Intro: One should recreate Walt Kelly’s environmental movement poster of 1971 — with appropriate changes in the headquarters of every political party in India which commented that we have enemy within us.?
For Earth Day —April 22 of 1971 the cartoonist Walt Kelly drew a comic-strip so powerful that it became a poster for the environmental movement. It showed the comic character Pogo looking at a forest whose floor was strewn with man-made detritus, and sadly commenting, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
Let us start with India”s ruling party, BJP. In his Independence Day speech the Prime Minister Narendra Modi after admitting that India has suffered from “communal tension for ages” then called for “a moratorium on all such activities for ten years”. It was a clear signal that Narendra Modi was leaning heavily toward the economy-oriented wing of the party, and that was only appropriate because the BJP came to power — largely so — on the plank of development. The vote for the party is simultaneously a vote against corruption, a vote against economic mismanagement demonstrated by inflation (chiefly in food prices) and unemployment, and a vote against the decrepit infrastructure (potholed roads, unreliable power supply, poor or non-existent sewage facilities).
MPs may respect Narendra Modi but they do not necessarily share his vision of economic development taking precedence over everything else. The sixteenth Lok Sabha”s first winter session may have been repeatedly disrupted by the controversy over the conversion of Muslim families in Agra; nothing daunted because it was not conversion, it was ‘Ghar Wapasi’ Even the hitherto relatively unknown MP of Bastar, Dinesh Singh, was utterly unfazed when the news broke that he had participated in a ‘Ghar Wapasi’ ceremony for Christian Tribes in his constituency.
Speaking of the Opposition, TMC have met the enemy and he is us!” applies just as much to them. Mamata Banerjee had every reason to believe that the TMC would continue to rule West Bengal unchallenged for years to come. But the Saradha Chit Fund Scam seems to be a self-inflicted wound.
Jayalalithaa was the undisputed supremo in Tamil Nadu, as proved by the sixteenth Lok Sabha polls. But ghosts from the past — in the form of a case of disproportionate assets case — arose to topple AIADMK leader. Up to the point where she was granted bail most of the Tamil Nadu ministers seemed to be camped outside Bangalore Central Jail, and the State government seems rudderless even now that she is back in Chennai but remains barred from office.
And it is a combination of those two factors — charges of corruption and a paralysed leadership — that plagues the Congress. So much has been written about the leadership crisis in the party that it is hardly worth saying anything more but it bears repetition: India”s oldest party cannot climb out of the morass given Sonia Gandhi”s ailments, Rahul Gandhi”s utter cluelessness, and the Robert-shaped weight that drags down Priyanka Vadra.
Perhaps that is being a trifle unfair to the estimable son-in-law of the Congress because Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have questions to answer on their own behalf in the National Herald case. Be that as it may, the indecisiveness in the “High Command” is mirrored down below. Kerala is one of the few remaining large states — those electing ten or more MPs to the Lok Sabha — with a Congressman as its Chief Minister. (Karnataka and Assam are the only others in that category). But here again it was a case of the ‘enemy’ being ‘us’.
Infighting within the CPI (M) had given the Congress a certain amount of breathing space in Kerala but the charges against KM Mani have given both VS Achuthanandan faction and the Pinarayi Vijayan faction a banner to come together. And they maybe given more ammunition if rumours about corruption charges against another minister — also from an allied party — come into the public.
The political situation presents a curious drama as 2014 draws to a close. Narendra Modi faces no really serious challenge from the Congress, the Samajwadi Party, and others in the official Opposition. The Nehru-Gandhi faces no real threat to their hold over their own party. Six months ago there was nobody to take on the AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, or to contest the TMC”s hold over West Bengal. Each of these parties should take a good hard look in their own mirrors. They will see the enemy and is them.
TVR Shenoy? (The writer is a senior columnist)