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A promising start - The Indian Express

The Editorial ()
March 19, 1998

Title: A promising start
Author: The Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: March 19, 1998

The national agenda released by the BJP and its allies provides a
rationale for the coalition government to be sworn in today. It
is proof that given the necessary political will, a coalition of
disparate parties is able to sink their differences on major
national issues and evolve a common programme. The credit must
mainly go to the Bharatiya Janata Party which has successfully
jettisoned all its divisive programmes like abrogation of Article
370, enactment of a uniform civil code and construction of a
agnificent temple at Ayodhya. This renunciation would not have
been possible but for the BJP's realisation that the electoral
verdict was not exactly in favour of its own agenda. The victory
is as much the BJP's as it is of its regional allies. In
conceding this point, the party has behaved in a highly
responsible manner even at the risk of antagonising the
hardliners in the party who would find it extremely difficult to
countenance any watering down of its Hindutva plank. Even on
many other issues like economic liberalisation, national security
and foreign policy, the party has shown remarkable resilience.
For instance, it is prepared to carry on the economic
liberalisation programme initiated by the Congress and pursued
vigorously by the United Front although it had laid considerable
stress on swadeshi in its own manifesto. In the fast-changing
world the BJP does not want India to remain an outcast as is
reflected in its willingness to welcome foreign capital to
subserve national economic interests. Needless to say, all this
bodes well for the 13-party coalition. In retrospect, it would
have been better if the BJP and its allies had contested the
elections on this kind of a common agenda.

In the give and take that facilitated the drafting of the agenda,
the BJP's allies have shown a measure of maturity, except perhaps
the AIADMK whose insistence on making Tamil an official language
of the nation necessitated a safety clause. In the end, if the
agenda appears to stand for a continuation of many of the
policies of the outgoing government, it redounds only to the
credit of the coalition. It may be pertinent to recall that even
in the 11th Lok Sabha, there was a consensus on many national
issues. After all, as the agenda itself mentions, the coalition
is keen to pursue the consensual, rather than the
confrontationist, method of solving national problems.

The tone and tenor of the agenda are such that it should not be
much of a problem for even the Opposition to extend support for
its implementation. It is true that the agenda is full of
platitudes but that could hardly be helped in a document of this
nature. The point is how sincere the BJP and its allies are to
its implementation. The failure of the Common Minimum Programme
of the United Front was not so much on account of its intrinsic
drawbacks as the lack of sincerity id its implementation. The
nation can rest assured that so long as the coalition government
sticks to the agenda, there will be no threat to political
stability. This is possible only if the constituents of the
coalition forget for a while their own petty programmes and work
for the implementation of the national agenda.

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