Friday, June 20, 2008

NUCLEAR DEAL: IT'S YOUR PAGRI AGAIN DR MANMOHAN


The political paralysis that has relentlessly plagued a government boasting a dream economic team has landed the ruling United Progressive Alliance(UPA) exactly where it dreaded it would. Inflation has touched a 13 year high of 11.05 percent, the Indo-US Nuclear deal remains hostage to sordid politics of the worst kind and the government, with both its hands tied by the petty political compulsions and machinations of the Congress, has nowhere to go. With elections due in under a year, things couldn’t get worse for the UPA.

The primary objectives of any government anywhere in the world are essentially to protect the individual liberty and freedom of all citizens, keep the nation secure from external and internal threats, and enhance the economic well being of the people. All political activity must necessarily be focussed on achieving these main objectives, notwithstanding the form of the government. In large parts of the world, it has been found that democracy is the best instrument to give voice and shape to the aspirations of the people of a country.

Can the same be said about the model of democracy that India has adopted?

From time to time, there have been responsible voices saying that the multi-party model of democracy that India follows has failed to deliver. In November 2007, even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was forced to admit as much when he questioned whether “a multi-party model where parties with varying national reach and many with a limited sub-national reach is capable of providing the unity of purpose that nation states often have to demonstrate”. Elaborating, he said “Sometimes the resolution of problems acquires an excessively political hue, and narrow political considerations, based on regional or sectional loyalties and ideologies can distort the national vision and sense of collective purpose”. He even went to the extent of wondering whether a single party system would be better for the country.

Unfortunately, honest men like Dr Manmohan Singh are rare in the political landscape of India. Most Indian politicians have forgotten the basic objectives of political activity; to them politics is nothing more than a no-holds-barred ‘akhara’ where they are allowed to fight with every possible means with the sole objective of getting and keeping political power for as long as possible. The tragedy is that there are many media luminaries who hold exactly the same view which, according to the irrepressible Ram Jethmalani, is propagation of “political immorality of the worst kind.”

The Indo-US Nuclear deal was approved by the cabinet and signed by President Bush and Dr Manmohan Singh in February 2006 during the former’s visit to India. It was a landmark, exclusive deal which was meant to end India’s nuclear isolation, recognise it as a nuclear power and make available critical technologies denied to it since it exploded nuclear devices in 1998. Notwithstanding the arguments for and against the deal, the fact is that the Indian constitution permits the executive to enter into agreements with foreign countries without making any reference to Parliament. The judgement of the government in power has to be accepted. The Manmohan Singh government simply exercised that power to get a deal which, in its view, was the best that could be got for the country.

Unfortunately, Indian communists, enjoying unprecedented power without sharing any burden of the responsibility of governance, have held the government to ransom, threatening to make the government fall if it goes ahead and operationalises the deal. Dr Manmohan Singh, after initially staking his prestige on the deal, has repeatedly caved in to the demands of politicians for whom personal political power comes first always and every time. The deal may be great for the nation; indeed it may be what the country needs without any further delay to meet part of its crippling power shortages by setting up nuclear power plants. But, if it in any manner affects their positions in power, it has to be dumped.

The buzz now is that Dr Manmohan Singh has firmly told Sonia Gandhi that if the Indo-US Nuclear Deal does not go through, he will quit. This reported stand of his has set in motion a flurry of meetings among UPA leaders and between the UPA and the commies. The latter will not change their stand; why some people still have illusions is surprising. Indian commies always speak with one and a half eyes on China. Their ‘ideological’ loyalties to the China that has ruthlessly dumped communism have always taken precedence over the interests of their own nation.

UPA leaders do not want to face elections even a day before the scheduled date. With inflation touching record levels, they know that only a miracle will see them back in power. Last year, when inflation was low, the economy was booming at a 9 percent growth rate, the stock markets were scaling new highs and there was a generally good feeling all round about the performance of the government, the deal was sacrificed to commie blackmail just to avoid elections. In the dismal scenario that exists now, particularly after the Congress has been routed in state after state, who is going to place the nation before his own interest, even if it means having to settle for a worse deal after the term of the Bush administration ends on January 19, 2009?

Dr Manmohan Singh had succumbed to pressure last year after initially talking of stepping down if the historic deal the he had signed with the US did not go through. Had he stuck to his position and resigned then, history would have remembered him as a rare man of honour who stood his ground and sacrificed his chair for the interest of the nation; he actually may well have exposed the communist bluff and still survived. Had that happened, by now probably a few new badly needed nuclear power plants may well have begun to take concrete shape.

