Saturday, March 7, 2009

။ Why Can't Pranab Mukherjee Be India's PM ?

By Subir Bhaumik
The Congress is the one party that's capable of ruling India better than any other. It is capable of the highest level of political opportunism, its ability to be the Roman in Rome and Mohammedan in Egypt is second to none in India. It talked of 'Christian socialism' to win an election in Christian-dominated Mizoram when former rebel leader Laldenga wanted to take on the Church which was pushing for prohibition. Laldenga told the Church to mind its own business and insisted that liquor revenues were crucial for the state's coffers The Congress batted for the Church and won the elections. It would ally with the Muslim league in Kerala and even allow the RSS to participate in a Republic Day parade after the 1962 Himalayan debacle when our army was routed by China's. But it is a centrist party and the diversity of India necessiates that India is not ruled by any party that's capable of going to extremes. Moderation is not liberal luxury but an essential pre-requisite for keeping India together and growing. Since India is not a nation-state in the European sense but a civilisation-state in the broadest liberal sense. So any political party which seeks to erase a certain part of our history is clearly out of tune with Indian realities . The BJP is the only other "national party" that can provide a platform like the Congress to cobble together a national coalition. It rose to limelight by the Babri Masjid agitation.
The demolition of the mosque has been a unmitigated disaster for India. It provoked deadly riots and it ruined hundreds of Muslim families, whose orphaned sons have been swelling our homegrown jihadi ranks ever since. Where were the jihadis in India before the 1990s ? The Indian jihad is a post-Babri phenomenon and the BJP must take responsbility for provoking a dangerous spiral which they cannot control, despite recommending draconian laws. I am no supporter of uncalled-for minority appeasement. I am upset with Rajiv Gandhi who did not back Arif Mohammed Khan and others in the community on a host of issues. But I am also against uncalled-for majority machoism. Both are bad for governance. And the BJP's record in handling terror is worse than Congress. It mobilised the entire Indian army on the Pakistan border after the parliament attack and then did not go to war. Its foreign minister, the great Rajput colonel Jaswant Singh, went to Kandahar with terrorists like Masood Azhar and shamed India by handing them over to their Talib friends instead of atleast administering the terrorists with a few deadly long-killing poison that would take care of them after a few days.
Atal Behari Vajpayee and L K Advani (the self projected Lohpurush) failed to revive the Indira-Rajiv era covert hostile operations in Pakistan that the worthless peacenik Inder Gujral (a wonderful person but out of sync with realities) had discontinued as Prime MInister to pursue his very Punjabi paratha-diplomacy with Nawaz Sharif. So we cant do a thing in Sindh or Balochistan today. On the other hand, the Congress has done a wonderful job in isolating Pakistan and exposing its machinations to the world after the attacks on Mumbai. The Congress, specially its Italian Empress, will have to take the blame for the attacks in the first place. Because the National Security Adviser M K Narayanan who survives only because of Sonia Gandhi's patronage (as does Prime MInister Manmohan) refused to take the RAW advisories on a possible attack seriously. Narayanan is a worthless domestic intelligence officer who grow in the trade by doing election assessments that often go wrong or performing some dirty tricks for the ruling party in states not ruled by them (the IB's backing for the Bodo movement in AGP ruled Assam and for the Gorkha movement in Left ruled West Bengal is well documented)). Narayanan has no background (or even an inclination to learn) in foreign intelligence specially Pakistan or has any idea of special operations combat - so despite the US intel tip-offs and the RAW advisories, he was incapable of conceiving something like the Mumbai terror attacks. Sonia Gandhi has to take the blame of protecting this worthless person even when she succumbed to public pressure post Mumbai and got rid of the worthless Shivraj Patil. But I have two questions for Sonia Gandhi which must be answered if India has to support the Congress for a second tenure in national power. First Question : If Patil has been sacked for the Mumbai failures, why should Narayanan not be sacked for actually overlooking all the intelligence - is it because he does huge personal favours for the Gandhi family ? Second Question : Why should Manmohan Singh, down with his health problems and displaying no real political spark, continue as India's prime minister when it is Pranab Mukherjee who has been running the show so effectively ?
Do you have anyone in your party who is half as capable as Pranab Mukherjee ?
Pranab Mukherjee deserves the maximum credit for internationalising the Mumbai attacks , for exposing Pakistan and calling its bluff again and again , for effectively isolating it. He deserves the main credit for pulling through the Indo - US nuclear deal. He is remarkably fit for his age and take the kind of workload that even people twenty years younger would not dare take. He heads the maximum number of government committees, cabinet committees and what have you ? He advises Hasina and helps her swim out of the crisis caused by the BDR mutiny - but does it deftly (unlike the BJP which loved publicising) and without sounding like a big brother. Pranab Mukherjee is erudite, down-to-earth political, a good if not a fiery orator and a great crisis manager. He can manage any major portfolio - Foreign, Finance, what have you. He is a true all-rounder, the Kapil Dev of Indian politics. None but Lal Krishna Advani showered him the highest of praises when he presented the interim budget. Mukherjee is the crucial link between the Indira-Rajv era and the contemporary world and that's something the Congress needs all the time. Its strength is its history and Mukherjee is the best link between the two eras. The Prime MInister must be an all rounder, an good overall politician, capable of inspiring the nation in moments of crisis.
If anyone says he is inspired by Manmohan Singh, I would suggest the claimant be immediately put on a lie detector. Singh is a good soul but is the least inspiring of all Indian prime ministers. He is said to be great economist though where is the published evidence of his brilliance. Same for Chidambaram. He is already finding the Home portfolio a bit too tough for his liking. I would still have no cudgels with the Congress if they make Manmohan the Finance Minister and make Pranab Mukherji the Prime Minister in recognition to his lifetime - and also his recent - achievements. If that does not happen, just because Mukherji is not a yes-man and once revolted against Rajiv Gandhi, I have a serious problem. I don't want to raise the provincial issue but Sourav Ganguly's last years as captain and player and Pranabda's last few years in government seems to bear a striking resemblance. There's strange conspiracy in the corridors to keep the most deserving man out of the top slot.

(Subir Bhaumik is the BBC's East India Correspondent)
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