Coalition casualties

U.S. President Barack Obama may have lost Congress majority in the US, but in India, during his three-day visit, he was a clear “winner”. The visit was a great success and will propel our bilateral relations to a new level on all fronts.

A record number of issues were covered during those three days and the foreign affairs ministries on both sides deserve a great deal of credit for a job well done. The good thing is that both Mr Obama and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh are well aware of the emerging power patterns in global affairs. As we meet the challenges of the future, our relations will be cemented further and move into a new dimension.
As the President headed for Indonesia, Dr Singh and Congress chairperson Sonia Gandhi almost immediately confronted the pending political issues. The nation was happy to see action finally being taken on both Congress leaders, Ashok Chavan and Suresh Kalmadi, who were removed from their posts. But clearly this is not the end of the issues associated with the Adarsh Cooperative Housing Society and the Commonwealth Games scams.
The issue of minister for telecom A. Raja and the 2G-spectrum scandal is a casualty of coalition politics. But the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) has few friends left and, I think, we may have a “surprise” verdict in the state Assembly elections.
The DMK has taken full advantage of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and the United Progressive Alliance 1 and 2 governments, but financial assets alone do not guarantee political longevity. Retribution always comes as nothing lasts forever. But I wonder whether this time it will come from the internal family wars within the DMK or in an election battle with the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
The Adarsh Housing scam came to the public’s attention because of the Kargil connect. There will be hundreds of cases where real estate assets have been parcelled away to those in government and others close to those in power. Besides politicians, there are others from the defence services, the judiciary and the administrative services, ,and even business houses and influential media barons, who have received similar benefits. We need drastic reforms in our entire system as the rot extends to every part of the structure and covers everyone in the system. The attention will naturally be focused first on the higher-ups in the three wings of the power structure. I don’t think we can achieve results by using force or coercion on a selective and partisan basis. The media and its 24x7 vigil have done well but they, along with everyone else, have their limitations. We need political reform cutting across all political interests. For a start, we must target fundraising procedures. Unless this changes and there is a great deal of transparency, we will achieve little in the fight against corruption.
Look at the present situation where an honest Prime Minister, Dr Singh, and a Cabinet with high integrity are being held hostage by a very small minority of their own party and allies. All this is related in one way or the other to fund collections for the party.
Maharashtra is the acid test, not just for the Congress, but for every political party in the state. As the new chief minister, Prithviraj Chavan will need a great deal of support from party president Sonia Gandhi and general secretary Rahul Gandhi to battle a system controlled by financial interests. The selection of ministers will be an indicator for the future.

Polling in Bihar is over and the results will come within the month. I sincerely hope that the incumbent chief minister, Nitish Kumar, wins the Assembly election with a clear majority. The efforts of Mr Gandhi and other Congress leaders, I am sure, increased the party’s vote share and this can result in extra seats and help them emerge as the major Opposition, over the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD)/ Lok Janshakti Party (LJP). This will be good for Bihar.
I wonder if in Tamil Nadu, as in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the Congress will go alone. This would be a welcome decision as in a three-way battle no one will get a majority and alliances can follow after the results are declared.
As things stand, we will witness a historic electoral battle between Bahujan Samaj Party’s Mayawati and the Congress.
Mr Gandhi, in his quiet manner, has not wavered in his objective of reviving the party in these two states and has yet kept away from the power game. Uttar Pradesh and Bihar contribute 120 seats to the Lok Sabha. We could have a miracle of sorts as the Congress could well win 40-50 seats out of the 120 in the next general elections in 2014.
It can be very difficult to predict a trend in these situations and perhaps the Assembly election results in Bihar now, and in Uttar Pradesh next year, will indicate a trend for the future. And if to Uttar Pradesh and Bihar we add Tamil Nadu (39 seats), West Bengal (42 seats), Kerala (20 seats), all due for Assembly elections in 2011, as well as Maharashtra (48 seats), which is undergoing a leadership change, then we are looking at 270 seats out of 542 seats in the Lok Sabha. The results of these elections in 2011, along with events in Maharashtra, may well determine the pattern of government in 2014.
Leadership is crucial and political leadership must keep pace with other development. Has our political system and all the three wings of governance kept pace with the rapid strides we have made in other disciplines, including industry, science and arts? We have the talent and must allow it to surface and move into positions of authority.

Arun Nehru is a former Union minister

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