A friend sent an email last week - what do you think of the bhisma pitamah remark? At that time I had no clue about what he was talking about. That evening I did not get the time to switch on the TV and only next morning read what the Prime Minister had said on the floor of the parliament.
I have for one long believed that India needs a national government for fifteen to twenty years, which has a national agenda for governance and development and is able to rise above the narrow considerations of rent seeking regional politics that our democracy has degenerated into.
It is in this backdrop my hopes rose when I read the PMs comments. Is it possible for the BJP and the Congress to come together on matters of national interest? Contentious issues on both sides can be put on cold storage. BJP, as part of the NDA, had put its core Hindutva agenda on the back burner. Can Congress do the same with its minority appeasement program? If the two can come together, then the rent seeking capacity of parties’ like BSP and the Left Front will dramatically diminish.
This needless to say is wishful thinking. Look at how the highways development program - the only major national program in the last twenty five years that I can think of except the telecom initiative during Rajiv Gandhi's time - has been virtually brought to a standstill in the last four years. The GQ project remains incomplete and the NSEW project has made marginal progress and is far from completion. The nuclear deal, which I believe is in our nation's interest, has been stalled by the communists, whose heart beat for China and Russia and most certainly not for India.
While there is hope, it is still fanciful. The PM while reaching out to Vajpayee, who is in retirement and deservingly so, snubbed Advani, the anointed PM candidate of the BJP. Therefore, it is unlikely that the two parties will at any point of time cooperate on the floor of the parliament for the sake of the country unless it is a grave issue like Kargil invasion.
There is no reason why the government did not involve the main opposition party to seek the broadest level national consensus on the Indo-US nuke deal. For the broadest level consensus, to use the PMs words, the BJPs involvement is necessary. And the Left Front's is not. The Left is a three state party although technically speaking CPI (M) is a national party. CPI, which rants and harangues at every given opportunity, has exactly ten seats in parliament.
Left Front's concurrence is only necessary for this government's survival and that too I doubt. Firstly, the Left is on the back foot in Kerala and West Bengal. It is not too eager to face elections. Secondly, if on the issue of nuke deal, there is a vote in parliament, and if BJP supports it, then this government will survive. The Congress instead of trying to divide the BJP should seek their cooperation in national interest. Then there is hope.