To start with the latest episode of a Seemandhra MP using pepper sprays to prevent the Telangana Bill from being tabled, one wonders how a party that committed itself as far back as in December 2009 to the creation of Telangana failed to work out a rational compromise with the rest of Andhra even four years later. Clearly, no one did his homework. And the last-minute effort to push through a divisive bill was entirely led by ultra-short-term electoral calculations. Jode nahin, tode…
Will the Congress-led UPA be seen as ending its last Parliament session not on the high note of creating India’s 29th State, but on the low note of pathetic governance, an economic slide, a weakened state capability, political anarchy, and a confused and ruptured polity? The chances are, even if the Telangana Bill is passed due to the BJP’s pusillanimity in opposing a badly-drafted law, UPA-2 will be ushered out with a huge sense of relief by a population that’s tired of daily displays of utter incompetence. It is thus time to write UPA-2’s epitaph: Divided, but did not rule. It divided India to rule, but ended up only dividing and not ruling.
It is interesting that the Congress campaign featuring Rahul Gandhi has one message which reads: Tode nahin, jode (Rahul unites, not divides). But the core principle that destroyed the UPA’s standing was the exact opposite: Jode nahin, tode. To start with the latest episode of a Seemandhra MP using pepper sprays to prevent the Telangana Bill from being tabled, one wonders how a party that committed itself as far back as in December 2009 to the creation of Telanganafailed to work out a rational compromise with the rest of Andhra even four years later. Clearly, no one did his homework. And the last-minute effort to push through a divisive bill was entirely led by ultra-short-term electoral calculations. Jode nahin, tode.
Division and divisiveness have been at the core of the Congress strategy both in UPA-1 and UPA-2. It was less apparent in UPA-1 because the Left was blamed for it all. The figleaf of unity was blown away when the excesses of UPA-1 brought all the problems home to roost. Consider all the divisions that caused this fall.
1: The primary division, as has been repeatedly emphasised, was the separation of power from responsibility, with Sonia Gandhi wielding the power andManmohan Singh the responsibility. Once you separate the two, governance ends. One need not expand on it, but this lay at the root of the Government’s irresponsibility, given Singh’s absolute unwillingness to give up his chair in order to remain PM. The net result is the PM abandoned any pretence of being responsible for governance, and Sonia abandoned the Government – and washed her hands off its failures.
2: Under Rahul Gandhi, if he ever becomes PM, this disastrous dichotomy may end, but another dichotomy surfaces. He is not prepared to take any responsibility for any act of his own Government of the last 10 years – unless it is about claiming credit for the good bits (RTI, and various rights legislated by the Government, which are now a burden for the economy.)
“This is the way the world ends; Not with a bang but a whimper.” – TS Eliot.
3: The central cabinet has never been more divided. Its Ministers report to no one. A Raja could ignore the PM, and so could Jairam Ramesh. The previous Finance Minister (Pranab Mukherjee) had no time for the PM. The latter had no say in the former’s budgets. P Chidambaram, in his second coming, took his political mandate at the Finance Ministry directly from the UPA chairperson, not the PM. The Agriculture Minister, Sharad Pawar, had no say in the Food Security Bill, despite his objections. Is food security separate from agriculture?
4: Under AK Antony, another honest but relatively spineless cabinet Minister, we saw the army split into two factions – one led by former Chief VK Singh, and another rooting for the current army chief. It all was ostensibly about the age of retirement of Gen Singh, but underneath it all there was tension between different ethnic groups in the army. It is a miracle that the army is still in one piece.
5: The intelligence agencies have been left fighting with one another. Thanks to Sushilkumar Shinde’s efforts to show up Narendra Modi as the master of fake encounters, the Ishrat Jehan case has set the Intelligence Bureau against the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), with serving and retired officers fighting each other in public and in private. One wonders what intelligence such a demoralised force will be able to gather, beyond monitoring its own personal enemies.
6: The Government was at war with all constitutional authorities – the CAG, the PAC, and the judiciary. Surely, there was judicial over-reach in some cases, but any effective Government would have been able to find a compromise if it really wanted to govern. It is nowhere in sight.
7: Towards the end, the Congress party was at war with the Government. Once the high command decided that Manmohan Singh was a liability in the next elections, the party’s behind-the-scenes powers went after all his supporters. Pawan Kumar Bansal, the previous Railway Minister, and Ashwani Kumar, the Law Minister, were sent packing for allegedly indulging in a cash-for-jobs scam in the railways and for interfering with a Supreme Court-ordered investigation into the Coalgate scam. While neither Bansal nor Kumar came out smelling of roses, the man who was targeted was really Manmohan Singh. His wings were truly clipped. Efforts by Rahul Gandhi to shame the PM into resigning – by calling his ordinance to prevent the disqualification of convicted MPs “nonsense” – did not work as the PM adroitly side-stepped the insult and stayed on. Now the party is stuck with Manmohan, and Manmohan is stuck with the taint of all his failures since his party won’t accept any of it.
8: Relations between Government and opposition have never been worse. This trust deficit ensured that almost no bills were passed till the last few months, and parliament was disrupted most of the time as the Congress stonewalled responses on various scams. And, for all that, the Congress hoped that the BJP will bail it out on Telangana – and ruin its own chances in Seemandhra.
