FOR the main opposition NDA, there cannot be a more conducive political climate ahead of the next Lok Sabha elections. The ruling UPA is not only in disarray but in a minority precariously dependent on the outside support of two mutually antagonistic and equally unpredictable allies.
Prices are on an all time high and corruption has touched its nadir with new exposes surfacing every second day. Two major allies, DMK and TMC, have deserted the ruling coalition in the last one year. For the first time in the nation’s post-independence history, two independent civil society movements, one against rampant corruption and another pertaining to women’s security, put the Government on the dock with lakhs of people across the country taking to the streets, facing police brutalities and sheer Governmental indifference.
The country’s economic situation, as also the agrarian crisis, is moving from bad to worse and desperate measures such as deregulation of fuel prices, introduction of Foreign Direct Investment in multi-brand retail and civil aviation, are not yielding the desired results.
The country’s internal and external security have never appeared so vulnerable. Pakistani troops brazenly enter inside the country’s borders and behead our jawans and we respond by throwing a lavish lunch in honour of a Pakistani dignitary on a private pilgrimage. Relations with other countries in the neighbourhood are at their lowest ebb.
On the home front, Naxalism is on the rise and unrest pervades Kashmir. The chasm between the Centre and States is ever widening, thanks to sheer unilateralism resorted to by the Government, whether in the matter of FDI or National Counter Terrorism Centre.
Non-UPA ruled states are crying foul and complaining that they are being discriminated against.
If India Shining was the mood of the nation in 2004 (though it did not pay electoral dividends to the NDA), India Whining explains the current situation better.
Short on electoral performance and administrative experience, Rahul Gandhi, the Congress’ trump card has not been able to generate much interest even among the youth. There is widespread disillusionment and disenchantment with the Government of the day and people are looking for a credible alternative. The ruling coalition’s own allies and supporters, including NCP and SP, are questioning the longevity of the regime and asking their cadres to be prepared for a snap poll any time.
On the side of the Opposition, a decimated Left is looking for a face saver in the coming elections but the picture does not look rosy even in a traditional stronghold like West Bengal. Having burnt bridges with the Congress, TMC wants to be part of a strong alliance but the fear of losing minority votes is preventing it from joining NDA. With the Left parties as torchbearers of the Utopian dream called Third Front, Mamata Banerjee’s choices are limited.
In Jammu & Kashmir, UPA ally National Conference has lost all its credibility and it seems unlikely that the once bitten twice shy People’s Democratic Party headed by Mehbooba Mufti would go back to the Congress again.
In Tamil Nadu, AIADMK enjoys cordial relations with BJP leaders and is totally at odds with the UPA on a host of issues.
In Andhra Pradesh, which proved to be the kingmaker last time, YSR Congress has proved that it can win hands down without the Congress and the redemption for the Congress in the Telangana region lies only in granting statehood and surrendering the party to KCR, which would invite vehement opposition from party cadres.
Both Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav cannot be together in that non-starter of a seasonal creature called Third Front. Naveen Patnaik remains undecided but anti-Congressism is the key to his survival in Odisha.
With good governance models and popular Chief Ministers, BJP can look forward to consolidation in major states such as Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh etc. while it can hope to benefit from huge anti-incumbency prevailing in states such as Rajasthan, Delhi etc. The SAD-BJP coalition has been a cementing force in Punjab and can be expected to romp home, the Shiv Sena-BJP combine is all set to gain from the huge disillusionment of the people of Maharashtra.
The time is thus ripe for the NDA to make a comeback, provided it takes up issues close to the hearts of the common people and gives tickets to the right candidates. Most unfortunately, a seasoned and mature leader such as Nitish Kumar, one of the trusted and oldest allies of the Opposition alliance, appears to have gone for the trivia even as the nation is looking forward to a united opposition to take on the UPA.
While Shri Kumar has every right to have his reservations about any individual, the timing of his public diatribe against individual leaders in ally BJP in the run up to the crucial polls is beyond comprehension. He should realise that his Bihar Model of governance is as much a tribute to his statesmanship as much to the cooperation extended by its key ally, the BJP. The ‘inclusive’ model has a discernible coalition stamp on it and no individual party can claim copyright over it.
Secondly, Nitish as an ally would do well to understand that notwithstanding the myth, hype and hysteria created by the media, BJP as a party has always believed in nation first, followed by ideology and organisation. Individuals at best are the means and not an end, unlike in regional or dynastic parties. It is the concept of collective leadership that did not prevent the architect of modern BJP, LK Advani to work as Deputy to Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
Third and most importantly, Shri Kumar should also know that notwithstanding dilution, occasional deviations and aberrations, the guiding political philosophy for the BJP has been Integral Humanism conceived by Deendayal Upadhyaya.
