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India gets a president, loses the opposition

When it all began what seems now an aeon ago, no one could have predicted that this would be how it might finally culminate — India’s election of a new president. All that was possible to say with reasonable certainty when the curtain began rising slowly two months ago was that it would be highly probable that this time around, the country would get a president who is ‘political’, as the communist veteran leader A.B. Bardhan wrote with rare insight. 

No doubt, navigating India through what is certain to be a tortuous phase of government formation after the 2014 general election — and perhaps even ruling India as an ‘executive’ president thereafter by exploring the enigma that is India’s constitution — needs a highly political mind with good experience to back up. The choices were fast narrowing. 
The thoughts naturally drifted toward Pranab Mukherjee, the Colossus of Indian politics. But the gnawing doubt was whether his party would “spare” him. In the event, it did with an elan that took the breath away. 
And in this hullabaloo, it was almost forgotten that India’s opposition too had a role to play. Again, the surmise was that Mukherjee, the shrewd veteran with a genius for networking and a throughly de-ideologised mind, would play havoc with party formations and end up commanding support from all and sundry. Here, too, we have gone wrong. Some parties — quite a few, in fact — are still holding out. 
Both the National Democratic Alliance (read Bharatiya Janata Party) and the Left parties (read Communist Party of India – Marxist) have had an agonizing time to decide what call they should take on Mukherjee. Both alliances have been torn apart and the self-inflicted wounds show. 
The BJP took the easy way out to be a quintessential opposition and support, if need be, even a lamp post but not the ruling party’s candidate. The CPM faced an existential dilemma, although logically, it wasn’t a difficult decision since for the past 2 decades the party has taken a consistently contrarian position of supporting the Congress party’s candidates for the president while opposing the Congress party as such. 
But this time around, other factors came into play — just the outside chance that the Congress-Trinamool axis might still disintegrate and the flood gates might open; an old association with Mukherjee but also the renewed animosities with the Congress in the party’s citadel in Kerala; and, a genuine difficulty to convince the Left ally Communist Party of India that there is no contradiction in supporting Mukherjee while opposing the government’s neo-liberal policies (which, of course, Mukherjee has been ably, diligently, robustly piloting as finance minister to the chagrin of the Left). The good thing about the CPM’s stand that it didn’t allow its mind to be cluttered by good old anti-Congressism”. 
As for the BJP, three cheers for its principled position that in a polity as polarised as India’s, it is rank hypocrisy to argue that the presidential post should not be contested. (In fact, a good case can be made for direct election of the president rather than by the political class.)   
But at the end of the day, both BJP and CPM have the moral ground. The only winner is the CPI. Its decision to abstain would have been the correct course for both BJP and CPM — and for Samajwadi Party, BSP, AIDMK, JD0U), et al. 
The BJP should know that opposing Mukherjee’s candidature simply for the sake of opposing doesn’t make sense. As for the CPM, it carries no conviction when it prevaricates that Mukherjee is the candidate with the “widest acceptance.” 
The plain truth is, Congress party tested the water and said, “It is Pranab da, take it or leave it” — and thereafter left it to the Central Bureau of Investigation to get the requisite “widest acceptance” of targeted regional satraps who are afraid of the night. (Which it got overnight.) A bouquet of red roses each for the CPI and the CBI.

Posted in Politics.

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  1. Angelo deSouza says

    I think it was the carrot rather than the stick that snared Mulayam. With Mayawati, it might have been the stick witheld if she complied. The BJP has proven once again that they are nothing but scum.

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