A veritable Kurukshetra

When Lord Krishna blew His conch to herald the beginning of the great war, there was, despite the impending bloodbath, at least one consolation. Both the Pandavas and Kauravas knew who they were fighting and who their allies were. But democratic wars defy such norms. Neither are the battlelines clear, nor are the enemies visible. The former gets blurred owing to frequent trampling upon by habitual floor crossers while the latter could be lurking just right under your noses.

The United Front, for which we sang the obituary yesterday, must be now ruing its fate en route to oblivion. To die at the hands of the enemy within is indeed a very painful ignominy, but then the UF’s very existence was a sin and so its demise would evoke few mourners outside of its fragile walls. Even in mythology we have two separate gods handling the portfolios of creation and destruction. But for the very transient UF, both were rolled into one in the form of Chandrababu Naidu. It is indeed true poetic justice that the hand that moulded the clay should now strike it down to plain mud. But by performing the act of the executioner, Naidu was only helping the UF keep its tryst with destiny.

The intrigues and suspense that preceded the Speaker’s election are a sure pointer to the shape of things to come. Perhaps for the first time in Parliamentary history there is likely to be a contest for the post of the Speaker with the warring groups committed to contest beyond retraction. It is certainly a pity that P.A.Sangma had been forced into a battle, much against his intent owing to a coup of sorts pulled off by the BJP at the very last minute. It would be a sad day for the country if he is ‘defeated’ by the little known, even to Advani or Vajpayee, we hear, some-Yogi. The Prime Minister’s call for a consensus approach has faded away even before it was heard. The field is now wide open for a battle royal on any and every issue and the countdown indeed has begun, truly and well, for a prolonged period of mudslinging and a no-holds- barred slanging war inside the precincts of Parliament.

The Congress and its leadership are clearly paying for their greed. They never had any rightful claim to the Speakership, despite Sangma’s impeccable record in that capacity. By convention, it has been the ruling party’s prerogative to have a Speaker of its choice elected unopposed. The BJP respected this tradition in 1991 as well as 1996 and was quite justified in expecting its candidate to make it to the top slot. But then reciprocity is not a Congress virtue, even if it means throwing norms to winds and so the Congress, in an attempt to take advantage of the fluid situation, tried to foist its nominee. It was their belief that the individual goodwill of Sangma is enough to carry the day in their favour. They have now ended up at the receiving end of a shabby scuffle, and in the process have also tarnished the record of one of the very few Congressmen with a good reputation.

For the BJP, ever since UP, its prime war cry has been, end justifies the means, no matter whatever the compromises. The party was evidently impatient, just hanging around in the peripheries, without exactly making it to the Centre. The present elections were a case of now or never, and it had, through its actions, made it amply clear that it would stop at nothing to better its earlier record of thirteen days. One cannot wholly blame it, though. The enemies have been employing all the tricks in the democratic trade just to keep it out and the BJP is certainly not inclined to begin its reign by putting the left foot first. Conceding the Speakership would be tantamount to buckling at the very sight of the enemy without going to battle and there was no way the BJP is going to make such an inauspicious and ignominious beginning. And they know by experience that, in a democracy, defeat is the first step for several more defeats. Also they are well aware of the importance of the role of the Speaker in a hung Parliament, especially in the wake of the UP imbroglio, which coincidentally was settled in their favour yesterday.

The nation, given the insecure mandate it has wrought upon itself, is certain to be a compulsive witness to more of such bad blood and political acrimony in the days to come. The rules of democracy have already been amended unofficially to include chicanery, treachery, backstabbing et al. Quite a quantity of linen is likely to be washed in public with the dirt and muck threatening to blacken the already stinking polity. After all, no battlefield can host a war without itself getting bloodied in the process. All the same we do mourn the fall of yet another of the few last posts of democracy in the inglorious war between Kauravas and Kauravas and Kauravas. Who cares who wins?

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Jawahar T R