Next summers, India will see a New Government at the Centre. It will either chose a monolithic single party Government and reelect an idea that destroys its civilizational values and Constitution or it will elect a motley group of regional parties led by a National party with conflicting ideologies and aspirations that may not be able to provide a masochistic, authoritarian and theocratic leadership but will definitely provide a way out of the conundrum that India is being pushed into. It is a difficult choice for the voter.
The first time voter which is mesmerized and easily won over by the use of ‘soft power’, aggressive propaganda, emotive ideas and tall promises hasn’t really witnessed past coalition Governments in India, and will have an inherent tendency to go for a ‘Single Party rule’. On the other hand, mature voters who understand what ‘Freedom’ in its true sense means for a country like India may opt for the ‘coalition’.
Personally, I am all for a strong single National party leadership at the Centre, but in the present circumstances, that option is closed for liberals like me because, I do not want my country to disintegrate through bigotry, hatred and narrow mindedness. A lesser known fact that we tend to forget is that coalition Governments have delivered in the past. We tend to forget that the coalition Government under Dr Manmohan Singh lifted 14 crore people out of poverty and provided the best growth rate ever possible in modern India. We also tend to forget that, it was a minority Government of P V Narasimha Rao that banished the past practices of ‘License Raj’ and undertook the biggest economic reforms that India witnessed in the past century. Yes, some coalition Governments have failed too, but those were the 70’s.
Those political commentators who create this false equivalence between Indira Gandhi and present day Narendra Modi are living in a fool’s paradise. The Indira Gandhi Government was 11 years old, when due to a variety of socio-political movements the most flawed coalition of India – Janata Party led by Morarji Desai was installed and it crumbled with its own contradictions. On the contrary, Narendra Modi is only a 4 year Prime Minister. His series of self-goals like Demonetisation and Flawed GST, along with widespread mal-governance, cronyism, covered with a sugary outer shell of thousands of crores of propaganda cannot be compared to sound economic and historic measures of Indira Gandhi like the Nationalization of Banks, Ending Privy Purses or the 1971 War.
The object of this piece was not to make any comparisons between the two, but this has to be strongly underlined and stated. They are simply incomparable.
During the Plenary Session of the Indian National Congress, its political resolution mentions a very important dimension that might change the face of Indian politics in 2019.
“Congress will adopt a pragmatic approach for co-operation with all like-minded Parties and evolve a common workable program to defeat the BJP-RSS in the 2019 elections”
The Karnataka elections happened just after the Congress’ 84th Plenary Session. And the Congress did show a great ‘pragmatic approach’ and immense flexibility to work with ‘like-minded’ JD(S).
The recent bye-poll results are a copy book illustration of the ‘pragmatic approach’ adopted by the Congress party under the leadership of Rahul Gandhi. Wherever the Congress needed to step back and provide a larger role to the regional ‘like-minded’ parties- it conveniently did. Wherever the Congress thought, it should pitch in- it surely did! Politics is all about pragmatism and no better than the Congress party knows this.
In the same Plenary Session, Congress President Rahul Gandhi, elaborated about the relationship between the People of India and the Congress party. He said-
“India expects much more from the Congress because it holds us, the Congress party on higher standard than any other organisation…”
Yes, the Congress party is extremely mindful of the fact that people of India will not let our Constitution be sacrificed at the mercy of the RSS-BJP. If the Congress does not use each and every tool left to its disposal to save the ideas, ideals and institutions that our forefathers so painstakingly built and nurtured, it will be failing in its Constitutional duty. Congress will fail the people of India, if it does not give an equal fight to the divisive forces of RSS-BJP. It will fail India, if it does not bring in the ‘like -minded’ regional parties on board to ensure that the coalition provides maximum damage to the theocracy of the BJP. It will fail if it does not provide an alternative agenda of Governance and Development which is Liberal, Progressive and Inclusive. It will fail if lets India plunge into the darkness of economic mismanagement. It will fail India if it does not protect its Farmers from distress, its Weaker Sections from persecution and it’s Working Class from exploitation.
Kairana can be a template- but it is mainly an electoral template. Panning Narendra Modi cannot be idea. Congress cannot be accused of “Modi Vs All” and ‘Anti-Modi- plank’ alone cannot be an idea that should attract the voters. There has to be a positive idea.
Congress is the only force which can also provide an ideological template- A definitive narrative.
Flashback 2004: The UPA and the Left Parties had a ‘Common Minimum Programme’ which was almost entirely implemented from 2004-09. Congress needs to provide a common ideological template to this coalition. The coalition should have something to ‘propagate’. Leaders don’t win elections—the battle of ideas is what matters
So what are the broad ideas which the coalition can find a common ground on and built its campaign around?
Let me attempt some broad ones-
1. Preserving social harmony and fighting fundamentalism of all hues and shades
2. Economic growth - creating jobs- realistic, doable, workable ideas for job creation.
3. Implementation of the Swaminathan Committee for Farmers in letter and in spirit so that they get their fare prices and farm distress is alleviated.
4. Education and Healthcare policy reforms- it’s a fairly non-controversial, non-debatable subject and can easily be implemented. The BJP in the past 4 years, has failed our Education system.
5. Women Empowerment- political, economic, social & legal. Tangible solutions to enhance gender equality.
6. Protecting Institutions
7. Providing space to regional aspirations within the Indian Union. More say of states in economic policy making.
8. Judicial Reforms – reducing the pendency of the cases.
9. Welfare of the Weaker Sections- SC, ST, OBC and Minorities
o Relaunching the Sub Plans that the BJP abolished.
o Strengthening the SC-SC Act
o Enhancing scholarships and welfare measures.
10. Fast tracking Modernisation of Our Defence Forces- the BJP has totally neglected our External and Internal Security.
11. Transparency- RTI to be strengthened, Lokpal, Whistleblowers Bill.
12. Protecting Our Environment. Saving our rivers, coastal areas, wildlife, air and forests.
These are the 12 suggestive broad ideas that should be the Magna Carta of the coalition. There can be several more additions, but this can be a start. These are all non-controversial ideas and there cannot be any point of contention amongst the regional parties on these 12 ideas.
Now it is the Congress and the coalition to decide.