Sunday, June 24, 2007

UNPA took NDA, BJP for a ride

The politicians and parties in the United National Progressive Alliance (UNPA) -- they are so unimaginative that they could not even think of another name for their grouping -- are a disgruntled and a discredited lot. All of them are out of power, and excepting Jayalalaithaa, none of them is a charismatic leader. But they do believe that they have a bigger role to play in national politics despite their limited spheres of influence. So, they got together. The one major thing that unites them all is a hearty hatred of the Congress Party and its president, Sonia Gandhi. It is especially so with the Samajwadi Party (SP) duo of Mulayam Singh Yadav and Amar Singh. Jayalalithaa is mercurial. At one point of time, she was willing to do business with Sonia Gandhi. But then she suddenly turned violent against Sonia.

The Telugu Desam Party (TDP) leader N.Chandrababu Naidu is like the devalued, outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Both Naidu and Blair survvive exclusively on the oxygen provided by the media. Once it is turned off, they just wither away. Of course, Nadiu does not have the histrionic talent of Blair, but the two leaders have been successful shams.

The UNPA support for APJ Abdul Kalam was not based on personal admiration for the man. They were literally firing at the Congress Party over the shoulder of Kalam. An illusion has been created by the statement that Naidu made to the media outside the Rashtrapati Bhavan aout Kalam's willingness to consider joining the presidential poll fray. That was a typical cunning move of Naidu. He succeeded in putting the BJP on the backfoot, but failed to dent the Congress, the UPA and the Left parties. The Rashtrapati Bhavan media managers also played to Naidu's game.

It is reasonable to infer that Kalam did not give his consent to join the fray. There was not even a conditional consent. He could have just asked them about the numbers. And the NDA eaders led him up the proverbial garden path. But Kalam being a sincere man, his image cannot be tarnished by cunning politicians like Naidu.

It was not surprising then that streetfighter politicians like Congress' Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, RJD's Lalu Prasad Yadav and NCP's Sharad Pawar took potshots at Kalam without bothering to confirm whether what the UNPA said Kalam said was accurate or true. Munshi, Yadav and Pawar could have shown some restraint before taking up cudgels against Kalam, if not for the sake of Kalam, at least for the sake of the office of the president. But then our politicians have forgotten, or never learned, those little courtesies. Can we blame it all on Indira Gandhi, which is what many of us would like to do? It is like blaming Stalin for all the evils of Soviet communism. Musnhi, Yadav and Pawar will have to answer for themselves for their sheer rudeness they have shown Kalam.

Most Congress people hate Kalam, and they hated him even when they voted for him in 2002. There is a simple reason for this. Kalam does not fit the votebank Muslim image. He does not speak Urdu, he does not belong to Uttar Pradesh. He comes from the temple town of Rameswaram. he plays the rudraveena. He knows the Gita even as he remains a religious Muslim. The BJP wanted to use Kalam for the very same reasons that Congress scorns him for. But it is difficult for any one to use an honest man. Kalam is an honest man. The Hindu communalists and the Congress communalists have just been pushed to the wall by the sheer force of Kalam's honesty. He connected with the young people of this country much to the despair of all the pretentious politicians. He may not win an election from anywhere, but he will remain a popular leader. Though he was made president by the BJP and the Congress for ulterior motives, Kalam is not beholden to them in any way. That is what is galling to the politicians. He walked in tall, and he walks out tall.

The only people who were literally fooled were the BJP leaders. They reasoned that Kalam would decline, and they could then pressurise the UNPA to support their own candidate, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat. But BJP, despite the UNPA rebuff that it would not give even its second preference votes to Shekhawat, is still hoping that UNPA would come in handy in the post-election scenario in 2009. That is why, senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh said that the BJP/NDA-UNPA relationship is moving on the right track.

Mulayam Singh, Jayalalithaa, Chautala would not mind voting for Shekhawat. Naidu would like to vote for Shekhawat as well if he can pull off the impossible thing: vote for Shekhawat but the world must not know about it. Of course, Naidu is also seriously flirting with the communal Muslim voters, like Congress. And the communal Muslims are going to take advantage of this, and favour one at one time, and the other at another time. The communal Muslims are not the ordinary Muslims. They are the small elite group of educated professionals, who feel the need to nurture communalism because of the wrong notion that that is the only way to assert one's religious identity. So, you do not find these educated, communal Muslims thinking about theology, philosophy, history, art.

It is the desperate hope of UNPA to grab power the way United Front did in 1996 with both Congress and the BJP reduced to the status of small players. They also hope to get the Left Front on to their side.

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