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Coalition Politics

Three things happened almost simultaneously. Rahul Gandhi, General Secretary of the Congress Party made a public statement to the effect that he was prepared to take a more pro-active part  in the affairs of the party and the government.  Pranab Mukherjee contested the election of President of India. Almost simultaneously, one of the allies of the present government of the UPA-II, the NCP(Nationalist Congress Party), which is headed by Sharad Pawar,  raised the banner of revolt against the government.

The issues raised by the Sharad Pawar party were spurious. He has been comfortably enjoying the perks & powers of a minister and also had two more persons from his party in the cabinet and council of ministers. It was 8 years that he and his party have been part and parcel of the government, its policies, their execution etc.  But the NCP suddenly found that the government has no direction. They faulted it on policy, coordination,decision making,reforms etc. In a nutshell everything was wrong with the UPA-II government. But those were the allegations made by the opposition parties and the civil society. Sharad Pawar was blamed by name for the worst price rise of all food items, fruits & vegetables, milk and sugar, but he never bothered to even promise to do something to check the price rise, which he could and should have checked. But why would he bother because the blame was going to the account of the Congress Party, Sonia Gandhi and Man Mohan Singh.

What then made the NCP take such a prompt and strong action?  The two other developments. The vacuum created by the elevation of  Pranab Mukherjee as President and Rahul Gandhi becoming active. People know it that the Congress Party’s one point agenda is to install Rahul Gandhi as Prime Minister at the earliest, so that the party goes to the next parliament elections barely 20 months away with their hope of the national  leader. These developments changed all calculations and equations in the political arena. It affected not only the ambitious and assertive allies but also the Congress Party leaders, who would do everything possible to block the rise of Rahul Gandhi to the position of the Prime Minister of India. There can always be differences of opinion on the merits and demerits of Rahul becoming India’s Prime Minister, but the fact remains that very young persons became Chief Ministers in Kashmir and Uttar Pradesh. Even in the central council of ministers, there are several, who dwarf  easily in comparison to the young Rahul Gandhi. But politics is the name of treachery, cunning, machination, sucking and knavery. So one may not be surprised if the internal politics of the Congress Party itself staged the NCP show. Politicians have a different kind of relationship that ordinary people can never understand. Besides, it was found to be the best time to strike bargains on immediate basis as well as for the next election. The immediate gain is about the impending cabinet reshuffle, where ministers with poor report card were to be downsized. Even before the Congress party could think of doing any such thing or the Prime Minister putting his formal stamp of approval, the move was checked. Pawar is not only safe but will get more departments for himself and his other nominees. May be he gets something for his own daughter: if Congress can make Sonia Gandhi’s son as the Prime Minister, why can’t  Sharad Pawar make his own daughter a minister! Pawar has sealed the deal. He has taken the decision himself and made the Congress accept it. That is Pawar politics! There is another gain. The Congress had forgotten that it was running a coalition government and not a Congress government. Pawar has directly and indirectly encouraged other coalition partners to demand their pound of flesh of this UPA government and actively participate in decision making, policy formulation, appointments of governors and other authorities. He has opened up a whole new vista for himself: to lead a new coalition after the 2014 elections to the parliament. The general assessment is that the Congress is bound to lose badly in the election. Who knows it better than Sharad Pawar in Indian politics! If  that is his assessment, it may turn out to be correct. He would not have risked his political career by raising an untimely revolt against the Congress Party had he not been sure of his calculations.

In the next few months we are going to witness many political storms. The Rahul lobby will heighten the pitch for his elevation. In fact, the movement has already started today with 10 Congress M.Ps writing to the Congress President, who is none other than his mother Sonia Gandhi, to make Rahul the Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha. The Leader of the House is the Prime Minister, though the Congress had fiddled with the convention, only to run a government by proxy where the de jure Prime Minister is Man Mohan Singh but the de facto Prime Minister is Sonia Gandhi. As this gathers momentum, so will the renewed attempts at stalling Rahul’s march and the din of his camp followers. The changes will be very fast, especially if  Sonia fails to keep good health in the coming months.

The Sharad Pawar revolt has subsided as he attended office after a week. During the last week he and his other nominees didn’t attend office nor used official vehicles. The revolt was real. In the Presidential election, the Congress was able to tame another rebellious ally, the Trinmool Party and its leader Mamata banerjee, who is also the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Pawar could not be treated like that. He was shown due deference to save the coalition government at the centre as well as in Maharashtra. All the grouses have gone. Now the same government has no problems with coordination, direction, policy, reforms and decision from which it was suffering last week. This is the nature of politics. You get your share of the booty and everything is as fine as written in the constitution of the country. If you are deprived of the fruits of power, the litany of complaints can threaten even the strongest hearted leader. The patch up is bound to relieve the anxiety till another problem crops up in the ensuing monsoon session of the parliament.

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