By Dr Rajvir Sharma
Now that the electoral dust over the 14th Lok Sabha has settled, it is time to scale the nature of the verdict of the people. A myth is being created that it was a verdict in favour of the Congress+ and a total rejection of the BJP-led NDA. This mindset does not allow the citizens of this country to be vociferous in their protest against the thought of appointing a person of foreign origin as Prime Minister, while professing to be a part of India'sproud democracy. They do not hesitate in raising a sinister voice against persons of the stature of Sushma Swaraj while glorifying Smt. Sonia Gandhi fallaciously to the level of a saint.
The question is whether it was really a certificate to the Congress combine to rule or it was merely a gang up of the anti-BHP elements to grab power in the name of the people. There is no denying the fact that the parties that fought these elections against both the alliances led
by the BJP and Congress, respectively, were given 135 seats, clearly indicating that these voters wanted 135 MPs not to be partners of either the NDA or Congress+. However, the lust for power and pelf, not the democratic norms, led them to go against the popular will to join the Congress-led govern-ment. Thus the Congress-led government, it may be concluded, commands neither credibility nor legitimacy.
It may not be misplaced to recall that it was the overfriendly behaviour of the media towards the Congress and the changing election campain strategies of the BHP which were responsible for a marginal increase in the number of seats of the Congress, from 114 of 229 to 145 in 2004. By no stretch of argument it can be accepted as a mandate to the party. It rather suggests that the countrymen did not have confidence in its capabilities, honesty and integrity to them.
That Sonia is not acceptable to the masses of India was decisively expressed in reducing the number of seats from ten to nine in Uttar Pradesh where she concentrated the most in performing her shows on the roads. The Congress gains are in those states where she could get the crutches from allies or where the caste and community arithmetic was calculated in a pragmatic manner. The major gains for the party have been in Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. If one goes deeper into the reasons for the electoral outcome, one can easily discern that it was the dictatorial, revengeful and inhumanly arrogant approach of the ruling party in Tamil Nadu to the Opposition and the government employees which resulted in total gain for DMK-led group and the Congress+. It was no Congress effect at all.
In Andhra Pradesh, it was again the continuous campaign led by Y.S.R., the present Chief Minister, against the Naidu government who did not take timely corrective measures to meet the challenge on the ground. Despite the fact that Naidu represented the forces of modernisation, change and commitment to the people of Andhra, he failed to meet the propaganda against him. Again, no Sonia factor. Understanding reached with RJD and JMM even at its own humiliation, in Bihar and Jharkhand, also paid dividends to the Congress.
It is, therefore, imperative for the present Prime Minister not to be misled by the Left or any other such petty political leadership to ignore the call for consensus. Dr Manmohan Singh, having an image of an upright, honest and sincere leader, would not, one hopes, like to forgo that image at the altar of power. At the core of his heart, he must be aware that development is not a partisan issue. Access to public services like health, water, education, sanitation, roads has to be made easy and affordable to the poor?a process which was initiated by the predecessor government.
At the same time, he has another onerous task to perform?not to involve in politicking by removing the NDA-appointed Governors in various states unless there is a constitutional ground for doing so. Any other step would not only be violative of the spirit of federalism, it would also put a question mark on the neutrality of the office of the government which is so crucial for coopera-tive Centre-state relations as well as for smooth functioning of the state governments.
A Governor is the eyes and ears of the Central Government, but not its agent at any cost. The Congress-led government should, therefore, refrain from reintroducing the old Congress practices employed in the 60s or later. The only duty cast upon a Governor in relation to the Centre is that he should keep the Centre posted with any unde-sirable developments in the state or about the genuine, not concocted, failure of the contitutional machinery in the state. If the Governor fails in performing that duty, the Centre would be justified in removing such a person.
The Congress-led govern-ment shall have to rise above the rhetorics, misconception and misconstrued notions that it is a people'sgovernment with a clear mandate. It shall be pertinent for this government to be free from three vices?arrogance, infl-uence and authority of the Left and unresponsiveness to the implications of people'sdecision.
(The writer is a reader in political science at Delhi University.)