Parties must beware the curse of excesses

Independence Day is very special for all of us. As the Tricolour is unfurled from the ramparts of the Red Fort, it is time for all of us to reflect and pay homage to the past, accept the challenges of the present and plan for the future.

Change is evident in global society where political and economic power is getting more balanced between the West and the East. But this transition is not always smooth as many nations, like individuals, live in denial of reality. It is a very strange situation where the developing economies initiate reforms and adopt an open market mind-set whilst developed nations resort to restrictions to protect their interests. But the fact is that global power balance shifts have already taken place. This is evident in the progress of the Bric (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.
I think in the future we will hear more about India and its people as we have a strong and youthful demographic to propel us. But responsibility will demand a great deal of maturity and restraint and in all this what is necessary is strong faith in everything that is Indian.
We have achieved a great deal on the economic front and nine to 10 per cent economic growth is very much on the horizon. But to achieve this we must always keep the “big picture” of inclusive growth in mind and motivate our thoughts in a positive direction.
In politics, we will have to meet challenges as we can’t afford an excess of political “accidents” because of poor political management and leadership. Such “accidents” get reflected in the fortunes of political parties in a coalition structure. In deft handling of these challenges lies the key to success.
The Congress continues to dominate the coalition system and, in my opinion, is moving towards a stable majority, though this is likely to happen in stages. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi form a stable team and the Cabinet has many able and competent ministers. Congress general secretary Rahul Gandhi is trying to rebuild the party while trying to bring in a merit-based system. The success of the United Progressive Alliance has been the fact that emerging power bases have co-existed with few conflicts.
The situation in the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) camp, however, is in contrast. The retirement of Atal Behari Vajpayee from active politics created a void which is proving difficult to fill. His absence and a hardline approach have alienated the “allies” and the BJP, in a coalition structure, has no partners. Despite having star performers both at the national and state level, the BJP has a very limited future. The situation is no different for the Left which lost direction after the sad demise of comrade Jyoti Basu and comrade Harkishan Singh Surjeet. The Left will continue to shrink.
Regional forces under charismatic leaders will continue to pose a challenge to the Congress and in many cases they might win and form alliances too. But my assessment is that after more than three decades of coalition era, we are heading towards a majority government. The only thing that can stop this flow is a show of “excessive” force by the Congress through non-political organisations — the Intelligence Bureau, the Central Bureau of Investigation, the Enforcement Directorate — in dealing with the Opposition. These is no substitute for good political management.
We have several issues to deal with, including issues that pose a threat to our security. With unstable situations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan we can expect a great deal of terrorist activity in the Kashmir Valley. I think the Army, security forces and the state government have done well in this area and our responses are getting better by the day.
The current situation in the Valley is an issue of political management and should not be confused with other issues. The enthusiastic voter turnout in J&K last year has to be matched by political understanding and performance. Chief minister Omar Abdullah has much to do in the immediate future.
The Maoist issue has been simmering and a barrage of comments about Mamata Banerjee and her rally in Lalgarh have only added fuel to the fire. I think it is time for the government to discuss the issue with greater transparency. Ms Banerjee referred to the “murder” of Maoist leader Cherukuri Rajkumar, alias Azad, who died in an encounter. There were reports that he was in “talks” with Swami Agnivesh who was asked by home minister P. Chidambaram to initiate dialogue. Did something go wrong?
It is no secret that when you need peace you have to also prepare for war. We all know that the security forces must do what is necessary but we also know that a long-term solution cannot be achieved by the gun alone. Clearly there was a communication gap in the whole process and this is very unfortunate. But the Centre must consider now if Ms Banerjee can become a medium to deliver peace on acceptable terms for the future.
The reality of West Bengal is that the Communist Party of India (Marxist) governs West Bengal but Ms Banerjee rules the hearts of the people and is the real authority. I think we have to also realise that with the technology available today there are few things that can be kept hidden.

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