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  Dr. Manmohan Singh’s predicament!  
 

 

By: Ganesh Sovani
August 09, 2005
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iews expressed here are author’s own and not of this website. Full disclaimer is at the bottom.

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Ever since the Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh returned to Delhi after signing a historic nuclear deal with the Bush administration in Washington two weeks ago, the Indian media has been endlessly debating whether the PM has compromised national security interests. A week before Dr. Singh’s nuclear agreement, the Indian Defense Minister Mr. Pranab Mookerjee happened to have signed a comprehensive defense deal with his American counterpart thereby giving an impetus to India’s defense capabilities for the next two decades to come.

The communist parties in India, which have lent an outside support to the incumbent UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government at New Delhi, have already expressed their deep concern over these two developments and some of their stalwarts have gone to the extent of labelling as ‘complete sell out’ of Indian interest to US.

On the other hand, the decision of Indian government to go ahead with Iranian gas pipe line project through Pakistan has caused lot of consternation in Washington. Tension has already brewed between Iran and US over Iran threat of breaking open the seals put up by UN inspectors of its nuclear plant on the backdrop of Mahmud Ahmadinejad assuming presidentship of Iran who is known for the radical Islamic views. The US bound to get upset over India – Iran gas pipeline deal which is in finalization stage. All these events after Dr. Singh’s America visit have emanated confusing signals to the world community.

While nobody can doubt Indian prime minister’s intentions of making India as a progressive economy, there are scores of areas where the Indian premier would find it very difficult to overcome the situation, unless he takes very drastic measures at the cost of discomforting his own partymen.

One must say with all humility, that Dr. Singh personifies India’s most sincere and ablest Indian Prime Minister India have had after Lal Bahadur Shastri and Atal Bihari Vajpayee. He is an economist to the core and it was he who was instrumental for modernizing the Indian economy during his stint as country’s finance minister when Congress (I) headed government led by Mr. P.V. Narasimha Rao came to the power in 1991.

Although India has become as a global economic power to reckon with, the country is already grappling with immense domestic and international pressures regarding the democracy, development and foreign relations.

Off late, the West has become increasing enamoured with India’s strides in various fields, based on the optimism which is essentially driven by India’s market potential of 400 Mn. middle class people.

However, one school of thought in India, still believes that no amount of political or economic reforms can yield desirable results unless India immediately addresses its security environment with a firm conviction.

The series of events taken place after Dr. Singh became India’s fourteenth prime minister in May, 2004, on the law and order front are extremely worrying.

Inspite of throwing upon bus travel route between Indian Kashmir & Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, there has been sudden rise of militant attacks from Jehadi elements from India’s western front which are hell bent on destabilising the peace initiatives taken by both governments. Hardly a day passes, when the Indian security forces are not required to open fire and eliminate the intruders in Jammu & Kashmir, which has taken toll of more than 30,000 innocent lives in the last five decades. The North – Eastern states too are grappling with the problems generated due to the unstoppable infiltration of people from the neighbouring Bangladesh who are still entering into India in large number, due to India’s porous border.

On India’s Western front, there has been unexpected and sudden spurt of Khalistan movement in India’s most prosperous state of Punjab, which has experienced innumerable terrorist aftermaths in eighties. The arrests of banned Babbar Khalsa outfit members have brought to fore it’s design to eliminate Hindu politicians both in Punjab and Haryana states, in its attempt to crate a wedge between Hindu and Sikh communities. Large cache of arms and ammunitions were recovered from thirty-odd members of this outfit a month ago, which is sufficient to indicate that their sympathisers across the borders are still active in promoting a fresh wave of violence in the country.

Apart from this, India’s dozen states are confronted with massacres, looting, ransom and violence perpetrated by various Naxalite outfits, which have spread their tentacles to fifty five districts in nearly dozen states of the country. Inspired by the communist ideology, Naxalite militiamen account around 9,000 in number and ceasefire declared by the various state governments as an amnesty measure have turned out to be futile.

In her zest to fulfil the electoral promise given to the minority voters of ‘repealing of India’s anti-terror law’ (POTA), prior to last year’s general elections, Madam Sonia Gandhi, who is the Chairman of the UPA having a cabinet status, has severely compromised India’s both external and internal security, which has phenomenally given rise to both law & order and terror related incidents all over the country.

Even on the social front too, India’s record is not all that inspiring. Inspite of becoming an independent fifty five years ago, as on the date only 60 % of it’s populace can read and write and her ‘Human Development Index’ is much less than some of the African or Far Eastern countries. The health awareness has been abysmally low and the government has no comprehensive strategy to overcome HIV and / or AIDS issues and environment related problems as well.

