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FRIENDS IN NEED

When opposing political entities attack one another on all manner of issues, they begin to lose the respect of citizens who are forced to watch unsavoury dramas. One such instance is of two leaders — who had heaped vitriolic abuse on each other before the general election — deciding to hug and make up because their survival in the political domain demands a partnership that is being touted as the aligning of secular forces. Another example is that of the chief minister of West Bengal deciding to make a trip to attract business. The move makes a mockery of human intelligence. Till a few months ago, Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad were not even on talking terms. Kumar had made it clear that the Congress and its top leadership were anathema to him and his brand of political ideology. But today, the two leaders have made common cause and are seen holding hands and smiling. For those witnessing this political drama, it is an example of opportunism because the shifting political reality was clear at least three years ago, well before the election.

Surely Kumar, whose Janata Dal (United) was a partner of the Bharatiya Janata Party, knew that their ideological positions have been consistent for decades on almost all national issues. What is evident is that there was a personality clash between two potential prime ministerial candidates and one, who wanted to pitch himself as the leader of a Central coalition government, was compelled to retreat because he did not have either the numbers or the national clout. With a debacle on his hands, he has now decided to spearhead a coalition of ‘secular forces’, a grouping that has seen many avatars in the recent past with numerous aspiring regional and national leaders changing their stripes with alarming frequency.

Power play

Such flip-flops or changing stances, the inability to forge a truly productive alliance where issues dominate and personalities take a back seat, the lack of political commitment to an India that is craving for attention and the inherent desire to build coalitions based on caste and faith regardless of a fundamental respect for the constituents and the political players involved have damaged Indian politics.

Those who continue to examine both ends of the spectrum without any personal motive can sense the despair that has been brought on by the utterances and actions of the parties in opposition that are struggling to knit a cohesive agenda for this nation and lead those who are looking for alternatives. The Opposition leaders need to generate a sense of trust. They need to excite a new and agile India that wants to look ahead and extricate itself from the quagmire of caste politics. Sadly, ‘secular fronts’ have nothing to do with the philosophy of secularism. They are mostly associated with a failed political past that featured, among other traits, opportunistic leaders grabbing power based on caste and faith, and entrenched corruption.

The frightening decline of the quality of governance and the heightened sense of entitlement that the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance exuded in spite of its welfare programmes paved Narendra Modi’s march to power. The supreme denial of his popularity on the part of his opponents and their hopes of pulling off a victory on archaic assumptions contributed equally to Modi’s triumph. Those of us who read the signs correctly were branded ‘non-secular’.

To see a leader who, till recently, had abused the top leadership of the Rashtriya Janata Dal and the Congress now woo them eagerly merits several questions. How long can this bonhomie last? Can it be constructive? The alternative is to infuse a new movement led by a new messiah to strengthen the democratic process.