The only crowd that appears somewhat in a mood to cheer the birth of yet another year, is perhaps the Congress. The last three days of this outgoing year have more than compensated for 362 days of endless woes for the party. In a way, the Sonia-mania that has gripped the party and lifted its sagging spirits, has come as an unexpected new year gift for the much-harried Congressman. Whether it is so for the nation also remains to be seen, and will probably figure in these columns, same times same day next year.
For, the rest of the nation, well, forget it, 1997 did not happen. Thanks to Kesri, politics went into a tizzy and the country was repeatedly plunged into one crisis after another. The curtains came down on the UF circus which was on show owing to the sponsors withdrawing support, with little hope of a repeat performance, thankfully. For the BJP, which is widely seen as the horse to bet on, it was a year for shedding morals as the party went berserk in pursuit of real politik. Having been at the receiving end of a virtual political apartheid, the party has now emerged touchable, though dubious means. But who can complain? It had done in UP only what the Congress did to it in Gujarat. If thirteen parties, each with less than 50 seats can come together on an imaginary common minimum programme and (mis)rule the country for 18 months, with no other aim except to keep the single largest party out, can anyone now question the BJP for throwing principles to winds? Well there certainly seems to be quite a few takers for the BJP’s refrain. With politics becoming a devil’s domain it is only natural that, after all, every devil must get its due, goes the logic.
Chidambaram’s dream budget slowly became a day dream and then gravitated into a nightmare as the year wore on. With due credits to the Finance Minister’s valiant efforts to kickstart it, the economy simply wouldn’t budge. It was really painful to see several far-reaching financial sector reforms practically going unnoticed, as the economy slipped into a deep slumber. With the next budget due only after the elections when the new government would have taken over(?), and with no clue as to its focus and direction, the sleep is, no doubt, going to be a very long one and a costly one too. But who cares? The DMK needs special mention. Having partnered the Congress in necessitating the elections, the party sought to project its refusal to step out of the government, as an exercise in self-respect. As usual and typically, this exercise in deception, and art in which they are masters, also carries with it its trademark hypocrisy. We wonder where their rationalism and self-respect had gone to graze when the Congress insisted that the UF change its Prime Minister. Then, it was expediency, but when it came to them, it was back-stabbing. Obviously, preachings are not for the preachers.
Besides the havoc played by rain and Jain on the State and its Chief Minister respectively, the DMK is busy even otherwise. While the citizens of the civilized, non-brigand Tamilnadu, were more bothered about bringing the forest brigand Veerappan into the mainstream, with all attendant benefits if only he voluntarily surrendered. But in effect, the law surrendered to the outlaw as the Neros at the government played the forest brigand’s tunes, delivered in the cassettes through a helpful brigand media, even as the State was burning with several other pressing problems that begged action. But then was not the DMK and its chief only keeping an election promise to the brigand?
When in power, the DMK has never relished new years which invariably begin with Januarys, a jinxed month which had twice in the past spelt doom for its reign. Uncertainty again seems to envelop the party, as no amount of rationalisations on the part of its chief could yield any clue to the game plan of their ally, TMC. The chief only knows too well that minus the ally his party is next to nothing which explains repeated, unilateral announcements that the ties are intact, despite the slur to his self-respect, as the party of the other part has so far not bothered to even respond.
As we bid adieu to 1997; we wish all incurable optimists amongst you the best of luck. Of course, the pessimists in you, in any case, do not care for it. All said, let us ring in the year 1998, which is to us, what Sonia is to the Congress. The last hope.
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