The nuclear game – inevitable end-game in India

Posted on July 11, 2008. Filed under: India, Nuclear, Politics |

Finally, the UPA government in India has taken the plunge. It has decided to go ahead with the deal, after ensuring (or thinks it has ensured) the required number of MP’s support for proving majority on the floor of the parliament. The Left has played its card, and is waiting to see if there is some kind of face saving fall-out of the failure of the Congress and its remaining or new-found allies to prove parliamentary majority.

What are the options and scenario for each of the leading political groupings?

Congress : (1) Gather all possible support to prove majority (2) be prepared to give various undertakings to the allies as price for support, such as a possible joint move against Mayavati in UP with SP in the coming elections thereby sacrificing the efforts made so far by Rahul Gandhi to strike an independent posture in UP. However the embarrassment of having to undo Rahul’s high-profile attempts can be relatively easily compensated for by formally arguing that Rahul is needed at the centre, perhaps even as a young Indian “PM”. (3) Show to the Left that the Congress can manage without them (4) However not be too harsh in criticism of the Left, so that a door is left open for future possible collaboration again in electoral politics, thereby also showing the remaining allies that they should not try to drive too hard a bargain as the Congress could as easily switch over to an alliance or understanding with the Left again in the future (5) the campaign or aspersion by Mayavati and some from the Left that Muslims do not support the deal could now actually prevent any Muslim MP’s to vote against the deal on the floor of the Parliament.

Problems : possible last minute betrayal by some individual members of allies

The Left : (1) wait now and try meanwhile for the failure of Congress’s attempts to prove majority (2) this mobilization to gather support against the N-deal could be seen (or projected to its supporters and workers) by the leadership as a mobilization for realignment for the coming elections and reaching into areas where it did not have significant penetration or presence. (3) success of the Congress could be disastrous in the short term – with fall-outs for elections, as the only party with national presence that could help the Left with an alliance is the Congress, and this separation could mean a huge loss of bargaining power of the Left for future alliances (4) success of the Congress and therefore the passing of the 123-agreement could mean on the long term much closer ties with the Western powers, which in the perception of the Left (and perhaps not without reason) would lead to strengthening of the “Right” within the Indian political spectrum.

Problems : (1) Left’s major mistake of staking so much on the N-deal, where it is a non-issue as regards the overwhelming majority of the population is concerned. It is possible that this mistake stems from Left’s support base and its leaderships’ own ideological prejudices. Left’s dominant component comes from West Bengal and Kerala, both having a substantial college-university educated class. However because of certain peculiarities of the Left organizational structure and its proximity now for a long time with state power, Left probably has less knowledge of the pulse of intellectual elite and professionals in its own backyard compared to its “emerging phase” (1940-1970). The organizational structure, which relies in reality on selection rather than election as leadership choosing process, ensures ideological continuity which need not always reflect ground conditions very accurately (the contradictions come up through the dynamic of changing electoral politics and state government policies). Although electoral success is usually cited as legitimacy for ideological positions taken up by the Left, we have to remember, that the Congress was also mostly hugely successful from immediately after Independence right up to the debacle of 1977. It has never been seriously investigated, as to how much of these successes depend on sudden opportunistic switching over of allegiance of influential elite classes within Indian society when they perceive that the older regime cannot ensure protection of their status any more. In short, the Left leadership perhaps more often hears what it wants to hear than what the reality is. In the case of the N-deal, ironically, even when the Left itself acknowledges that there are much more pertinent issues like inflation, its’ helping to make the N-deal the biggest issue of all, reflects its inability to comprehend that the N-deal after all is really a non-issue to perhaps 80% of Indians, and for the remaining vocal opinion-builder 20% – probably 19% favour the N-deal and may decide in the future to consolidate a single party in power to avoid dilemmas of indecision as in the UPA. The Left is playing on the grounds owned by parties like that of the BJP, and is bound to lose.

BJP : (1) try to consolidate its own umbrella alliance using the nuclear deal as a focus issue – with the significant contrast with the Left that the BJP wants “more” out of the N-deal, compared to the Left’s “less”. (2) BJP carefully avoids also the issue of inflation by focusing on the N-deal, as if they come to power they might also have no quick answers to this problem (3) try to isolate the Congress.

Problems: (1) economics could overtake N-deal as an issue (2) In case Congress succeeds, BJP loses its electoral momentum which it is trying to build up now (3) Regional alliances formed out of mutual dependence like that of Congress+SP could marginalize its own candidates in fractured societies like that of UP.


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