There is never a dull moment in the Indian Politics. No respite from lightning and thunder sans the rain. Much time is wasted in pointless posturing, while burning national issues await resolution.
The state of West Bengal has slid to a dangerous brink—thanks to the cussedness of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Unable to see beyond electoral prospects and vote banks, Banerjee appears utterly helpless to control the situation in Darjeeling.
At times, she heaps abuse on the Governor, on other occasions she blames the Centre for not providing the required help. The NDA government can’t absolve itself of blame either. Ultra-sensitive to her paranoia about the Centre’s interference, it has largely confined itself to impotent expressions of concern. Darjeeling is not the only cause of worry. Basirhat has suffered violent communal strife that can’t be swept under the carpet as yet another law and order problem that lies in the exclusive domain of the state government.
What we are witnessing is the breakdown of Constitutional arrangements. Mamata Didi has never exercised restraint in administering tongue-lashing to the Modi Sarkar for its ‘sins’ of subverting the federal system or damaging the secular democratic fabric of India. She remains arrogantly oblivious of the Constitutional provisions empowering the Centre to impose the President’s Rule in a state that fails to protect Constitutional arrangements. No state can claim parity with the Centre in matters that concern India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity. The sooner delusions of grandeur are shed, the better for all of us.
The attack on the bus carrying pilgrims on the Amarnath yatra have once again exposed how grave the situation is in Jammu and Kashmir. The irony is that here it is impossible to point fingers only at the chief minister who has lost control. The BJP is sharing power with the PDP and has, for reasons best known to that party’s ‘high command’, found it impossible to part ways with the ally. The Army and paramilitary forces deployed in that state are pilloried routinely and ‘militants’ (euphemism for terrorist/secessionist) lionised. Here, too, it is difficult to understand why President’s Rule has not been imposed.
It is true that this provision in our Constitution has often been abused, and more than once the Central government has been sharply knocked on the knuckles for its partisan conduct, but extreme timidity on display at present can only have fatal consequences. Handling Hurriyat leaders with kid gloves, just not to be blamed for ‘stifling dissent’, has severely demoralised those who risk life and limb in the line of duty. The NDA in context of Jammu and Kashmir seems to be in the grip of the same ‘policy paralysis’ that the UPA under Manmohan Singh was blamed for.
The Opposition, in total disarray, keeps tilting at windmills and remains oblivious of the serious strategic threats confronting us. China, taking advantage of the helpful distractions, has resumed its ‘push and shove’ policy at the border. Combined with diplomatic bluff and buster, this seriously threatens subcontinental peace and security. Bhutan is directly involved in skirmishing at the trijunction in Sikkim, and Nepal and Bangladesh are adjacent. Pakistan’s violations of the LAC in Jammu and Kashmir making headlines and providing fodder to Breaking News, have provided camouflaging cover for far more dangerous Chinese incursions.
It is indeed tragic that for members of the Mahagathbandhan—the Grand Alliance of Opposition parties—safeguarding dynastic interests seems to be more important than national interest. Petulant antics of the progeny of Lalu Prasad Yadav in Bihar have already all but undone Nitish Kumar’s striving for good governance. The CM’s inability to rein in his ‘deputy’ and his dad from publicly flaunting privileges and power has caused apprehensions of the return of Jungle Raj among the people and tarnished his clean image due to ‘guilt by association’.
When Sonia Gandhi thunders about saving the country from people with a ‘narrow and divisive’ vision and ‘who are blind to the glorious pluralism India is inheritor to’, one is amazed at the acuity of her Tunnel Vision. All efforts till date to instal RaGa as C in C of the INC have failed miserably, but those loyal to the family stubbornly refuse to shed their blinkers. By nitpicking about GST or failure of the RBI to publish the results of demonetised note counting, the INC has lost its pole position. CPM General Secretary, too, is slowly beginning to realise that dazzling cameo performances in the Parliament by gifted and ideologically pure individuals are no substitute for strengthening party organisation and mass mobilisation. Blaming the diabolical demagogue has failed to forge a United Front to save democracy. Nor are shouts and shrieks of political vendetta likely to shield the chronically corrupt.
We can’t turn a blind eye either to the dark clouds gathering at the border or to the rising tide of vigilantism surging within. It’s time to take a break from partisan bickering.
Former professor, Jawaharlal Nehru University