Goodbye, Mamata

As no formal consensus on FDI in retail was possible, it is left to each state to take a call based on a Central enabling law.

Good riddance is the least one can say about Mamata Bannerjee’s unceremonious and unsung exit from the Union government which she sought to sabotage at every step through low politics. Her heroics over and contradictions exposed, she will now have to grapple with reality. This has brought ‘pariborton’ by promoting the government’s graduation to UPA-3. The prime minister has reaffirmed the government’s stand. The reforms must continue.

Emerging with only a little less egg on its face is the BJP which has practised unscrupulous and dishonest politics at the cost of the national interest. With its Left partners and a maverick Mulayam Singh Yadav, this triple alliance stand for a day held the country to ransom with a bandh. This has cost the poor, in whose name it was called by the combined Opposition, a burden larger than what they will bear in a whole year on account of the unavoidable diesel and LPG cylinder price hike.

With Mulayam coming around immediately thereafter, stating he is firmly opposed to giving a handle to communal elements – read BJP - the UPA has the numbers. Commentators make a fundamental error in counting heads and talking of a ‘minority government.’  The Constitution does not recognise that term but stipulates that the government shall enjoy ‘the confidence of the (lower) House.’ A muddled Advani said Parliament must be immediately convened by the President to compel the government to prove its majority. However, Nitin Gadkari contradicted him and declared the BJP would not seek a vote of confidence as it did not wish to force an election. 

Having stalled Parliament over two and a half sessions, demanding the prime minister’s resignation, for it to now insist that Parliament must meet and yet not oust the government through a vote of confidence is a remarkable feat of convoluted political logic and doublespeak. But too many, too frequently underrate the BJP’s folly.   

Not to be outdone, Nitish Kumar made the extraordinary statement that he would support anybody who grants Bihar special category status. This is unprincipled and suggests the JD(U) in Bihar is up for sale. Moreover, it must be asked why well into his second term, Bihar should claim special category status which means it gets Central subventions on the basis of 90 per cent grant and only 10 per cent loan. What does this imply other than prolonged mis-governance and failure to deal with the endemic rot of the state’s caste-based land relations that constitute a powerful agricultural depressor and are a hallmark of outstanding social injustice.

Played safe

The DMK, knowing on which side its bread is buttered, played safe by combining displeasure with support. It must however be sternly disabused, as all other Indian Tamil groups, that Tamil Nadu cannot run India’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Sri Lanka on the basis of ‘Tamil sentiment.’ The attempt to block president Rajapaksa’s visits to Delhi, where he met Manmohan Singh, and then on to Sanchi to lay the foundations of a Buddhist-Indic University, are crude antics best left to fringe elements like Vaiko’s MDMK.

To return to Mamata Bannerjee, her charge of non-consultation on FDI and the diesel-LPG cylinder price hike, is doublespeak. Mukul Roy, her absentee railway minister failed to attend cabinet meetings, while she herself refused to respond to repeated calls and messages from the prime minister and the finance minister. Her party’s 2009 manifesto supported FDI in retail but she turned away from that later. No formal ‘consensus’ on FDI in retail was possible in the last aborted session of Parliament and so the government accepted Mamata and other Opposition leaders’ plea that its introduction under a Central enabling law be left to each state to determine. This precisely is what has been done.

September 20 also saw Ajmal Kasab’s mercy petition reach the President. The matter now needs to be speedily settled. There are no extenuating factors and there is absolutely nothing that calls for months and years of agonising reappraisal and consideration. Here is an open and shut case. The fact that Indo-Pakistan talks are in progress on a broad front and that Islamabad has been permitted to send a second legal team to Mumbai to revisit the Kasab investigations and trial within a given framework is no reason to delay a decision on the mercy petition. Procrastination will only politicise the matter and embroil the government and country in international complications.

The President’s decision can be communicated in 10 days –even less – and Kasab must hang. Simultaneously pressure must remain on Pakistan to conclude without further delay the secret and lackadaisically conducted trial in Rawalpindi’s high security prison of Lakhvi and others arrested for their role in the 26/11 terror attack on Mumbai. Kasab’s hanging now can have no bearing on that case. The evidence is with Pakistan.

Meanwhile, the countdown to the commissioning of Unit –I of the Kudankulam nuclear power plant must not be allowed to be impeded. All questions have been reasonably answered. The nation has to move on.

Finally, Karnataka’s tireless MLAs who spared no pains to complete a punishing study tour of Latin America and Northern Europe have returned home triumphantly. The state may be suffering from acute drought as stated at the just-concluded Cauvery hearings; but some MLAs are rumoured to have learnt the samba. At least someone can now dance before the rain gods!     

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