Permissive times in the nationís politics
by H.K. Dua

JUST nine days before the country is to go to the polls, political pundits, arm-chair analysts and even pollsters, who are well-equipped with statistical jugglery, are finding it difficult to predict the outcome of the parliamentary elections.

Only astrologersí business seems to be flourishing. They are peddling predictions by the day, unmindful of the possibility of their going wrong. Like the astrologers, most of whom are accredited to different political leaders, pollsters are a divided lot.

Why pollsters are finding it difficult to do their sums this time is mainly because of the politicians whose behaviour across the board has become more unpredictable than ever before.

These are uncertain times in Indian politics and it is worrying. The people across the country are asking the question who is going to govern this country of a billion people during the next five years.

No clear answer is coming from the political parties which are claiming the right to be in power. They themselves are uncertain about their fate, feeling insecure, and running from one party to another in search of convenient alliances.

With politiciansí conscience increasingly becoming more fickle, no political leader is believing another. Their stakes are high, proportionately so is the feeling of insecurity. Also, no one is sure of the word of another politician. Promises or sort of alliances being made now may not be of any relevance after the elections.

It is a free-for-all in politics ó of intrigue, bargains, promises made and broken, of breach of faith, of sting operations and much else. And despite the fact that India is a conservative society, a sort of promiscuous culture has come to prevail where values, policies, programmes, ideologies have been thrown to the winds and power-seekers are making themselves available for future trading.

Alliances made today are not being viewed as marriage vows valid after the poll results. There are unwritten divorce clauses.

After the results are out, what ultimately will matter is the elementary arithmetic where the politicians who can muster 272 MPs will form the government. It is not an easy figure to be reached given the muddled political landscape.

The Congress and the BJP, the two national parties, have stopped thinking of coming to power on their own.

They are no such recognisable entities as the UPA or the NDA either, seeking a mandate from the people. Lalu Prasad Yadav and Ram Vilas Paswan have walked out on the Congress without demur, but leaving promises for the Congress that after the polls they will return to the UPA and help it form a government. Naveen Patnaik has parted company with the BJP which committed the mistake of taking his sobriety for submissiveness.

The Third Front of Prakash Karatís dreams has not been seen yet. He may be more unsure than the Congress and the BJP about who will join the front after the elections. But his party is always hopeful of a crisis that could help it promote its own advancement, if not a revolution.

Sharad Pawar, who remains the most enigmatic figure in Indian politics, did not turn up at the Orissa meeting to share the platform with the CPM and Naveen Patnaik, but sent his best wishes on the telephone. Mayawati did not go to the Tumkur meeting where a Third Front was supposed to be launched; but she chose to host a dinner for the promoters at her residence in New Delhi. Ms J. Jayalalithaa did not turn up, nor did Nitish Kumar, for her dinner meant to convey that she is a serious candidate for Prime Minister.

Sharad Pawar, Mayawati, Jayalalithaa, possibly Nitish Kumar, are all keeping their options open for a post-poll situation which they could make use of conveniently. They are, perhaps, hoping for a deadlock in the new Lok Sabha, throwing up new opportunities.

On the other hand, both the Congress and the BJP are becoming desperate about adding to their numbers and are opening doors even to such elements as ought to have been shunned by the two national parties.

No one can approve of the Congress party reaching out to Pappu Yadav and accommodating his wife in the list of its candidates from Bihar. Rajnath Singh of the BJP praised even Varun Gandhi ó who brazenly violated the law by trying to spread communal hatred ó and inducted a tainted officer like Neera Yadav, who had been indicted by the Supreme Court, into the BJPís fold. For Mayawati, Mulayam Singh and Lalu Yadav to be corrupt and criminal is no disqualification.

Most political parties donít mind supping with the devil in case they can get more seats in the new House. Even if they have fewer criminals in their list than other parties, neither the Congress nor the BJP minds having alliances with those with a larger number of criminals who have muscle power in the constituencies.

When promiscuous culture comes to prevail in a society and more so in politics, values are given a go-by and the nation goes off-track and heads for a state of degradation from where it will take a long time to retrieve it.

The remedy lies not with the politicians, but clearly with the people. They should outrightly reject the candidates who are known to be corrupt or have a history of crime to adorn their CVs ó irrespective of which party has sponsored them. The fear of rejection by the people might deter those who are recruiting them for winning seats in Parliament at the cost of the nation.



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