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The dangers of divide and rule

The dangers of divide and rule

Author: Meghnad Desai
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: November 1, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/the-dangers-of-divide-and-rule/535780/0

There is a famous observation by Sherlock Holmes in one of his cases about the dog that did not bark. That was the clue to the criminal's identity. I cannot resist a similar unease about the attack on the Rajdhani Express, which did not injure any passenger. Here is a classic case of the politics of a particular province being leveraged into condoning a national disgrace. We shudder when Raj Thackeray pursues his Marathi manoos obsession in acts that are subversive of the Constitution. Of course, he has not been really brought to book because as we saw in the latest Maharashtra elections, he is quite useful for the Congress to keep the BJP and the Shiv Sena at bay. Divide and Rule is always an effective strategy. Sometimes, of course, it blows up in your face, as Indira Gandhi found with Sant Bhindranwale. She promoted him to harass the Akali Dal and then could not control him.

Mamata Banerjee was similarly elevated by the Congress during the Singur agitation. It did not matter that the ejection of Tata industries was bad for India's image as a good place to do business in. What counted was to get the CPM government down. It paid rich dividends in May 2009. Intoxicated by this success, the Trinamool Congress and its leader have decided they need to displace the CPM government by causing chaos and having President's Rule imposed.

This is not unusual in the context of Indian politics where local parties like Trinamool or Samajwadi Party or the MNS show impatience for the grubby fruits of power. But if such a desire is pursued at the expense of national security, then one needs to take heed. Naxalites are not just local trouble but a serious menace to national security. The bhadralok radicals of Kolkata are disappointed that the CPM no longer feeds their teenage fantasies about the Red Revolution. So they cuddle up to the Naxalites. They don't ever suffer from the violence that they glorify. It is their darling 'proletariat'-the poor working class people who pay with their lives and livelihoods.

The Trinamool has obviously decided that it will harness the Naxalites to its programme of spreading chaos so that the CPM government can be brought down. Thus, they manage to deploy the one ministry they control and a train is requisitioned to stage a 'non-violent' capture with slogans daubed in Bengali. It was obviously a public relations stunt for the Naxalites after the gruesome murder of one policeman and a kidnap of another.

If there is even a 25 per cent validity to my suspicions, it should be enough to ring alarm bells. It is one thing to punish Ratan Tata for sleeping with the CPM enemy but quite another to condone a murderous guerrilla army to facilitate a sordid coup. It is time the Congress stopped playing this game with the Trinamool. It is the only national party left and if it does not put the interests of the nation before a likely victory in West Bengal elections, it will rue the day.

The Congress has enough strength in the Lok Sabha to throw the Trinamool out of the UPA. As it is, Mamata Banerjee only attends Cabinet when it suits her and spends most of her time in Kolkata. Fair enough. She can be a Bengali politician but the Congress cannot just go along with her. It is all right for Sharad Pawar to neglect agriculture and play cricket. But this is about lives.

The Congress needs to conduct the war against the Naxalites on a national basis. It may be constitutionally correct that this is a state question and so each state involved in this battle can do its own thing, but the time has come for the Union to take over. The Home Ministry has to take control and coordinate the forces across the states where the guerrilla war is being fought.

Divide and Rule is dangerous. Forget West Bengal elections. The lessons of Khalistan should be deeply etched in the memory of the Prime Minister and the president of the Congress.


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