Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The confidence vote might be the beginning of the end of Congress

With Manmohan Singh cruising through the confidence vote the nuclear deal is a given. In an indicator of an apparent thumbs up from the American establishment, Washington Post has an editorial today: India's Outstretched Hands.

It understandably has gushing praise for Manmohan, and exhorts the American Congress to ensure passage for the deal even if a special session has to be held.
But, on balance, it is in the United States' interest, and Congress should find the time to say yes -- in a lame-duck session after the November election, if necessary.
The Americans seem to have doubts about the deal--or so they show off--just as we do. The underlying premise of this deal is the strategic cooperation between India and USA, and the containment of mutual threat from Mr. Karat's Shangri La.

The severe downside is the limitations on our own strategic weapons program and, forgive my cynicism but, our relegation to a second-class status by mutual connivance between USA and China. The latter is the worst that this deal could bring upon us.

Someday a future Indian PM, and it could be Narendra Modi or Mayawati, who knows, will have to decide to give a go-ahead for the test eventually, and wiggle out of this deal. The responsibility of Prime Ministers after Manmohan Singh is to ensure that such an eventuality occurs with minimal repercussions for India. I hope someone in our establishment is planning for that.

What I find more interesting are the probabilities for domestic politics. This deal marks the demise of Congress as a national force for several reasons. Whether its good or bad is debatable--e.g., a Congress without the dynasty may not be bad, but such a Congress party cannot and does not exist as we know it. You can always blame my prejudices for such a conclusion, and that's fair, but I hope that you'll read ahead.

The existence of any political party is predicated upon a support base which has to be derived in turn from a significant chunk of national populace. Unless such a base forms a critical mass the party might as well exist on paper. The Congress won the vote but it lost its base. After the demise of Soviet Union, Congress has been a pivot for not-necessarily-national groups. It thrived on support from Muslims, and Harijans.

With Mayawati emerging on the national scene the Dalit base has deserted the party. Why vote for a patron when you've your own, is what the Harijans probably told themselves in UP and will keep reminding themselves across the country. And that's perfectly normal.

The Muslims have abandoned the Congress ship for entirely different reasons; but for lack of critical numbers will have to look for an ally that will carry their agenda. With her large base in the heartland, limited national perspective, and primary interests in domestic power ,Mayawati fits the bill. Other casteists parties and regional parties, which essentially are casteist again, see an opportunity in this ready arithmetic that Mayawati brings them. In a Pavlovian response they will naturally coalesce around Behenji.

There's that old Hindi saying that two swords cannot exist in the same scabbard(Ek myaan mein doa talwar...etc).

If Congress and Maywati have claims over essentially the same voting group, then someone will've to give. And that's not Mayawati. Who else then but Congress? Where else can it replenish its dwindling votebank from?

Over the years, endless opinion pieces have tirelessly peddled the idea of how Congress alone represents the shoshit samaj, but Mayawati has blasted this myth to the trashcan of history. For good.

Congress is too compromised to represent legitimate nationalist desires. It is devoid of voice and agenda to channel the residual desires. What then should it represent? Why should it exist?

Today, Congress has no answer to this crucial existential dilemma. It can barely stand in the heartland without crutches of regional castelords.

What then is its future if not interminable decline and eventual demise?!

The nuke deal might inadvertenly signal a new path for India in more than one way.

4 comments:

dosabandit said...

One thought seems to skip everyone. If the nuclear deal in not against our strategic interests, why not announce a nuclear test just before the deal and see what happens to Dr. Singh's claims? There will not be any more doubts.

Though the Congress is facing a bleak prospect now, you never know what can they come up with. Surely these thoughts may have crossed their minds in playing this game. They are seasoned at playing all kinds of tricks. With them you never.

socal said...

They might simply argue that though there's no problem with testing, we need the deal, and to get that through we need to keep the charade that we will continue with our voluntary moratorium on testing.

Vinod_Sharma said...

Deal or no deal, the Congress is headed one way - downhill. Their alliance with SP will benefit only the latter.

This was bound to happen sooner rather than later as the party has been consumed by the Family, and many better alternatives are now available to the people.

As for the deal, I think Manmohan has pulled off something for which the nation will thank him for a long time. Had the BJP been in power, it would have crawled to get such a deal.

socal said...

What exactly changed between 2004 and 2006 that the Bush administration offered UPA a deal they wouldn't offer it to BJP? There's nothing outstanding about this deal except its strategic imperative; and that could be done with or without this deal. As long as the China threat is there there's always a scope for this or that deal.