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Mainstream, Vol XLV, No 51

Coalition Dharma and Drama

Tuesday 11 December 2007, by Som Benegal

[(Musings)]

If there is one thing that is painfully obvious it is that coalition dharma is nothing but drama—in fact, just empty, negative melodrama. When people talk of the coalition era, which has come to stay in India’s politics, and polity they are talking too hastily on ill-founded presumptions and suppositions. These are compounded by the torrent of misleading opinion surveys and forecasts, which only reveal contradictions and off-the-mark results.

History shows, not only in other countries and regimes, and notably in our own, that coalitions never succeed for long and their course is fraught always with dispute, dissension, discord, intrigues, one-upmanship and final dissolution.

We do not have to look far back in our past when the coalition era was supposed to have arrived in our midst. Indira Gandhi’s defeat in the 1977 elections threw up the hastily quick-fixed Janata Party, which was the first coalition in India. It was appropriately named a “khichdi” and its tenure was marked by such spasms of infighting and personal rivalries that it could not last very long, and brought Indira Gandhi back. Afterwards many opportunist coalitions came and went like a passing parade. Even the much praised and admired NDA, the coalition led by Atal Behari Vajpayee, came to an inglorious end, through over-confidence. The present coalition, the United Progressive Alliance, is a remarkable architecture that is living on a tight-rope on a loose-end!

This sorry state of affairs needs a thorough examination of our own history to realise that within the confines of democracy, which India will not abandon, there has to be discipline, dynamism, devotion, dedication in party and in national affairs to the people. There can be discipline without democracy but there can be no democracy without discipline. These are the lessons, which the Congress learnt in its glorious days. And that is what Sonia Gandhi correctly emphasised in the just concluded AICC meeting.

When the people said, “I am for Congress because Congress is for me”, the Congress won hands down. Now it remains to be seen whether that spirit will be engendered and revived. Otherwise it will be fragile coalitions or plain defeat. In our contemporary history no other party, alas, has offered and worked for so broad a national life and living uncluttered by discrimination in some form or other, as the Indian National Congress. n

(Courtesy : Neighbourhood Flash)