Trinamool Party’s Union Cabinet Minister Mr. Dinesh Trivedi’s clarification about his statement that he anticipated a mid-term poll after the assembly results were declared was irrelevant. The minister claimed that he had spoken as an individual “student of politics” and was not representing his party’s view. Regardless, what he said was logical. The suggestion of a mid-term poll has been raised by different voices in the opposition. In the days to come the clamour will grow. The results indicated that all the regional parties could significantly increase their strength in parliament if a general election was held soon. By debunking the possibility of a mid-term poll the Congress is whistling in the dark. Going by the current situation the avoidance of a mid-term poll suggests an alternative that would be worse. The government would continue to totter along half paralyzed as it constantly looks over its shoulder at allies either derailing or distorting its policies. The prospects of a mid-term poll are strengthened further by the growing solidarity among regional parties on the issue of federalism.
Earlier I had pointed out that for the BJP to derive advantage of the emerging political federation it would have to change its attitude and stoop to conquer. The current leadership of the party in parliament would have to recognize its irrelevance in the event of BJP joining the federation. The focus would be on the BJP chief ministers. The fact that the party would be represented by several chief ministers and not just one, as by the regional partners, would in the natural course give it dominant influence. But for the rest, the party would have to function with democratic discipline. The parliamentary leader would have to be elected democratically by the majority of the federation MPs through a secret ballot and not automatically appointed by any high command based in Delhi or Nagpur. There would be no bar on any of the regional parties throwing up a leader capable of garnering sufficient votes among the federation’s MPs.
It is not clear if the BJP’s parliamentary leadership would be prepared to adopt this approach. In the event the possibility of several BJP chief ministers breaking away from the party to join the federation cannot be ruled out. Among the half dozen BJP chief ministers at least two, in Gujarat and Goa, have strained relations with the parliamentary leaders of the party. A third imminent claimant to be chief minister in Karnataka is equally disenchanted. If the central leadership of the BJP cannot reconcile itself to the new emerging realities it would have to keep out of the federation and possibly split the party.
Were that to happen it might be for the nation and for the UPA government a blessing in disguise. It could ignite a major political realignment that would stabilize the government up till 2014 and lead to a healthy two party system based upon rational polarization. In India the natural political divide is not between Left and Right as witnessed historically in the west. In our large multilingual, multi-ethnic continental nation the natural divide is between centrifugal and centripetal forces which both have equal relevance. It is the ebb and flow of events that determines whether the forces of centralized consolidation or decentralized democracy are more in demand at any given point of time.
If the BJP leadership in parliament were to shun the emerging federation even though a few of the party’s chief ministers were to join it, the bulk of the MPs could merge with the Congress. Such a move would call for statesmanlike vision by both Congress and BJP leaders. There is no serious division between the Congress and BJP regards foreign or economic policies. The combined strength of both parties in parliament would make the emergent government stable and impervious to pressure by its current regional allies. At the present critical time facing the nation the government could function more decisively till it completes its term in 2014.
In the interregnum the regional parties could evolve into a proper federal party to challenge the national parties combine in the scheduled general election of 2014. India would get a healthy two party system. This would be rationally the best way forward. Political parties are seldom rational. Their leaders are generally impelled by expediency and motivated by individual egos. Well, if the Congress and BJP leaders cannot rise to the occasion there is always the possibility of continued dithering at the centre leading to a mid-term poll.