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Mainstream, Vol XLVI, No 24

Momentous Event against a Depressing Backdrop


Monday 2 June 2008, by SC


With the Gujjar protest assuming menacing proportions to affect not just Rajasthan but also other neighbouring States and even the National Capital Region, both the Rajasthan Government and the Centre have their hands full. The demand for ST status for the Gujjars is nothing new—the community members have been seeking this for quite sometime and resorted to a similar agitation a year ago. However, as has been highlighted in several analyses and commentaries, a tenacious and concerted peaceful movement to buttress the demand is quite different from the violence the Gujjars are resorting to and no government, at the State or Central level, can be expected to countenance such coercive tactics. Yet the basis of the Gujjars’ grievance must not be overlooked under any pretext. To tackle such an agitation statesmanship and deft political handling are the need of the hour; but these are sadly lacking in today’s polity thereby further aggravating the already tense situation.

Meanwhile despite the UPA leadership’s wishful thinking, inflation shows no signs of decline. This is causing immense hardship to the common people, the aam aadmi, and could turn out to be extremely costly in the political sense for the ruling dispensation. A barometer of the people’s alienation from the alliance in power at the Centre is available from the steps the Left parties (notably the CPM) are planning to take—to widen their distance from the ruling coalition going to the extent of even withdrawing support to the UPA Government if the need arises. Having enjoyed the privilege of proximity to power without sharing any operational responsibility whatsoever of those running the government they (and the CPM in particular) are now preparing the ground for a final showdown as the going gets tough. But isn’t that expected of a grouping headed by the CPM that is currently devoid of any purpose or perspective (as eloquently witnessed in its manner of functioning in West Bengal)?

The Congress, on its part, has itself to blame for its failure to build a genuine party organisation all these years it was in power at the Centre. The Karnataka election results have illustrated its weakenesses in several areas thus compelling the party strategists to concede that the BJP ran a much successful election campaign in the State. However, if one takes a dispassio-nate view of the Karnataka electoral outcome it will be seen that beyond the caste factors the BJP gained only because of the division of the secular vote which got divided primarily between the Congress and JD(S) although none should minimise the impact of the BSP on Dalit voters. The Left leaders have aptly focused on this aspect as well as the effect of rising prices on the electorate. But to say that the Karnataka results would have limited influence on national politics is a complete misreading of the all India scene. The BJP is on ascendancy everywhere (even in the South, as seen from its success in Karnataka that has enabled it to get a firm foothold south of the Vindhyas) and the party has been doubtless bouyed by its Karnataka victory. This necessitates the continued understanding and anti-communal unity-in-action between the Left and the Congress-led UPA notwithstanding all the mutual acrimony and dissonance; but the short-statured leaders suffering from acute myopia alongside inflated egos are unable to comprehend the essence of such a relationship so imperative in the current setting.

It is against this overall depressing backdrop that one continues to draw immense inspiration from the positive developments in Nepal. In spite of their differences and disputes, the political leaderships of all parties in the Himalayan state have once again come together to turn the tables on the monarchy with the newly elected Constituent Assembly taking the historic step, on May 28, of deciding to declare the country a Republic thus ending the 240-year rule of the Shah Dynasty. The popular support to this step, as seen on the streets of Kathmandu, is in itself fresh testimony to the strength of people’s power as against the diminish-ing might of the erstwhile monarch, Gyanendra (as a consequence of his own follies that also betrayed his arbitrary and autocratic proclivities aimed against the Nepalese citizens). It is this people’s power which had ensured the CPN-Maoist victory in the CA elections and the same power has been instrumental in the Assembly adopting the five-point Cabinet proposal underscoring that henceforth Nepal will be an “integral, secular and inclusive Federal Democratic Republic”.

India being in the vanguard of the nations greeting this momentous event is also of phenomenal significance from the standpoint of the masses’ cooperative advancement in South Asia.

May 28 S.C.

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