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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2677

Advani – Manmohan Debate…?

By J.N. Raina - Syndicate Features

Battle lines are drawn. The country has got enwrapped in a fierce but fiendish debate, as to who is 'fit' to be the next Prime Minister, who can lead this nation of one billion people.

There are a dozen aspirants who 'desire' to become the next Prime Minister though very few of them ‘deserve’ to acquire that post. It is disquieting. India’s polity has changed since coalition governments came into existence. Politics has taken a new hue, with wider caste-based dimensions. Various leaders are running at cross-purposes. Irrespective of their party affiliation, they have become garrulous. Rather than showing reticence, they just squawk. Now it is a guessing game whether a 'queen', a 'king' or a 'clown' will reach the 'summit' and wear the 'crown'.

Noted comedian Jaspal Singh Bhatti has also 'emerged' jocularly as one of the probable candidates. He has forced a 'horse-laugh' on the nation and reportedly remarked that he 'is aiming for the Prime Minister’s post' and has decided to'. This indicates how a serious issue has become non serious.

The leaders are perhaps feigning ignorance about the ideal procedure that ought to be adopted in our system of parliamentary democracy, for selecting a Prime Ministerial candidate. Till the coalition system of governance came into being, the criterion of selecting a Prime Minister was simple and cogent. The candidate was considered to be above board and accommodative.

Generally, a senior elected member of a party, wielding majority support, would eventually become the Prime Minister. No fuss. Of course, there was lobbying ahead of the election, leading to the best selection. Everything was hassle free.

Certain conventions and norms have to be followed to select a leader, who has to be acceptable to a majority of the members. But caste-based politics have changed the rules of the game. The 'selection' and ‘election’ have become biased and unpleasant. If a party leader manages to obtain just 40 0r 50 seats, the chances of becoming a Prime Minister are rife for him. Earlier it was not so. Babu Jagjivan Ram, who had dominated India’s political scene for over five decades, was denied the chance of becoming the first Dalit Prime Minister, when N Sanjiva Reddy was the President, although Ram had the support of some 200 MPs from his own Congress party.

Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister and BSP supremo Mayawati and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Sharad Pawar have openly projected themselves as the country’s next Prime Minister. Besides, there is an array of other probable candidates, including Nehru-Gandhian scion Rahul Gandhi. Others in the fray are Janata Dal (Secular) leader and former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad Yadav, Ramvilas Paswan, Jayalalithaa et al.

BJP anointed L K Advani as its Prime Ministerial candidate quite early in the day, long before poll schedules were ready. Yet former Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekawat did not hesitate to scuttle his claim. He created a lot of ruckus in the BJP’s camp, which was uncalled for. To add insult to the fury, Shiv Sena has said its PM choice will be Marathi Manos if Pawar enters the fray. Such kind of politics is not going towards ‘the making of a nation’ as Nehru had envisaged.

Mayawati told the leaders of the so-called third front bluntly that she would join them only if the Prime Minister’s post was guaranteed to her, because she is a Dalit. She had even set a 48-hour deadline to the front. Obviously, her demand was rejected because there are other aspirants with in the front a piqued Mayawati announced to contest all the 543 Lok Sabha seats. As a shrewd politician, she has carried forward her social engineering for voting across the country. Some critics accuse her of deepening caste fault-lines for short-term gains. The jury is still out. Brahmin community, which once held sway over power politics, is not complaining, though. They are happy with the 'Dalit ki beti' and her promise of reservations for the economically deprived and weak among the forward castes. So, what is wrong if a Muslim cleric issues a 'fatwa', asking his community to vote for Muslims only?

Sharad Pawar calls Shiv Sena a fascist organization but he will not mind if the very same fascists support him in realising his dream of becoming Prime Minister. Shiv Sena is playing a double-edged game. As an ally of the BJP, it is morally bound to support L K Advani. What the SS is doing is against the norms of good politics.

Congress has decided not to back Sharad Pawar ‘under any circumstance’, though he is their ally in Mumbai and Delhi. A senior Congress leader said: "Our party would sit in the opposition rather than support Pawar".

In a coalition scenario, Prime Ministerial candidate is either announced much before the election process begins or after the polls, but never in the midst of electioneering. It amounts to blackmail. Principally, the coalition partners should not be infatuated with selfishness. If the job to govern is entrusted to a leader of another party, which has the highest number of seats, it would have a salutary effect on the smooth running of democracy and thus strengthen the coalition system. Greed has to be abnegated.

A word about Prakash Karat’s tryst with the Third Front. His mentor Harkishan Singh Surjeet had inflicted on the country, two such fronts – the National Front led by VP Singh and the United Front that gave two prime ministers, both cartoonists delight. The Janata experiment, which came to office amidst much fanfare, and the Congress backed governments of Charan Singh and Chandrasekhar had a short shelf-life.

It is the hypocrisy of the Congress party that they have not projected any candidate for the Prime Ministerial post till the other day, saying there is no need for that. ‘The prime ministerial candidate is already there in Dr Manmohan Singh’, used to be their refrain. Now Sonia Gandhi has come up front projecting Singh as the Congress choice for the top job if returned to power.

There is no gainsaying that Rahul Gandhi is the party’s only front –ranking candidate and the party’s future PM. So, instead of taunting Singh or Sonia for a debate, Advani will do well to invite Rahul for a US presidential election style televised debate. That will be a real fight. And absorbing fare too.

- Asian Tribune -

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