The UPA is trying all tricks to avoid an election. With the communists bent on blocking the Indo-US nuclear deal and the Congress making the deal a matter of prestige, the options before the ruling coalition are limited.
Dr Manmohan Singh could have avoided the confrontation. His lack of political savvy and finesse created this turmoil. The Left is understandably hurt that the Prime Minister chose to take to the street a matter that could have been sorted out at the dining table. Knowing well the Left antipathy for the increasing Indo-US strategic engagement under a government run entirely at its mercy, Dr Singh in the normal circumstances should have been more circumspect. Rather Singh's bloated ego or is it his overenthusiastic espousal of the US cause, made him invite the present imbroglio ?
Whatever be the explanation for the Congress Party's new-found arrogance, the Left is justified in its posturing. There is no mention about the deal in the Common Minimum Programme, under which this bizarre government was formed. There was no need for the UPA to take forward the deal compromising national interest.
This PM botched up the whole format. Now, some in the UPA are even suggesting that the NDA should bail out the government so as to show the Left its place. This is a dangerous and vane suggestion.
The UPA approached the deal from the very outset with a hidden agenda. Manmohan Singh projected it his private enterprise. Whenever the government spokespersons let out their thoughts it only created suspicion and more confusion. The UPA has totally mishandled the communication front, also because of the fear of the Left. The Left perhaps hoped that the deal would not become a reality and postponed reacting effectively on the subject. That is why now it is being widely accused of playing the Chinese patriot.
The Left antipathy for America is nothing new. Its beholden love for China is equally infamous. Between these two situations there is the political common ground of misplaced confidence, grand standing and overreach. Dr Singh has not been behaving as the head of a precariously held coalition government. At all levels he tried to undercut the Left.
Right from the appointment of the finance, commerce and industry ministers to the constitution of the Planning Commission, where he smuggled in IMF retainers, the Prime Minister pushed his own peculiar agenda. This by a man whom the CPM till 2004 used to denounce as an IMF protege. Of course we do not share this view. He even tried to find a nonexistent schism in the CPM between pro-reformists led by Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, Sitaram Yechury etc and the hardliners under party general secretary Prakash Karat. In the end the artificial front is in a full-blown crisis.
The most honourable course for the Left was to withdraw support to the UPA. But the party is hugely confused; confounded by the fear of going to the people. The pro-deal lobby is planting stories that the CPM will meet its Waterloo in an election.
This theory is being spread interestingly by the same people who only a week ago presented a nation-wide opinion poll which gave Manmohan Singh a 78 per cent approval rating. And Sonia Gandhi, according to them is equally popular. With such popularity ratings the ruling clique should register a handsome landslide at the hustings. But they are saying, the UPA wants to avoid an election at any cost. The parties are not prepared, they say. And there is a solution, Manmohan Singh can continue the rest of the term heading a minority government. This in case, when the Left becomes so ballistic and withdraws support. There are many precedents of very successful minority governments, they argue. This is a wishful suggestion.
Only Indira Gandhi and P.V. Narasimha Rao could successfully run minority governments and the political circumstances that made it possible are not present today. Now that Manmohan Singh is adamant on his course, he should seek a mandate from the electorate. After all, he has no popular mandate other than that of Sonia Gandhi?s. The supporting parties are not sure of his capacity to lead them to an electoral victory. That is why they want to delay the poll.
In a democracy any occasion to test public mood should be welcomed. In the 1990s, we had four elections to Lok Sabha and six governments. It did not arrest our economic growth. The talk of stability is all bunkum. What India needs is a responsive, popular and intensely nationalist government.
There is no merit in the argument that parties are not prepared. What happened in 1977 and 2004 when the ruling parties were all prepared and the opposition in utter disarray? After all, people will make their choice however politicians time it. Seizing the popular mood is the art of politics.