Life has a way of coming full circle. Who knows this more than the Indian neta class – the politicians? The Opposition parties and some leaders are looking at some angles when they seem to take the words of Satya Pal Malik as gospel truth. The former Governor of Jammu & Kashmir had given his interview to a specific journalist and a specific website. The comments were typically targeted against the ‘clean image’ of Narendra Modi, and the Congress party latched on them and leaders from other parties.
Wresting the ‘Mr Clean’ image from his former boss Rajiv Gandhi, VP Singh’s so-called crusade to expose corruption at higher places led him to the office of Prime Ministership. The opposition parties in India are now desperate to unseat PM Modi– whose popularity remains unchallenged and in the last nine years (just a year and a few weeks) left for next year’s crucial parliamentary polls, no opposition leader could come near his ‘acceptability factor,’ vis-a-vis the people of India.
In 2019, the Congress party invested a lot of energy and ‘investment’ in the ecosystem around the Rafale aircraft deal. The Indian media — generally the self-styled champion of Sickularism – even latched on to the Desh Ka Chowkidar Chor Hai campaign. The efforts did not yield the expected results for them, and now in the run-up to the 2024 polls, comes the Satya Pal Malik episode. Just because someone’s name has ‘Satya’ does not make him a claimant to the legacy of Harishchandra!
Nevertheless, the opposition parties have displayed their intent. Malik himself said — “my battle will continue till 2024”. This means the crusade could end by the next Lok Sabha polls! The opposition parties and the ambitious leaders in various camps have their issues and limitations. Hence, someone thinks that experiments with someone with the right cast in the country’s most populous state could help their game.
The machinations involved in giving a massive push to the ‘Satya Pal balloon’ talks about a calculated move by backroom boys of Indian politics. There are chances Congress believes — a man like Malik, who was Governor of Jammu and Kashmir in August 2019 and also Feb 2019 during Pulwama, could make a dent in the public image of Narendra Modi.
The Congress also knows the ‘Rahul Gandhi factor’ despite Bharat Jodo Yatra having its limitation. Just a few weeks and even Rahul’s ‘disqualification’ from Lok Sabha following the sentence from the Surat court is not helping in any extraordinary manner. The Congress calculation is Satya Pal Malik plus Rahal could be a possible game-changer strategy. Some regional players are smartly pushing the V P Singh card.
DMK boss and Tamil Nadu chief minister M K Stalin have announced that his government would install a statue of V P Singh in Chennai. The North-South divide is given a pass by DMK, which generally tried to do politics on such regional sentiments for decades. This will probably be the first statue of the former Prime Minister outside his birthplace of Prayagraj. DMK was part of the National Front headed by VP Singh.
Of course, Congress was a ‘victim’ of VP Singh syndrome or virtue as one sees it. But in 2023, it will be relevant to examine contemporary politics on the backdrop of how things had unfolded around V P Singh in 1989-90.
Satya Pal Malik and Congress should reflect that V P Singh offered himself to the cause of Bofors investigation for his ‘own reasons’ against Rajiv Gandhi and on his terms; In contrast, all others – from Left to secular democrats and socialist parties – accepted him as their leader on their compulsions. This was despite the absence of commonality of basic principles among them. It was, therefore, no surprise that the coalition National Front, the country’s first multi-party government, was almost stillborn — just 11 months.
But the experiments of 1989-90 got repeated in 1996 when a mofusil player like HD Deve Gowda was imposed as India’s Prime Minister. A few months later, Gowda quit cursing ‘India’s old man in a hurry – Sitaram Kesri’. I K Gujral replaced him — the perfect choice of Delhi’s intellectuals circle from IIC and India Habitat Centre.
Now the crux point is something else. Since the mid-nineties misadventure with coalition politics, Indian voters have repeatedly rejected such conjectures. They would thus, in probability, also reject Satya Pal Malik’s ‘selective amnesia and memory lanes’.
Late Arun Jaitley, in his blog post in 2018, said – “A federal front is a failed idea. Such a front with its contradictions, sooner or later, loses its balance and equilibrium. Remembering 1996-98 as perhaps one of the worst period of Governance, the aspirational India which today occupies the high table in the world shall never accept an idea which has repeatedly failed”.
He also maintained that the 2014 election “conclusively established” that chemistry will score over arithmetic when deciding the country’s destiny in New India.
Of course, we can bet on these arguments even in 2023 and the next year’s battle of 2024. There is always a lesson from history, more so from political history. Aspirational societies in a vibrant democracy will always discard anarchy. A strong nation and the requirements of good Governance abhor such anarchists.
Having said so, we come to what Home Minister Amit Shah said recently on the Satya Pal factor and questioned why the claimant to Mr Clean was silent not only during his days in office in Jammu and Kashmir. He did not say anything to the effect of what he is stating now during his stint as Governor of Goa and Meghalaya.
To some, patriotism is often confused with anti-Modism. To this club, doing something big for India would mean hating BJP/Hindus and finding fault with the incumbent Prime Minister.
This club has an oversized army of Sickularists who never had any issue of Governance and tolerance when Sikhs were butchered in Delhi or when India lost the 1962 war. Even during the Doklam row of 2017, the cheerleaders were more than enthusiasts and never questioned the ‘secret’ meeting with the envoy.
The national interest was not taken into consideration. This club wants Modi Government to fail, but the Prime Minister and his team consistently refuse to oblige them.
We may highlight more unsavoury facts about life and politics. While Modi remains immensely popular, Rahul Gandhi or leaders such as Nitish Kumar and Mamata Banerjee is not famous for several reasons, including the poorly performing leadership — politically for Rahul and on more than one front for the likes of Mamata Banerjee.
Elections are not just an exercise of people’s choice but also a part of an industry where politicians are Commoditised and must be packaged appropriately for consumers. But Indian voters are the smart lot.
They have clarity of mind any day and endorse that under Modi – India has transformed into the ‘bright spot’, leaving the club of fragile five. Prime Minister Modi’s Government has given people good roads, toilets and electricity. It has created transparent systems through legislative and institutional changes, which have given this country a scam-free Governance. Transferring the beneficiary assistance directly to a bank account has made poor people happier. Perhaps the most important point to note is that Prime Minister Modi is today the ‘natural leader’ of his party and the nation. Indian voters like the journey from indecisiveness to clarity and decisiveness. A New India which has taken steps like post-Uri surgical strike and Balakot aerial attack against a hostile neighbour.
The people also would endorse a Government that has ensured an inclusive Governance with a grand Ram Temple at Ayodhya, taken crucial steps like abrogation of Article 370 and also banned Triple Talaq.