The government has also no definite strategy to address growing unemployment figure, which has touched nearly 20 Mn. and it has become a cause for the incidents of crime in the various cities as unemployed youths have been resorting to petty crimes to begin with, before graduating into serious crimes. It may be recalled that India account 55 % of people who are less than thirty-five year of age.

Due to the complete lack of accountability and transparency in the government administration at various levels, the corruption has become an ‘order of the day’ and India’s position is frighteningly dipping in the annual list prepared by Germany based Transparency International. If the claims made by some of the NGOs’ are right, then country generates nearly US $ 100 Bn as black money, which has not only ruined the country’s economy, but also it has deprived the country of several development schemes too!

Coupled with this, the country is confronting with the growing criminalization of politics both at the state and central level. India has yet to carve out a legislation which could prohibit a person having criminal record from contesting the state legislature or central Parliamentary election. According to a Hyderabad based NGO nearly 30 % sitting members of Indian Parliament are facing serious criminal charges. Bihar has the disastrous record on this front, where several politicians have won the assembly or parliamentary election even while being in jail during the election campaign.

When neither the Central nor the state government is able to take any remedial measure on this front, it is the Election Commission which has taken an initiative in banning the criminals from contesting the elections who have been facing non-bailable warrant for a long time and it has also suggested of deleting their name from the voters list as well.

Indian prime minister is facing a huge predicament when there numerous ministers in his own cabinet who are ‘tainted’ in one scam or the other. Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav hailing from Bihar is arraigned in the fodder scam worth USD 150 Mn. (Indian Rs. 7.5 Bn.). His brother in law, the younger brother his wife, Mrs. Rabri Devi, who is Bihar CM, was recently accused of siphoning millions of Rupees in flood relief scam in tandem with a district collector, who was absconding for nearly four weeks after being dismissed from service, when his involvement came to the fore.

Though the Indian PM is inclined to drop the tainted ministers, he is not getting an enough moral support or authority from his own party men, which has the history of shielding such tainted figures at various levels. In a petition pending before the highest court of the land, the attorney general was compelled to make a request to the Apex Court to pass a ruling on this issue, as Parliament is unable to come out with a law on this count.

When one thinks of India’s economic power, a stable government at the Center is paramount importance. However, given the current political scenario, when his UPA government is enjoying a support of twenty-five MPs belonging to Laloo Yadav’s RJD, coupled with thirty-odd MPs from various communist parties, Dr. Singh is required to do an enormous balancing act while compromising on scores of issues. Congress (I) is no mood to antagonize Laloo Yadav ahead of Bihar state polls, slated to take place in November, lest he could harm UPA’s rule at the Center by doing any political hara-kiri.

As on the day, the communist parties in the country have virtually cornered the UPA government over the privatization of state controlled public sector undertakings and it had to bow before Leftists over the issue of BHEL. The Leftist are also opposed any petrol or diesel price hike, inspite of rise in international oil price per barrel.

The country is bound to witness some curious, if not strange developments when the states like Kerala and West Bengal (latter has uninterrupted communist rule for the last twenty eight years) would go for the assembly polls next year. Political pundits wonder, what would leftists do in these polls at state level where the Congress (I) is in the opposition in these states, to whom they are lending an outside support at the Center.

For any healthy and stable democracy, a strong and united opposition is imperative. However, the Indian opposition parties are in complete mess, disunited and its chief constituent the right wing BJP (Bhartiya Janata Party) is in total disarray due to the internal fissures. Its parent body, the RSS believes in the concept of Hindu nation, much to the discomfort of the second rung leaders in the BJP, who have always believed in a pragmatic approach. In the last week of July, nearly half a dozen leaders of the BJP have been charged by Raibareli Special Court for being the conspirators to the act of demolition of sixteenth century old mosque at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh way back in 1992, which is believed to be a birth place of Hindu mythological God Rama.

Due to this murkier political atmosphere all over the country, the debates in Indian Parliament are no longer healthy which has been witnessing a marked absenteeism when important issues are discussed in the house. Even the whips issued by the party chiefs are disregarded which has caused great concern to the party bosses.

All in all, India is facing a very critical period and many in the country do not know what future holds for the country. The only redeeming feature is that she has a sincere, honest and an able prime minister. But quite sadly, Dr. Singh has no mass base and is elected through the upper house of Parliament.

The moot question is how far the Congress (I), which is known for fostering dynastic rule, would allow him to continue when some of it’s partymen are desperate for the coronation of Sonia Gandhi’s heir apparent Rahul Gandhi in order for ensuring their own political survival.

Dr. Singh is really facing a huge predicament. Only time would tell, how far he succeeds.

Ganesh Sovani

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