Politics and International Affairs and the quest for the ulterior motive.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Renounciation or Desperation?
Sonia Gandhi staged her second act of renounciation by quitting as an MP and also as Chairperson of the NAC. The act while as she put it “was the right thing to do” and saw all her loyalists staged demonstrations akin to the scenes of May 2004. The Congress has hailed this as another proof of how sacrifice and selflessness has become the hallmark of Sonia Gandhi's brand of politics. Also, she has tried to checkmate her opponents into falling her footsteps and quit their posts. However, all such explanations and grand standing cannot defend the indefensible, the fact remains that she was forced to quit because of the manner in which the Government was trying to defend her by bringing in an ordinance through the backdoor. The whole issue of the office of profit was ironically started by a Congress politician who was pitted against Jaya Bachchan for the House of Elders. The move, which some say, was the idea of the cotorie around Gandhi to get back at the Bachchans seems to have backfired and with far reaching consequences. The Gandhis known not to forgive disloyality and opposing views wanted to get back at Bachchan and the SP in general but seem to have ended on the losing side themselves. The shoddy manner in which Parliament was adjourned was the hay that broke the camel's back and the ensuing drama that followed was for all to see.

The first act of renounciation did give Sonia the moral high ground in the politics of a country known for its power struggles and “kursi” politics. For a leader to reject a post that many spend years to achieve did make Sonia Gandhi the politician who was different. However, this time around the act of humble renounciation seemed put on and their was no denying the fact that the pressure was really on her to act. She has tried to gain political mileage out of such a decision keeping in mind the assembly elections barely a month away. If, as the Congress says, the proposed ordinance on office of profit was indeed to include all members who fall under the basis for disqualification, then what was the need for Gandhi to resign? She should have weathered the storm as the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, Somnath Chatterjee is doing. The very fact that she resigned proved that she was holding a position that is unlawful in the country and also tried to change the very rules that governed her disqualification. To term the resignation as an act of sacrifice is not only fancilful it is also meant to gain as much political support as possible to improve the Congress' chances at the Hustings.

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Politics of Yatras

The BJP’s ex-President LK Advani and current incumbent Rajnath Singh will undertake a series of rath yatras to all corners of the country. The reason: to protest against the “minorityism” policy of the UPA Government. The announcement came days after the bombings in Varanasi. The BJP has been trying to link the terror attack in Varanasi to the minority appeasement of the Congress and the Left. However, there is a fundamental flaw in the very idea behind that logic. It is highly regressive to link the two together. First, the BJP has always prided itself on being strong on internal security and terror. They did prove that while in power. However, one cannot deny that there were numerous terror strikes when the NDA was in power. Akshardham, Parliament attack and attacks in Kashmir were all carried out during the BJP led regime. Were the BJP following a policy of minority appeasement at the time? The BJP leadership would shudder at such a thought. The terror strikes have continued since the NDA demitted office and the UPA took over. It just goes to prove that terror follows no political events or public sensitivities. Their idea is to foment terror and raise communal tensions no matter who is in power. It was the imperative of the BJP to stand united with the UPA when the attacks took place. Sadly, their myopic vision and utter lack of internal coordination led to them linking virtually apples and oranges together as an excuse to go on another series of yatras.

I am sure there is also a sense of malaise that has set in the citizens towards these yatras. I do not see what political benefits they will gain out of it (it is likely that the yatras will not tour states going to Assembly polls later this year). Yet there was a time when the Rath Yatra of 1990 by LK Advani virtually changed the political landscape of the country. His hopes to emulate that feat will sure come to naught this time around. Not only have the political issues changed, the needs of country have also been altered. What the yatra will do is further take the party away from the mainstream and indulge in policies for which the return on investment it is seeking is highly unlikely. The BJP took to heart the defeat of the elections in 2004 and dumped their “India Shining” policy in the wake of the defeat. No matter what analysts and political pundits may say, during the NDA regime there were some significant steps taken to make India a rising power and though the idea of India shining everywhere was far from accomplished, steps were being taken for the same. The BJP should continue its earlier plank of a strong nation built on ideas of moderate nationalism along with economic prosperity of the “aam admi”. Sadly, today the party looks miles away (on a rath!) from achieving that goal.

Secondly, there is some truth in the fact that political parties like Congress, the Left and Samajwadi Party do try to woo Muslims and in fact at times have policies in place which could be labeled as minority appeasement. But in no way does that give a free hand to terrorists to go ahead and create havoc in the country. I firmly believe that no matter what political leaning a Government may have; they will not indulge in activities that have effects on India’s internal security. So to that extent the BJP’s insistence on minorityism and terror is as true as the link between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

It is high time that the BJP separate the two and follow the agenda, which is in its interest. Nationalism and national pride along with sound socio-economic development for all will garner more votes than going on long yatras which may never bear fruit.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Terror in the Temple

The holy city of Varanasi witnessed horrific acts of terror last night which shook not only the city but the entire nation. Holy sites in India have often been made soft targets for extremists and their ultimate goal of fuelling communal tensions have so far failed. A list of past attacks shows that most Hindu sites revered by the Hindus like Akshardham, Ayodhya, Varanasi and others have featured regularly on terror plots. Coupled with soft targets like markets and railway stations like in New Delhi, Mumbai and Varanasi show the coward and merciless nature of the menace. The Varanasi bombings also confirm that the nation's fight against terror has a long way to go before we start calling it a mission accomplished. But, there is also a sense of helplessness that one encounters along with the rage when we see the blood and gore of repeated incidents. When will get rid of terror? Is there an end in sight? I am afraid the answer is a definitive “No“. There are times when I drive and feel the bus next to me might blow up! Does that mean the terrorists are winning? No, but their threat is clear and present.

The other big political question this attack brings to light is that of the law and order situation in UP. Recent months have pointed to the state government encouraging communal tensions and giving a free hand to goons (read ministers) to carry out fatwas, religious tensions, riots and hate crimes. The Mau riots last year had Mukhtar Ansari, a supporter of Mulayam running amok. Recently, the Bush visit had stormy protests organised by various groups which turned violent and ultimately four people lost their lives. Then there was the case of the cabinet minister issuing a Fatwa against the Danish cartoonist and lastly the wife of an AICC member was shot in broad daylight barely metres away from the SSP's office in downtown Lucknow. It is high time that the Government takes view of the situation and either dismiss the Government in UP or take some cencrete steps. Their mere ploy of complaining of the law and order situation and still tacitly supporting the Governemt reeks of hypocrisy. The time is correct to make the state government accountable for a situation in a state where the rule of law seems to have all but disappeared. With criminals in the Government chances of some sanity in terms of the law are fanciful. At a time when the situation in UP has been compared with that Bihar and when the Varanasi attacks do hold the threat of an eruption in communal violence, the Government must act fast or else watch another carnage in the making.