By Seema Mustafa
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in her usual confused state, has decided this time to support the sulking Prime Minister regardless of the fact the Congress will be left without the government and without the deal. She could have taken the decision a year ago, when the Bush administration was in a position to push the deal through the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the US Congress, and the inflation figures had not entered the double digit mark. But at that time she, in her wisdom, thought it was best to wait and persuaded Dr Manmohan Singh to agree to the decision and wait for a more opportune moment. That moment, according to her calculations has come now, at a time when Bush has
little to no authority, and when a general election can prove very expensive for the Congress party here.
Prices are spiraling out of control. Inflation has hit a record high. The Maoists are spreading their influence in the districts of India. Kashmir is burning, with the PDP pulling out of the government. The north east continues to simmer with all issues unresolved. The Congress has lost 13 Assembly elections in a row. But all this matters little to the Prime Minister who is determined that his government must be sacrificed for a nuclear commitment he made to US President George W.Bush regardless of the fact that the latters popularity rates have hit an all time low, that he is on his way out of office, and the Indian Parliament has long since rejected the agreement that the two signed soon after the UPA government came to power.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi, in her usual confused state, has decided this time to support the sulking Prime Minister regardless of the fact the Congress will be left without the government and without the deal. She could have taken the decision a year ago, when the Bush administration was in a position to push the deal through the Nuclear Suppliers Group and the US Congress, and the inflation figures had not entered the double digit mark. But at that time she, in her wisdom, thought it was best to wait and persuaded Dr Manmohan Singh to agree to the decision and wait for a more opportune moment. That moment, according to her calculations has come now, at a time when Bush has little to no authority, and when a general election can prove very expensive for the Congress party here.
Why are Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh so very keen to oblige President Bush? And it is just President Bush, not the US administration as otherwise they would have waited for the elections in the US and dealt with the new team in power. In fact, a thinking government would have dropped the nuclear deal for the moment, and concentrated instead on opening valuable links in both the Obama and McCain camps in a studied preparation for the post election period. Instead our Prime Minister and the Congress President are both still chasing a President who is barely heard by his own people, and mention of him remains virtually restricted to jokes and anecdotes. It is clearly a question now of prestige….and that too of just the two or the one individual, and not the nation. A responsive and accountable head of government at this stage, would have turned to Washington and declared, "look here, I want to pursue the deal but the majority in Parliament is against it and I have to consult all the concerned parties. No one wants an early election, and I owe it to my country and the people to first tackle the economic problems before I push India into yet another poll."
But clearly these very simple words are very tough for the Prime Minister, who would rather strike work, and sulk and paralyse both the government and the nation than turn around and tell President Bush that the deal is off for the moment. The Left, to be fair, has been more than consistent in its response and has maintained right from the first day that it is opposed to the nuclear deal and the enabling Hyde Act and will be left with little option but to withdraw support if the government goes ahead with it. For this basic position the Left leaders have faced a frontal attack from the middle class that is still dreaming the American dream, and the new generation media that has borrowed its definitions and yardstick of responses to communism from the phobic western world. This despite the fact that the senior Left leaders have over and over again explained their reasons for opposing the nuclear deal and because these make sense and cannot be countered effectively through argument, the scribes and the middle class have turned deaf. But not mute. And taking the lead from the Congress and the advisors to the PM insist in shrill tones that the Left is anti national, and when this does not convince the people, insist instead, "oh they are just talking they will not withdraw support."
It has now dawned on this "mass base" of the Congress that the Left does mean business, that it will withdraw support and the party (of making big money through big deals) will soon be over. So now there is a sudden scrambling for positions, with anti-deal statements by minister Mani Shankar Aiyer and Salman Khursheed going unchallenged in the process. One now learns that the Congress is now optimistic that it will get the support of the Samajwadi party and will be able to survive as a legitimate government even after the Left withdraws support. This is necessary not to govern the nation, oh no such little issues are far from the Congress mind. This is necessary so that the member nations of the NSG cannot question the legitimacy of the government, as they hope it will not be reduced to a minority because of Samajwadi support and will have the locus standi to help the US steer the nuclear agreement through this international body.
Politicians are unscrupulous, but this emerging Congress-SP alliance perhaps takes the cake. Both were bitter enemies till the day Mayawati took over in UP, with SP honcho Amar Singh leading the criticism that often turned into direct attack. His quotable quotes made the headlines as he questioned the Congress on everything it holds dear, in particular the Dynasty and even attacked some of his own colleagues in the party as being Congress agents. And now he is more than willing to break bread with Sonia Gandhi, who will now have to seat him at her table (remember at the last dinner the SP leaders were seated with the PM and not her) and accept his every wish as her command if her government is to last through the months on Samajwadi support. Congressmen opposing the Samajwadi party will have to swallow the bitter pill, even as the vote bank of Mulayam Singh Yadav turns to new pastures. Incidentally Mulayam Singh is barely able now to take a decision without consulting Amar Singh, who has graduated from chief lieutenant to the de facto president of the party.
Prime Minister Singh wants to go to the G-8 summit where he will meet with President Bush only if he has the deal in his pocket. He will not go otherwise is the rumour spread cleverly through the media through the usual sources. Why not? Because he wants to keep his word. To whom? To President Bush. But what about the nation, what about Parliament that he gave his word to as well? Complete silence. No one gives a damn.