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Desperation is showing

Desperation is showing

Author: Editorial
Publication: Free Press Journal
Date: April 24, 2009

When things get tough, they say, the tough getgoing. But, it would seem, that most Indianpoliticians under similar circumstances, showsigns of crumbling. When they jump into the political arena, it is expected, that they would be brave enough to gamely take a blow or two on their chins. Instead, most politicians, finding themselves under attack, begin to hit belowthe belt. A recent example was the scripted response of the Prime Minister to the charge of L K Advani, the leader of the opposition, that he was a weak prime minister subservient to the Congress boss, Sonia Gandhi. Now, anyone who has even cursorily watched the unusual power arrangement in New Delhi these past five years would find it strange that Manmohan Singh, at all, sought to counter the charge.. Silence is a better response than a weak and ineffective counter. But what surprised one the most was Singh's uncharacteristically harsh words. Instead of directly refuting the charge of his being weak, he launched a vituperative attack against the opposition leader. That he did that on cue from the Congress bosses, which saw both Sonia and Rahul Gandhi too attackng Advani in concert, only proved the `weak PM'charge further. Despite Singh's angry response, the `weak PM' charge remains valid as before. But Singh wasn't alone in seeking to deflect valid criticism, criticism he has been obliged to put up with virtually from the day he was nominated to the PM's post, and emanating from widely diverse quarters. Now, the RJD leader Lalu Prasad Yadav on the stump has taken to saying things which have left the Congress leadership embarrassed. He too is crumbling under pressure. Finding the ground slipping from under his feet in Bihar, Yadav first attacked the Congress, holding it responsible for the demolition of the disputed structure in Ayodhya.

For nearly five years, it was Advani and the Sangh parivar alone which had caused that destruction as far as the Railway Minister was concerned. How he had come to rewrite the Ayodhya script overnight could only be explained by his belated realization that the Muslims in Bihar were deserting him in large numbers, either for the ruling Janata Dal(U) or the Congress Party. Hence the charge that the Congress caused the demolition of the historic structure.

A few days later, he did one better. This time he reneged on his earlier assurance that after the polls, Singh alone would be the UPAs prime ministerial candidate. While parting company with the Congress to team up with Mualayam Singh and Ram Vilas Paswan, Laluhad endorsed Singh for PM's post. No longer, though. He now said that the question of prime minister was wide open and would be decided by him and others in the so-called fourth front after wider consultations. This was a further blow to the UPA which had shrunk badly since the start of the poll process. The Congress response came from senior leader, Pranab Mukherjee, who pooh-poohed Yadav's remarks, while wondering if the latter himself would find a place in the next government. The war of words between the Congress and its most loyal ally hitherto had made the UPA a laughing stock. It was clear that Laluwas fighting for his political survival and was prepared to undermine the Congress if that helped him stay afloat. As for the Congress, it too was in such dire straits that it had to pocket insults daily from its allies. Thus, the fiction that Mukherjee had been misquoted and misunderstood since his Hindi was weak -tell that to the birds, please. Indeed, the only clear message from the growing disarray in the UPA is that it no longer holds water. After the polls, new equations would be dictated by the numbers in the new Lok Sabha. The UPA is virtually dead. If the Congress fails to emerge as the largest party with 150odd seats, its present and former allies would seek to bend it to its will, if for nothing else than to keep the BJPled grouping away from power. In that case, there can be little or no question of Singh continuing as prime minister. A dark horse, say, a Sharad Pawar, could
cobble together a better alliance than the Sonia-Singh combine.

In the prevailing free-for-all, all bets are off. Lalu's desperation, Manmohan's uncharacteristically vituperative response to Advani, reveal that not every politician while in the political kitchen can stand the heat. Which is such a pity, for debates and discussions, always in civil terms, are an integral part of a healthy democracy.

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