Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Overpowering Maya

Overpowering Maya
By Susenjit Guha

Why was the BJP crestfallen and uncharacteristically muted when there were several gaping warts in the UPA’s governance on which salt could be sprinkled at random? Does the Congress and the BJP have similar interests and common foe?

Sometime back L K Advani lamented on a television channel after his book was released that there was no connection---the leaders of two major national parties literally do not see eye to eye--- between the BJP and the Congress party of the ruling UPA.

Dialogues between the ruling and the major opposition parties are considered essential for a healthy democracy.

L K Advani also mentioned in the interview that Rahul Gandhi once asked him how to combat the rise of so many regional parties. He tried to impress upon Rahul the need for more contacts between Congress and the BJP to stem the growth of regional players.

Perhaps they had a premonition that Mayawati from India's largest state Uttar Pradesh, a state which can make or break governments at the centre was single-handedly capable of giving them sleepless nights.

And while delivering his speech on the morning of 21st as leader of the opposition before next day’s most infamous proceedings for the trust vote in the nation's history, L K Advani, the projected Prime Minister of the NDA coalition, never expected Mayawati also to stake her claim at the same time for the post with just 17 MP’s.

She let herself loose form the confines of UP politics and deliberated on the N-deal, a major foreign policy issue or obsession, which warranted a trust vote in the first place.

Unconsciously, Advani had conceded defeat on the first day itself by saying, the government may win the trust vote.

Why was the BJP crestfallen and uncharacteristically muted when there were several gaping warts in the UPA’s governance on which salt could be sprinkled at random? Does the Congress and the BJP have similar interests and common foe?

The BJP was never against the N-deal apart from the clause that India could do another nuclear test at her own peril. If UPA fails to come to power in the next election, the NDA and BJP would be saved from the dirty mess of doing the deal.

And two major political parties at the national level can have two prime ministerial candidates contending each other. And of course, if a third front can cobble up a coalition, there would be at best another one to contend with from the fringes.

In the Vedanta of the Hindus, Maya or illusion is best elucidated by a rope and a snake. A rope is mistaken for a snake and feared. But this Maya or Mayawati of UP as per M J Akbar’s byline few months back is no illusion.

After all who would make a bid for the Prime Minister’s office with just 17 MP’s from a single state?

She can, because her traditional electorate, the Dalits, represent 16% of the population and if SC/ST’s, also clubbed under Dalits are included, it would be around 40%. Then there are converts discriminated in their own communities---the Sikh, Muslim, Christian and Buddhist Dalits. Poor people, farmers on suicide mode and outside the NDA’s rurally- elitist bank loan waiver scheme and Dalits naturally careen towards her. Sudden pontifications on economics by Rahul Gandhi, discovery that poverty and energy needs are inter-twinned inspired by ‘Bharat darshan’ was bereft of any cost-benefit analysis for the villagers.

Mayawati has made life safe for them in UP from the higher caste law-keepers and engineered social interaction across castes unthinkable in the past. Even though she is confined only to UP, Dalits in other states will impact election results favoring political parties allied to her. In Andhra Pradesh with a sizable Muslim population, her alliance with TDP, TRS and the Left is formidable.

And she is neither uncomfortable wearing bigger shoes nor treading on huge toes. Both the two major political parties in India cannot ignore the reality by mistaking her for a harmless rope.

The combined percentage with her latent electorate can be mind-boggling and capable of upsetting anybody’s applecart.

Mayawati, quick on the political uptake, will go on an overdrive on the deal issue to counter allegations of BSP’s former alliance with the BJP in UP.

But the NDA’s obsession with Bush and the trust vote win will feed complacency that the deal is not anti-Muslim even though Muslims around the world despise him and are pinning their hopes for an on-the-ground perception change of the US administration with the next president.

Sardar Dr.Manmohan Singh may have braced up after the trust vote and Mayawati may have been over-powered for now, but accidentally a can has been quietly prized open, the contents of which will spill out gradually and perhaps warrant more dialogues between the major national political parties of India.

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