Of coalitions and challenges of choosing a future leader

NDA will stand little chance if it alienated the minority vote. We saw in 2004 what it could do and a leader of the stature of Atalji was humbled.

Published: 21st April 2013 07:03 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st April 2013 08:30 AM   |  A+A-

I sometimes wonder if we are a nation of hypocrites as we say one thing and do another.

Take the classic instance of terror cases that have killed thousands over the years, or insurgency in Punjab and J&K where we have lost over a lakh lives in the last two decades. But the courts of law take a decade or two to decide and political parties too only sermonise with speeches of ‘iron and steel’. When a decision is made, we are critical of the courts and the hanging verdict. I can understand those who are opposed to the death penalty and they have good reasons, but till the law is revised, the law of the land must prevail.

This is the age of coalition politics and you cannot have a government at the Centre unless you have a flexible approach and that is the whole purpose of a splintered verdict, and in any system, the aam aadmi is supreme. Today the party which leads the coalition at the Centre will only secure 30 per cent of votes and I remember in 1985, when the Congress won 409 out of 542 seats, we secured more than 50 per cent of the votes and my old friend Nawal Kishore Sharma telling the PM that good governance means we still have to win over the 50 per cent who did not vote for us.

As I write this there is news of a terror attack in Boston and initial reports suggest that three have been killed and 100 injured, 20 critically. Many have had to have limbs amputated and look at the measures being taken in the US. This was clearly a job carried out by a ‘sleeper cell’ and the explosives used and the type of injuries indicate a terror attack. The US will be on full alert for sometime as this could well be a cluster attempt by groups stationed in various locations. The treatment given to Osama bin Laden, who was executed by Navy seals in the middle of an Army compound with a shot in the head and the chest brought closure to 9/11. The frequent drone attacks indicate the resolve of the US to battle terror and I have little doubt that they will find the killers and those who assisted them.

I am not surprised at the turn of events in the global business outlook and every economic debacle always come with a silver lining and the good news is that gold prices have crashed along with other commodities. Crude has slipped below $100 and should decline further. The UPA gets a bonus as both these events will drastically cut our current account deficit. China stumbles on growth projections and this was inevitable as the global trade situation deteriorates and no one can prosper in isolation. The US may grow marginally and China and India will lead on GDP growth but a fall of 3-4 per cent in GDP is inevitable. We will benefit from the excessive liquidity in the global system in the short term but the projection for 2013 and 2014 is difficult and we have to tighten our belts.

The NDA is going through the trauma of choosing a future leader. This was brewing for some time as the JD(U) chief has been giving warning signs for over a year. The NDA will stand little chance if it alienated the minority population. Divisions in the BJP leadership have also surfaced and I think it will be difficult to put a lid on these developments. The BJP is under pressure in Karnataka as trends indicate a win for the Congress and the JD(S). We saw in 2004 what alienation of the minority vote could do and a leader of the stature of Atalji was humbled for events on which he had no control. But lessons from the past are sent to the archives. The short term solution is total silence.

The BJP chief minister in Karnataka and the Congress chief minister in Andhra Pradesh have something in common—both have a permanent smile for the electronic media and offer little else. I think this will be reflected in the election results. There are surveys and there will be further surveys but these make little sense a year ahead of elections.

Nehru is a former Union minister


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