Thursday, June 14, 2012

Teach Mamata a lesson….

Mamata Banerjee should be accused of treason. She was like a mole for the opposition within the UPA. All along her opposition to her own alliance was condoned and tolerated under the pretext that she was Mamata after all – a maverick. In reality, she proved to be nothing but her usual destructive force so driven by her own revolutionary instincts that she didn’t know how to distinguish between friends and foes. Her conduct intentionally or unintentionally gave the BJP a good stick to wield and beat the UPA up with; their constant taunt to the Congress being that “your own coalition partners are not with you”. What kind of a coalition partner would behave like this? Earlier she’d joined the BJP alliance twice and ditched the party twice. Now she was doing the same to the Congress. That’s why I think it’s time Mamata is taught a lesson.

Obviously, this is easier said than done. The fact that Mamata has over-reached herself has been obvious for long. She consistently opposed every single move of the UPA. At first, she used to oppose anything that had even the hint of FDI. She was one of the early opponents of FDI in multi-brand retail. In fact, it is largely because she, as part of the ruling alliance, opposed it that the opposition found the motivation to get together. Had she stuck to the UPA’s decision, the policy could have been rolled out. Because it couldn’t be, a billion Indian consumers were denied the benefits of the policy. But of late, she was opposing almost everything the Congress proposed. She created the bogey of threat to the federal structure when she first opposed the creation of the Lok Ayukta under the Lok Pal Act (Anna…..are you listening?) and then the formation of the NCTC (a body created under an act that had already been passed a few years back). Mamata chose subjects on which she could become the rallying point. She was sure of the BJP’s support on most such things. The BJP itself was keen merely on embarrassing the UPA government; they were happy to even their own beliefs a back seat. Mamata, working with the BJP, became the single biggest stumbling block for the UPA. The sense of policy paralysis that has gripped the country can be attributed directly to Mamata. As if this was not enough, Mamata was becoming more audacious by the day. She saw herself as the final decision maker within the UPA, the ultimate boss. She even opposed Kapil Sibal’s plans on the common entrance test for engineering studies. Did she even understand the matter? There is no doubt that it was she who was provoking the Congress. It wasn’t the Congress that was not consulting her enough; it was she who was playing truant.

Mamata said yesterday that she wouldn’t tolerate anyone’s threats. But was she was being threatened by someone or was she threatening her coalition? When she wanted the financial package for Bengal, it was a “demand”, not a friendly chat. A party with 19 MPs was constantly threatening a party with 206 MPs. How long could this be tolerated after all? Her threats prompted me to write my post yesterday on the modern day “cash for votes” scam that she was re-enacting.

In a fractured Lok Sabha, smaller parties are bound to get more than their commensurate share of power. But that said, there are finite limits to which the political rubber band can be pulled. At a certain point in time, it has to snap. In snapping, everyone may get hurt, but it’s a natural phenomenon that it will snap. Sometimes the snapping of the rubber band actually helps to bring everyone back together. Maybe that will happen here too….maybe Mamata will be back in the UPA as a mellower person.

I think there is a reason why Mamata is in so much of a rush to have a mid-term elections now, rather than even six months later. Her credibility in Bengal is in tatters; most people are hardly appreciative of the “paribartan” that they have seen. She’s been on the wrong side of public opinion on several occasions – like in the rape cases or in the storming of the police station when two of her party hoodlums were arrested. She’s done nothing to build a better investment climate in Bengal. You think industrialists who observed her handling of Dinesh Trivedi as the Railways Minister would be inspired to invest in Bengal? With the passage of time, the Left must surely have started to gather itself, although there is no direct evidence of that. It may take a little longer, but it’s obvious the Left will resuscitate itself faster than it would have had it been anybody else in power. Mamata is herself not sure of her position after six months; hence she wants to force elections now.

But where does Mamata’s exit leave the UPA? While some feel that mid-term elections are bound to happen at the earliest, my own view is that this may not be the case. I think the BJP wants to avoid elections as much as the Congress wants to. Both parties will conspire to protect their own backsides. The BJP has a lot on its plate to sort out first. Its internal bickering is getting messy; its allies like the JD (U) are starting to assert themselves. Is this the right time to go in for elections, or would that right time be a year later? If the recent elections in UP, Punjab and Uttarakhand are anything to go by, the BJP must be a shaken party, no matter what their bravado. It would ideally like a handsome win in Gujarat first before it starts the campaign for the central government. Something miraculous is bound to happen behind the scenes. Something tells me the BJP will lean on its allies to douse the fires of a mid-term election.

But at best, this will give only a little relief to the UPA. We are going to be in for a long period of political unrest. In all likelihood, the next elections will spring up an even more divided Parliament. Both the centrist parties – the Congress and the BJP – are likely to yield even more ground to the regional parties. A period similar to the 1989-91 era when VP Singh and Chandra Shekhar became PMs one after another in an unstable political scenario is likely to emerge. In the meantime, the country is likely to come to a complete stop. Sad….really sad.

The real truth is that Mamata needs to be taught a lesson. It’s good to be a political opportunist within limits, but when it exceeds those limits; it’s time for the person to be cut to size. Both the BJP and the Congress have to realize this truth….

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