There seems to be developing a crisis within the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The BJP and JD(U) are threatening to split on the issue of selecting the next Prime Ministerial candidate. The race for occupying the PM’s post after the next general election is in full swing. One wonders why. There are a few aspirants openly in the fray. Others are lurking in the shadows.
What motivates all these aspirants?
The trouble arises from politicians failing to understand power.
Elections are almost a full year away. No party has the numbers to form the government. The results are unpredictable. Yet chickens are being counted before eggs are hatched. Anyone having the faintest acquaintance with India’s current situation would consider the task of pulling the nation out of its present crisis so daunting as to think twice before aspiring for the post. Provided of course the aspirant is concerned with the exercise of real power to change the situation and not merely with acquiring a celebrity status and the accompanying perks and patronage of office that are confused with power.
Consider India’s present situation.
The economy has sunk to its lowest rate of growth in years. Inflation has sent prices rocket high. Our manufacturing sector is languishing badly and unemployment is rising. Never has crime been so rampant. Corruption is becoming more widespread and brazen by the day. Governance has collapsed. All norms that determine relations between the centre and the states seem to have vanished. Terrorism continues unabated in the nation. Separatist insurgencies remain unresolved. The Kashmir crisis continues to destabilize. The relations with China and Pakistan continue to remain uncertain and fraught with danger. India’s rating internationally continues to plummet. The nation which stood poised for a global role a few years ago is being perceived rapidly sinking to the level of a banana republic. On any objective standard this is a fair evaluation.
So, one would like to ask all the aspirants for the Prime Minister’s post. Tell the nation what you would like the government to do in order to address these problems. Do not tell us what you do not want. Every politician in India is very vocal about that. Tell us what you do want. Tell us in precise terms what is your solution for Kashmir. Tell us your solution to deal with Pakistan. Tell us your solution to contain China. Tell us your solution to curb corruption. Tell us your solution to restore law and order in the state. Tell us your solution to address the complaints of state governments. Tell us your proposals for systemic reform…
One suspects that the aspirants will have nothing to say on most of these topics. Or at best they would mouth inane platitudes instead of stating specific solutions. The truth is that politicians do not know what they want to do. They only want to occupy high office. And this, when India is poised at a most critical period which can permanently make or mar its future.
The trouble arises from politicians failing to understand power. The Prime Minister’s office offers prospect of power. But so do other posts. At different times of history power has been exercised not by the PM but by incumbents of other posts. Kamaraj as Congress President exercised decisive power. Today the PM is not most powerful. Maximum power is being exercised by the occupant of the constitutional post of Chairperson, National Advisory Council (NAC). Do any of our ambitious aspirants for power ever consider who will occupy this constitutional post after the next general election and how it could be utilized to influence policy? Party presidents, coalition chairpersons, prime ministers and NAC chairperson can all exercise power if they have anything to contribute. The President of India can exercise most power if the incumbent has any regard for the Constitution. The maximum power in recent Indian history was exercised of course by someone who shunned all posts. He was Mahatma Gandhi.
When there is war all political rivals unite to protect the nation. What our politicians need to ponder is whether the silent multi-faceted crisis overtaking India is any less grim than the threat of war. Should not political rivals therefore unite to confront the challenge and preserve the nation? The lead obviously should come from the Congress and BJP. The leaders of these parties should invite all their counterparts from other parties to discuss and formulate a precise vision document that would put the nation back on the rails within five years through appropriate systemic reforms. Following that an agreed agenda should be drawn up to implement the reforms. And finally the norms of running a national government that co-opts all consenting parties should be devised before actually forming a national government that would within one term pull India out of the hole it has dug itself into. Only after that might the nation revert to normal multi-party electoral politics.
Are Mrs. Sonia Gandhi, Dr. Manmohan Singh, Mr. Advani and Mr. Rajnath Singh listening?
This idea may appear wild and utopian today. If the present political decline through drift continues, how will it appear one year later? It is time to forget the divisions of the past and project a vision of the future. When faced with a national crisis our leaders might falter, the public has always given a magnificent response. The Sino-Indian conflict of 1962 and the Emergency proved that. Let politicians sincerely lead. The whole nation will follow.