Then itself, on October 17, 2007, I had written an article calling upon Dr Manmohan Singh to ‘honour his pagri’ by heeding to the call of his conscience. Unfortunately, then he listened to the call of his political loyalty, as he had been till then and still is now, reducing only his own stature and image. And for what? Just to let some others, who have totally forgotten the real objective of all political activity in their blind pursuit of political power, enjoy that power a bit longer.

This time I hope Dr Manmohan Singh finally redeems himself and listens to the call on his honour, his pagri. As a not so gentle reminder to him, I am reproducing what I wrote then; it is perhaps even more relevant now.

Hope you are listening Mr Prime Minister.
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HONOUR YOUR PAGRI DR MANMOHAN SINGH

Dr Manmohan Singh, when you were appointed the Prime Minister by Sonia Gandhi, who was forced to abdicate due to very strong opposition to her ascendancy, most right minded people in the country were relieved and delighted.

Despite the completely fractured mandate which found no group worthy of governing the country, India had got a scrupulously honest man of quiet dignity beyond compare to run this country. And an economist who had earlier displayed the vision and ability to break India free of the strong economic shackles to which it had been tied by Nehru, Indira Gandhi and the bureaucracy which had displayed an insatiable lust for increasing its own power and wealth at great cost to the country.

Soon, however, it was apparent that the democratic arithmetic was an indomitable shackle, which even you could not break. We accepted it as the price that had to be paid for the British pattern of democracy that our founding fathers had chosen for us. Little did they know then that such challenges would emerge later in a country comprising of many states, most bigger than that one tiny island England, whose model they copied, rendering effective governance virtually impossible.

When your government repeatedly succumbed to blatant, uncompromising blackmail from your allies in the name of coalition ‘Dharm’, the sheen of your leadership began to fade. Yet, with the economy galloping at an unprecedented pace, the warts did not appear so ugly.

Then came the Indo-US Nuclear Deal, the deal with which you ‘created history’; the deal which held out the promise of taking India into another orbit altogether of energy security and, more importantly, strategic strength befitting its size. You were rightly proud of your historic achievement, as were most sensible, knowledgeable Indians.

Unfortunately, our Left, for the umpteenth time, exhibited their penchant of mixing an already discarded economic ideology with extra national political affiliations, to the detriment of their own country's interest. One related example epitomizes this: They were silent when the Chinese exploded their first atomic bomb in 1964, but criticized their own country for doing so 24 full years later. This time, they argued against the higher cost of nuclear power generation and the hegemony of the US, to scuttle the exclusive deal that you secured for India, after much hard bargaining.

The real pain, Dr Manmohan, is not the Left, but the sad spectacle your own party men deserting you, after making aggressive noises in favour of the deal. Finding the Left uncompromising, they have dumped you with alacrity. For them and your allies too, saving themselves in government is more important than saving the deal which the country needs and may find difficult to secure later from the US. Enjoying the spoils of government is what many of them are in this business for, after all, and 20 months is too long a period to let go for a deal which brings them no personal benefit.

These colleagues of yours have also dexterously employed certain mediocre media personalities, who survive like many of them because of sold consciences, to bully you into accepting that saving the government is more important than saving the deal. Please don’t allow yourself to be so cowed down by this cacophony that is trying to make you blind to the fact that what they are asking for is really your honour, to further their own selfish, narrow interests.

You know only too well, Dr Manmohan that henceforth you will not be running the government till its term expires. Yet, while some will make hay and some will prepare the way for dynastic ascendancy, you will be the fall guy, the name on whom all the muck will stick, for all that will go wrong from now on. If you have thus far been accused of being a lame duck, what your colleagues are wanting will make you a legless, headless duck that they will finally cook for their dinner later.

Your gratitude to Mrs Sonia Gandhi for making you the Prime Minister is well appreciated. Like a man of honour, you have been repaying that debt to perfection. In fact, you have already more than paid for it. Now, that same sense of honour demands that you do not lend the legitimacy of your spotless name to the continuation of the farce that this government has been reduced to. You have survived and flowered, unsullied so far almost like the pristine lotus flower which stands tall in the midst of mud. That too is something that your colleagues and their ‘friends’ now want to pluck and trample upon, just so they can survive for a bit longer.

The Nuclear Deal is not the end of the world, as you have despondently said. But the way your party has surrendered and let you down, you are really left with little choice if you do not want to be swallowed by the mud, above which you have towered till now.

This time the call is the honour of your conscience,your Pagri, Dr Manmohan, and not the loyalty that has guided you thus far. What you decide now will determine how history will treat you. Don’t fail this one time, please.

This post was also published in Bloggers' Park Mumbai Mirror.