9: Relations between politicians and civil society have never been so strained. It may have started with the Anna Hazare movement, but even with the emergence of the Aam Aadmi Party, curiously supported by the Congress in Delhi, this relationship has only gotten worse. The public is estranged from Government as never before. The Congress has helped the AAP split even the urban middle classes in the hope that it will stop Modi.
10: Ties with India’s neighbours have never been worse – despite Manmohan Singh being an alleged peacenik. A weak Government allowed regional parties to dictate foreign policy and sabotage it. Thus Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, despite offering hands of friendship, were left dangling. And Pakistan, which never offered a hand of friendship, left Manmohan Singh with egg on his face. As for China, it was never a friend; Manmohan Singh made it more belligerent by displays of weakness. Even tiny Maldives, whose Government was saved from a coup by Rajiv Gandhi, cocked a snook at India, and Nepal, if it was not so internally divided, would have done so too. Even ties with the US, India’s most important geo-strategic partner, have gone downhill after the Devyani Khobragade affair.
11: Suspicions between the Centre and States have never been greater. Regional powers that had no reason to join forces banded together to defeat the introduction of the communal violence bill and the setting up of the national counter-terrorism centre. If the next Government is a coalition, this relationship is the first one that needs mending.
12: Relations between Government and business have never been more standoffish. Government wants to revive growth, but industry will not invest due to suspicions over policy, and the negative impact of laws such as the land acquisition bill, and high inflation. Foreign investors are skittish and wary too. This is why Vodafone and Government were unable to break the ice on their tax dispute. The trust is gone.
13: Election 2014 will be the final frontier for divisiveness, with Modi being used as the ogre with which to frighten the electorate into voting for Congress and various regional parties. We have to wait to see if the UPA’s divisiveness will win or lose.
Unlike what Manmohan Singh thinks, history is unlikely to judge him any more kindly than we do now. During UPA-2, the polity was fractured for no reason beyond electoral considerations. In the process, the country lost a gigantic economic and political opportunity that future generations will curse it for. The next Government will have to start picking up the pieces. And not just in Telangana-Seemandhra.
Telangana Fate : ‘Let The Last Ball Be Bowled’
“The Congress has erred on this decision and despite telling both (party President) Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the reality, they have not understood the situation. If they think that they will gain electorally then they are mistaken. It is nothing but a death blow to the Congress in Andhra Pradesh and the effects of bifurcation will remain for a long time, thus affecting the party a great deal.”…
At the time of the recent shameful Parliament ruckus, Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Kiran Kumar Reddy chose to invoke his cricketing past while describing the impasse over the Telangana Bill, claiming that there will be no final decision on the matter till the “last ball is bowled.” When asked to comment about the future course of action, Reddy told media persons: “Let us wait and see… I am going to hold discussions with my party leaders and workers from Seema-Andhra. Only then our next course of action will be decided.
“The pain of the people of Seema-Andhra was what was reflected in Parliament recently and it has yet again been proven that it is not right to divide the state on the verdict of a minority. “The Congress has erred on this decision and despite telling both (party president) Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh about the reality, they have not understood the situation. If they think that they will gain electorally then they are mistaken. It is nothing but a death blow to the Congress in Andhra Pradesh and the effects of bifurcation will remain for a long time, thus affecting the party a great deal.” On the issue of him floating a party, he said nothing had been decided as yet. “The intention was to prevent the Bill and that is what we had been trying to do. Until the last ball is bowled, nothing can be said,” he said.
Sonia Worse Than Hitler: Jagan On T-Bill Ruckus
“If this is the way democracy continues to function then what happened to Andhra Pradesh will happen tomorrow to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu or Uttar Pradesh. The need of the hour is to collectively resolve the issue and not fight like this in Parliament”…
YSR Congress chief Jagan Mohan Reddy has charged that Congress President Sonia Gandhi had ‘behaved worse than German dictator Adolf Hitler and that her actions, which had led to such trouble in Andhra Pradesh, reflected in Parliament recently. “The recent incident is the biggest blot on democracy. I wonder today if there is something called a democratic India,” Reddy told media persons. “I am pained by the behaviour in Parliament. I am asking myself, are these human beings or devils? Sonia is nothing but a dictator who has been adamant to change her decisions despite being told by the people of Seema-Andhra that the decision to bifurcate the State is a bad one. I doubt whether Hitler would have behaved in this manner. If this is the way democracy continues to function then what happened to Andhra Pradesh will happen tomorrow to Karnataka, Tamil Nadu or Uttar Pradesh. The need of the hour is to collectively resolve the issue and not fight like this in Parliament.
“Such incidents should not take place and the decision makers should be sensitive to the problems of the people. I have never witnessed a scene like this ever. I am confident that this is a ploy stage-managed by (TDP chief) Chandrababu Naidu. He had spoken to his MPs prior to the session and permitted them to get into a fight with each other. Both Venugopal and Rathod started fighting with each other and this was something that was permitted by Naidu. I am going to pray to God tonight so that better sense prevails over Naidu who should stop resorting to such gimmicks.”