Rather than drawing inferences, interpreting and responding to speeches delivered by Chief Ministers of BJP ruled states to woo investors or to highlight their achievements in an environment of despair, Shri Kumar should carefully read the following excerpt from the late Upadhyaya’s speech for a better understanding of his major ally.
Addressing the Kozhikode session of the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, he had said, “We are pledged to the service not of any particular community or section but of the entire nation. Every countryman is blood of our blood and flesh of our flesh. We shall not rest till we are able to give to every one of them a sense of pride that they are children of Bharatmata. We shall make Mother India Sujala, Suphala (overflowing with water and laden with fruits) in the real sense of these words. As Dashapraharana Dharini Durga (Goddess Durga with her 10 weapons) she would be able to vanquish evil; as Lakshmi she would be able to disburse prosperity all over and as Saraswati she would dispel the gloom of ignorance and spread the radiance of knowledge all around her. With faith in ultimate victory, let us dedicate ourselves to this task”.
Can there be anything more inclusive than this?
Last but not the least, the alliance will have to come to power first before thinking of who would become Prime Minister. BJP’s immediate challenge is to win the Assembly elections in some of the key states. It is the right of every party to project a leader of its own to woo the electorate. The BJP is not asking Shiv Sena as to whether Uddhav Thackeray or Manohar Joshi or anyone else would be made the Chief Minister if the alliance wins in the upcoming Assembly polls in Maharashtra.
Alliance is all about give and take, mutual accommodation and cooperation. If BJP is expected to put in cold storage its core issues including Uniform
Civil Code, Article 370 and Ram Temple, what would be the sacrifices that the allies are willing to undertake? Or is it that only the major partner is expected to compromise while others will do and say what they like?
The question of Prime Ministership comes after the elections. The focus of every NDA ally has to be to win the confidence of the people first rather than fight over ‘spoils’ of a war that has not yet begun.
‘Rajdharma’, as former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had put it, has to be a matter of principle for all rulers but following ‘Coalition or Alliance Dharma’ too is equally important for all partners in any alliance.
(The author is a senior journalist based in Delhi)
Alliance is in the interest of 10 crore Biharis—
Syed Shahnawaz Hussain, Spokesperson, BJP
BJP’s spokesperson Syed Shahnawaz Hussain feels that the recent attempts to create a rift between the JD(U) and the BJP are part of a well-calculated Congress conspiracy to shift focus from its misdeeds of corruption and price rise. He says no such game plan will be allowed to succeed. Talking to Organiser Correspondent Pramod Kumar in New Delhi Shri Hussain said continuation of BJP-JD(U) alliance is in the interest of 10 crore people of Bihar, who gave us mandate to rebuild the state. But at the same time he made it clear that every alliance partner has to respect the alliance dharma and no undesirable condition should be imposed on each other. Excerpts:
There is anti-Congress and UPA wave across the country. But instead of harnessing it there are attempts to weaken the NDA?
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) does not want the real issues to be diverted. Fighting against Congress corruption and price rise we have successfully cornered the Congress on these issues. Restless over our campaign the Congress and its supporters are now conspiring to divert the attention from real issues and redraw the national agenda again on communal lines. The BJP will foil this game plan. We want to assure the countrymen that we shall not let the real issues vanish from the scene. The Congress, drowned in corruption and price rise, will be exposed. We appeal to all the opposition parties, including those which are not part of the NDA, not to be trapped in the Congress net and help in shifting the focus. There is no communal tension anywhere in the country. The entire country is united against Congress. There is no fight in the name of religion or caste. Then why create unnecessary conflict in the name of caste or community?
Why secularism suddenly became an issue after 17 years?
JD(U) is our old and trusted ally. After Ayodhya movement, it (then Samata Party) was the first political party to join hands with us. Shiv Sena was already with us. Nitishji had then attended BJP Mumbai convention as a Samata Party leader. We have association with them since 1994 BJP convention, when Vajpayeeji was projected as a Prime Ministerial candidate. We then contested many elections together. We are united in the interest of 10 crore people of Bihar, because the life of aam admi had become a hell under the regime of Lalu Yadav. That is why the BJP joined hands with the then Samata Party, which later became JD(U). This alliance is in the interest of 10 crore people of Bihar as well as the nation. We still stand by the reaction of Smt Nirmala Seetharaman, which she gave on April 14 on the comment of Shri Nitish Kumar. Today the focus should be on Congress corruption and price rise, and no ally should attack on each other.
Do you feel the issue of Prime Minister is relevant at this moment?
