We are the world’s most unusual and curious democracy. The ruling United Progressive Alliance government has named a seasoned and astute politician as its nominee for the post of the president of India, a non-political top job that is, at best, ‘advisory’ in nature. In sharp contrast, the prime minister, who should ideally have fought and won an election to the Lok Sabha, is a member of the Upper House, elected by legislators, from the distant state of Assam to which he does not belong, either historically or as someone who opted to settle there. Yet he was ‘nominated’ by the Congress president to become the prime minister, heading the UPA coalition. Inside out and upside down!
The bizarre shenanigans that led to the final act where Sonia Gandhi declared Pranab Mukherjee as her candidate for presidency left many stupefied. Clearly, Ahmed Patel and Rajiv Shukla, as the press has reported, swung the support of the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Samajwadi Party in favour of the Congress candidate. Having successfully isolated a ranting Mamata Banerjee, they took on an unpredictable Mulayam Singh Yadav to save their skins. A fickle media, which were mocking Sonia Gandhi for being politically clumsy, suddenly had to cheer her for having pulled off a ‘double coup’, at least for the immediate future. We do not know what will happen till we hit voting day.
The great and complicated jugadh bazaar that is the political landscape of a benighted Bharat, continues to manipulate men and matters, twisting and turning reality into myth and myth into strange ‘truths’, all of which are hailed as deft politics. As India continues to wallow in this loosely stitched patchwork, the growth rate plummets to an abysmal low. Anarchy in governance, social discord and no accountability whatsoever in any area of human activity have overwhelmed the country, drowning it in profound despair. Citizens looking for leadership are confronted with a mirage. There is nothing tangible. The stage is ‘ripe’ for a dictator-type politician to pitch himself as the possible messiah.
The Congress operates in the way it has done for decades. The jugadh continues. The pattern is the same. The same ‘faces’ do it in the way they know best. It is as though time stands still. The new leader has disappeared from the national scene. Digvijay Singh is back at pronouncing how he has no objection to Montek Singh Ahluwalia becoming the finance minister. Did he check with Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi before making this odd statement? Or is it a free for all in the free fall? With Mukherjee resigning from the post of the finance minister, a frenetic lobbying for a change of seats in the cabinet has begun. Who will replace the finance minister at this juncture when the economy is ill?
Talk has already begun about what the UPA government has promised the Samajwadi Party in return for what seems to be the latter’s tacit support for the UPA’s presidential candidate. For Rahul Gandhi — who seemed to want to break away from being constantly compelled by old-fashioned Congressmen from becoming the rump of regional parties in ridiculous state coalitions — this is like a rejection of his long-term plan to rebuild the party. To witness T.R. Baalu of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam presenting ‘shawls’ to the leaders of the UPA in the closed door session to finalize the candidate, reminded one of the many scams that were an important element of the ‘coalition’ at the Centre. The same manipulations and jugadh continue, as does the crude changing of ‘bed-fellows’ for short-term gains. The Congress cannot change. It will continue to be happy with quick-fix solutions as it is bowled out of play.