Make ‘Dialogue’ and ‘Effective’ Keywords

Now that the Presidential Elections along with all the attendant issues are no longer occupying centre-stage, it is time to understand the political atmosphere and how the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the two main parties of the country, are functioning. It is obvious to any political observer that had the Congress opened a dialogue with the BJP, the President’s and Vice President’s Elections could have been done unanimously. It does not appear that the BJP would have had any particular objection to Mr. Pranab Mukherjee’s candidature for the Presidency. And perhaps through dialogue a common name could have emerged for the Vice President’s post. Obviously, had the Congress been favourably inclined towards the idea of a consensus, elections to both the posts could have taken place without any contest. It seems that political dialogue has come to an end or at least a serious pause. On both sides, there do not appear to be any politicians who are acting in the larger interest of the country. Petty politicking and the tendency to score small brownie points appears to be ruling the minds of such people. The national economy is passing through a difficult phase. It is necessary that policies should be made through consensus which is not difficult because in the last 15 years (in the change of government) the BJP has radically departed from policies which were intended to be a continuing process. However, in the current atmosphere, I think the Prime Minister and his colleagues are afraid of talking to the Opposition, thinking that the party may take it in a wrong way. At the party level there is nobody who has opened a dialogue with the Opposition. All the talking is done through the press. The problem of talking to the press is that if one leader talks in a harsh tone, the opposite leader talks in a harsher tone and no dialogue takes place. As I said earlier, now that the President’s and Vice President’s Elections are over, it is high time that both the Congress and the BJP sit down and try to formulate what is best for the immediate interests of the country till the next General Elections which are slated for 2014. After the General Elections, what happens will be another story but for the next one and a half years of this Lok Sabha efforts should be made to run Parliament smoothly, to get through legislation where there is no dispute and legislation on which you do not agree should be shelved. There is no use convening Parliament and keep shouting when the position of both the parties is well known on each piece of legislation. The problem is, on legislation on which the Congress and the BJP agree, the allies of the Congress do not agree. The Congress should therefore also have a co-ordination committee with its allies so that they are clear about what legislation can be brought in. After talking to everybody, suddenly an ally of the Congress says this legislation should not be brought in and the Congress has to retreat. All this causes demoralisation and it does not create a good image of the Congress in the public mind. General Elections are one and a half years away but the country has to keep running. In this atmosphere a strange notion or a strange idea is being circulated that the President will become pro-active. This thinking is most dangerous. Are we depending on the President, or linking the President to the failure of the Congress party to run the country? You have a majority in Parliament, so with your allies, it is your duty to not just run the government, but to run it effectively. Consider this: an ineffective Prime Minister, ineffective co-ordination with your allies and an Opposition that has not put its act together. In this deadlock suddenly there is hope that we have a President who is pro-active and he will help us. This is a very sad presumption; democracy does not run like this. It is our duty, the duty of active politicians to run this country. The President can only intervene when there is a crisis. But it is a strange idea, that first you will create a crisis and then invite the President to intervene. It is high time that the Prime Minister now takes the lead. And talking about the information in the press that the Prime Minister was finding it very difficult to control Mr. Pranab Mukherjee and Mr. Chidambaram who do not see eye to eye, now that Mr. Pranab Mukherjee is becoming the President, it is high time the Prime Minister reshuffles the cabinet the way he wants but makes it an effective cabinet which can run the country. There are difficult problems: there is the law and order problem, the Maoist problem, economic problems or periodically, we agree that China creates a problem, so there may be a defence problem. The problems are many and it is high time that the Prime Minister becomes pro-active. The Congress says Rahul may play a bigger role, but what is that bigger role? They want to make him Prime Minister, well then, do it. Only then he will be able do something. They want to make him party working President, do it. But carrying on business as if you are an interim government or a lame duck government is neither good nor desirable. The earlier the Congress ends this uncertainty, the better.

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