Siddharth Varadarajan in The Hindu on the day of the confidence vote in Parliament:
When a patient is staring death in the face, the dividing line between self-preservation and self-destruction can be rather thin. In medieval times, leeches were often attached to a dying patient’s body in the belief that the ‘bad’ blood they drew out would help breathe life into him. But even if this drastic remedy worked, the doctor had to know when it was safe to cast aside the pet parasites. Let them feed too long and the sick man might never recover; remove them too soon and they may not have time to deliver their ‘cure.’
Ever since the Left parties withdrew their support to the United Progressive Alliance, the Congress party has sought to prolong the life of the government it leads by resorting to leech therapy. Beginning with the Samajwadi Party, it has struck deals with a range of parties and individuals to ensure at least 271 votes when the confidence motion is put to test on July 22. Some of these deals involve concessions that are in the public domain – a file speeded up here, a Cabinet berth promised there – but the most critical indulgences sought and granted are the ones not being advertised. Whatever they are, these deals could prove counterproductive for the Congress at four levels. First, the perception has gotten around that the UPA will go to any length to win this vote, even if this means accommodating demands that ought not to be accommodated. The Congress may carry the day but its reputation will have been diminished as a result. Second, creating the impression that the SP’s pet agendas will be pursued with vigour has given Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati a compelling reason to go flat out to unseat the government. Third, the impression that one section of big capital is being pandered to has galvanised another section into action, and it is far from clear what the overall effect of this corporate intervention will be for the Congress. Fourth, the understanding with the SP is clearly not momentary. As it matures into a full-fledged political alliance involving seat-sharing in Uttar Pradesh, the compact will represent the Congress’s formal abandonment of any hope of revival in India’s politically most important state.
Playing the Muslim card on nuclear deal
Also by Siddharth Varadarajan
Going by the statements Indian politicians make, Hindus and Muslims must be the most gullible people on earth. How else can one explain the cynical revival, in the run-up to the next general election, of the Ayodhya temple card by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K Advani? Or the manipulative assertion by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati that the nuclear deal is anti-Muslim.
Sadly, Mayawati is not the only one to look at one of the most important foreign policy issues confronting India in this manner. On June 23, M K Pandhe, a member of the politburo of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), warned the Samajwadi Party against supporting the UPA govern- ment on the nuclear issue because, he claimed, “a majority of the Muslim masses are against the deal”. The CPI(M) general secretary Prakash Karat wisely disowned this shocking statement two days later by saying that Pandhe’s remarks “are not the view of the party” but the damage had al- ready been done. Now that it has been let out of its bottle, this dangerous genie will not be exorcised easily. Parties eager to hoodwink Muslims into supporting them feel they now have an issue. And waiting in the wings are the traditional Muslim- baiters in the BJP, who thrive on the communalisation of any issue and will point an accusatory finger at the community when the time is ripe.
Siddharth Varadarajan’s blog Reality, one bite at a time: