to pluralism and equity, in polity as much as in its social discourse. This has held the nation together despite widening gulfs between the rich and the poor, and contrasts between the emerging metropolises and IT hubs and the rural areas and small towns still mired in gross underdevelopment, many of them without piped water, or even electricity through the hours of the night.  Hope had always been held out to the poor that they were the ultimate beneficiaries of all development policies even if it was not apparent at first sight.  The movement against corruption led first by #Mr. Anna Hazare and then by #Mr. Kejriwal was built on the argument that this promise was not being fulfilled because middle men, ministers and politicians were siphoning off the funds.

 

Unless things change radically in the next three months, the likely scenario will not see focus on the poor man, or those who seek security from targetted violence.  With the #AAP seeking a national vote without yet articulating a national policy, and the Congress hobbled by charges of corruption, the spotlight remains on the #Bharatiya Janata Party. Unfortunately, the party has signaled in its recent movements that its focus will be on the 200 million strong middle class with a political prosperity gospel and the Hindu majority in its accusation that the Congress has been pandering only to the Muslims. And that is not good news for the nation that is the largest democracy in the world as it celebrates Republic day.

________________________________________ ________

 

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