It is beyond any doubt that the Prime Ministerial candidate will be from the BJP. But who will be, it will be decided by the BJP Parliamentary Board. It is wrong to impose conditions on the Parliamentary Board. Before taking any decision, there will be a discussion on the feelings of the allies and also he party workers. The decision in the Parliamentary Board will be taken by senior leaders like Shri Atal Behari Vajpayee, Shri LK Advani, Dr Joshi, Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Narendra Modi, etc. They will take the decision after thorough discussion. It is irreverent to discuss this issue at this moment when neither the elections have been declared, nor the Congress declared its PM candidate. Therefore, instead of focusing on this issue, the main focus should be how to oust the Congress from power.
There are reports from Bihar that state BJP leaders and workers want to go alone in the state. What do you say?
I am also an important member of the Bihar BJP. I am aware what goes on inside the party there. We are of the firm opinion that this alliance is in the interest of 10 crore Biharis. It has tried to fill the potholes created both in the roads and also in the hearts of people. We are untied for rebuilding Bihar. Ten crore people of Bihar have voted us to work together. If we break the alliance disrespecting the mandate, it will be a cheating to the people. Therefore, the BJP does not want to damage the alliance at all. We have mandate. We contested 102 and won 92, almost 92 per cent striking rate, which is found nowhere in the country. We shall try our best till the last moment to continue the alliance. But, if the unnecessary conditions are imposed on each other, every party has its right to choose its path.
You talk about rebuilding Bihar. But the charm of development witnessed in the beginning is not seen now?
Yes, we are criticised over poor supply of electricity. People ask us why we did not generate electricity during the last eight years. But both the BJP and the JD(U) are trying their best on this front. We could not perform well on this front because of non-cooperation of the Centre. We are also blamed for not bringing big industries in the state. They say if development is there why the labourers are migrating. We have basically put the derailed state on right track of development. Therefore, our comparison with other states is not correct. Much has to be finished now.
No controversy within the NDA
Dr Upendra Prasad, Spokesperson, Bihar Janata Dal (United)
Spokesperson of Bihar Janata Dal (United) Dr Upendra Prasad claims that there is no controversy within the NDA and whatever dispute was seen recently between the BJP and the JD (U) was created by some corporate houses and a section of media. Talking to Organiser representative Sanjeev Kumar in Patna, he said the NDA will root out the UPA government from the Centre and the next government after general elections will be formed by the NDA only. Excerpts:
What is the dispute, which seems to be creating a rift within the NDA?
One has to make some compromises in coalition politics. The parties have to abandon some of their traditional issues for bigger national issues. When the first BJP-led government was formed at the Centre, the BJP left many of the controversial issues, which it had been raising for long. Prominent among them were Article 370, Common Civil Code and Ramjanmabhoomi issue. They softened their stand on all those issues and formed the government at the Centre following a common minimum programme. Janata Dal (United) is an independent political party. Since we are integral part of the NDA, we have full authority to say whatever we feel necessary. We have just made our stand clear on a issue.
Why the issue of Narendra Modi is repeatedly raised, since he has not yet been declared BJP candidate for the top post?
We had made our stand clear earlier. Now, it is just to remind that stand. Nothing else.
Don’t you think it is time to focus on development of Bihar?
We are doing it from the day one. We want development of the state in all respects. We feel Bihar has been receiving step-motherly treatment since Independence. Despite being rich in natural resources, it lagged behind in development. Bihar suffered due to the wrong suggestions of TT Krishnachari. The whole country made progress on the strength of Bihar’s resources, but it lagged behind. The royalty of Bihar’s natural resources was measured on the basis of weight, but the formula adopted for measuring the royalty of other states was market value. This step motherly treatment only led to further backwardness in the state. Janata Dal (United) is committed for overall development of the state. This is the reason we are demanding special status to Bihar.
Don’t you feel the latest dispute will only strengthen the UPA?
We are confident that the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) will form a government after the next general elections. There is no dispute or confusion over it. In this situation the JD(U) has just reminded its earlier stand. The controversy, if any, has been created by a section of corporate house and the media. There is no dispute or difference of opinion within the NDA.
Lalu Yadav says that Nitishji made this comment only to divert attention from the issue of under development of Bihar?
The whole world has witnessed the development of Bihar. We do not need any certificate from people like Lalu Yadav. Under his regime, the law and order situation had totally collapsed. When one moved on the roads it was difficult to find whether the road was in pothole or the potholes were in the roads.
Whatever claim you make, but the situation of electricity is still very poor and people repeatedly question every day?
Before the formation of NDA government in Bihar, all the electricity projects were non-functional. We started three units of 250 MW in Barauni. Similarly, three units of 195 MW were started in Kanti. Some new projects were also set up in Peerpainti, Kajra, Barh, etc. If these units are provided coal linkage, we shall be able to generate 3000 MW for Bihar and 10,000 MW for the nation.