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Powers 'left' of faith

Oct 9, 2007

Faith has always been very scarce in public life in India and after the Karnataka debacle it seems to have became rare. Faith in yourself in keeping your promises, the faith that the other party will keep its promise and not cling on to power, faith that people have in a politician keeping to his words once elected, all seem to be in short supply. Power cannot be shared equally especially if the differences in ideology are many. Mr. Deve Gowda and Mr. Yeduriappa have already proved that in Karnataka. As any kid playing in a group can tell you, when parties get together to keep a third out, not many constructive decisions can be taken. The only reason the 59-seats strong Left alliance agreed to support the rag tag coalition of 11 political parties of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) Government in New Delhi was to keep the 'communal and fascist' forces out.

Note the complete absence of any semblance of agreement on foreign policy or economic issues. The only token towards an economic agenda the Left parties made was to make sure that the ruling coalition stuck to its Common Minimum Programme (CMP). And they will make sure the CMP is carried out to the letter so as to give legitimacy to their coalition with a party that has been their archrival since independence. They have been happy to call themselves 'watchdogs' that can 'bite' just to delineate themselves from being called the 'lapdogs' of the Congress party. Just two months into the agreement in July 2004, the Left had threatened to withdraw support on the sale of 5% stake in NTPC that ran contrary to promises made in the CMP.

Meeting their 'makers' holds no terror for the Left
That is literally the million dollar question. The slide in the stockmarkets on Monday, 8th October 2007 has eroded a huge amount of investor wealth. Any excuse would have done actually as the market had run up too fast, too soon anyways. But the continuous rumble from the Left parties on a slew of issues has everybody wondering more about 'when' the rug will be pulled rather than the 'if it will be pulled'.

As expected gains play a role in behaviour it is interesting to chalk up the rewards for the Left. By showing their doggedness in keeping their word, they probably want to appear most 'honourable' among the parties. In hope that it might translate into increased representation across the country and give them a larger say in the national matters than has ever been possible over the last sixty years. Mr. Deve Gowda's plan to seek help from Left parties in Karnataka to keep the Bharatiya Janata Party in abeyance shows the increasing spheres of influence the Left can command in these changed politics of power.

If it were any other nation than the die-hard capitalist United States that was offering us the option of cleaner power to run our industries, the Left probably would not have demurred. West Bengal under communist rule has lived in poverty and more for the last fifty years, but their commitment to anti-capitalism has not wavered, and the voters have not punished them for it either. So any argument that we cannot grow faster than what we are doing now (which is quite impressive actually) without nuclear power is not going to hold water. And the spectre of earlier elections is not going to faze the Left.

May be the Left is right
The idea of selling our souls to get some extra power to run a few more factories is may be not what India wants to stand for. A poverty-stricken India had managed to carve out a path distinct from either blocs when the cold war was at its zenith. India managed to build her own super computer and satellites when technology was refused. Now as a prosperous economy that is needed by the rest of the world, India can surely stick to her Non-Aligned status. The single incident of India voting against Iran in concurrence to the American vote is probably the reason behind the Left's intransigence on this issue.

The matters have come to a head with the International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mr. El-Baradei coming to Mumbai yesterday to discuss 'nuclear safe-guards' with the Congress-led government. The Left vehemently opposes these and has promised to withdraw support. The opposition of BJP and its allies too has slammed the nuclear deal. By being above party politics and discussing the deal and its caveats with all concerned right from the beginning would have left the UPA government some more room to manoeuvre. By forgetting the rules of the game in coalition politics, the Congress and the Left have painted themselves in corners from where the only face-saving measure seems to be to appeal to their makers to take a call.

Relative strengths

UPA   Left  
Indian National Congress 146 Communist Party of India (Marxist) 43
Rashtriya Janata Dal 23 Communist Party of India 10
Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam 16 Revolutionary Socialist Party 3
Nationalist Congress party 10 All India Forward Bloc 3
Pattali Makkal Katchi 6 Total seats 59
Jharkhand Mukti Morcha 5    
Lok Janshakti Party 4    
Kerala Congress 2    
Indian Union Muslim League 1    
J & K People's Democratic Party 1    
Republican Party of India (Athavle) 1    
All India Majlis e Ittehadul Muslimeen 1    
Total UPA 216 UPA + Left = 275  

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