Thursday, April 9, 2009

Prime Minister who?

The past month has witnessed a curious new trend in Indian politics. The BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani has challenged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to an American style televised Presidential debate. Obviously the Congress isn't biting. Their argument being of course that India's parliamentary style democracy has no place for presidential style theatrics and that the Government is run by a cabinet of ministers owing allegiance to the party in power and the Prime Minister is only the first among equals. Now coming from the Congress this is Hypocrisy with a capital H. Since Independence the party has tried to project its leader as the person with the greatest public stature and moral fibre. The Congress party today is simply a shell of the party it once was and requires the Gandhi surname at the helm to keep itself from imploding. Hence the large posters with Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Rajiv Gandhi, Madam Sonia, little Rahul and for some odd reason Mahatma Gandhi. I'm guessing the party thinktank believes enough people might think the Mahatma is also related. Funnily the Congress persistently ignores the one Congress PM who did show some spine and had considerable political stature, the late P V Narasimha Rao. But then he doesnt count as a family loyalist. 
All of this leads to the question what role does the PM play in a parliamentary system? After much dillydallying the Congress has finally announced Manmohan Singh as its PM candidate. It is a curious situation to have a man who refuses to contest the Lok Sabha elections as your top guy. But atleast we know that if the Congress manages to return to power it'll be Dr Singh who'll jump around to the strings pulled by Madam Sonia. And for all his political shortcomings Mnamohan Singh is a world renowned expert in his field and a gentleman. The same is the case for the BJP. L K Advani is there for all to see, all 82 years of him, with the Ayodhya warts and all. But still a man of some principles, his stand in the Hawala scam being a case in point. 
The third front is where the real action is. Between Ms Mayawati, Ms Jayalalitha and even H D Deve Gowda there are way too many egotistic heavyweights vying for the top job. And this does not even take into consideration that other coterie of Lalu Prasad Yadav, Ram Vilas Paswan and Mulayam Singh Yadav. Between these names we have every single one of the worst traits in Indian politics. And the scary part is that, given the current scenario, they have a very real shot at the kursi. Of the lot Mayawati is being talked of as the prime contendor, not least because if things go her way, UP alone will ensure she has considerable bargaining clout. And the Left have already indicated that they dont have any issues with her Prime Ministerial aspirations. But I shudder to imagine an India where the prime aim of Government is to rename everything possible Dr Ambedkar this or that, and spend tax payers money on huge public parks housing statues of Dr Ambedkar, Kanshi Ram and rather prematurely, Mayawati herself. The PM is the face we present to the outside world and the very idea of a summit level meeting with President Obama and Mayawati or her fellow aspirants in the Third Front induces waves of nausea. A billion people and is this the best we can find? 
The truth is this. For all the hype and hoopla about the power of democracy and the importance of voting, in India we vote for the party not for our choice. The names on the ballots are foisted upon us by the party apparatus. Maybe its time we change over to a Presidential system. Then out votes will really count.


Raj said...

Its a very plausible situation that those nut sacks could represent India and I am very fearful of that day.

If you look at the candidates in a perspective as presidential system,I feel Dr.Singh is an appropriate candidate,although he has some shortcomings of not contesting the Loksabha elections etc.

Looks like we don't have much of a choice or voice to vote for the right candidate with all the credentials.

I don't know how a presidential system would work in India, with so many regional parties playing role in national politics.

kriskingle said...

like in all other situations,' it can happen only in india' is quite apt here. the reasons for this particular scenario,though,are not hard to miss.
advani's challenge is an attempt,and given the state of disarray in his own party, a pretty desperate one, to shift the focus away from his party's associations,proven or alleged,and bring his purported issues of corruption and security into the limelight...he hopes to attack the congress as much as possible on those...the congress of course, is having none of that, since they know that their answers to his questions will never convince anybody listening...and so the game of cat-and-mouse continues...
the rise of behenji is something i cannot explain, but the emergence of the other prime ministerial candidates is the natural progression of coalition politics. the party that can swing the majority, is in a position to bargain...but again,remember that this picture is only before the polls,and the indian voter is remarkably volatile. it will be interesting to see where these parties lie,after the elections...
and bang on about PVN; the BJP-led NDA govt. had the magnanimity to name one of their biggest projects after rajiv Gandhi, the Rajiv Gram Sadak Yojana,but the congress refuses to even recognize, leave alone acknowledge, the contributions of the man who led them and the country through a period of turmoil, and ushered in the era of liberalization.