The unceremonious exit of the Congress-Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam coalition government in Puducherry headed by V. Narayanasamy was more or less expected. The three members of the House who quit his government have made it clear that pragmatism is greater than principles in politics. Not that the Congress, local or central unit, had any strong principle to be in power. The Puducherry government was the last bastion of the over-a-century-old Congress in the south, which never came anywhere close to power in nearby Tamil Nadu for more than six decades now.
In such a scenario, the BJP’s urge and compulsions to expand to the south of Vindhyas is understandable. But a ‘Congress–mukt South’ is a challenge of sorts for the BJP. Karnataka is the only state where the BJP has been in and out of power. The other four states and Pondicherry had strong regional parties that did not allow a direct Congress-BJP contest. Tamil Nadu is a classic example where, like the Congress, the BJP has to enlist the support of regional parties that alternate as governments.
This is one reason why the BJP is increasingly having to depend on ‘outsiders’ for the party’s growth and victory. However, it is one thing to enlist the support of popular personalities and achievers and rope them in as party members, it is another to allow other party leaders in en masse. E. Sreedharan, who joined the BJP in Kerala, is expected to lend his credibility to the party’s fortune in the forthcoming election in April this year. For the record, the BJP projected Kiran Bedi as a chief ministerial candidate in Delhi in 2015, but lost miserably.
But getting politicians from other parties, especially those facing corruption allegations, could create unpleasantness within the party. To its credit, the central unit of the BJP, under the able leadership of two strong leaders – Narendra Modi and Amit Shah – has so far handled internal dissent and discord fairly well. But then elections are fought not only on the charisma of the central leadership but also by the cadre whose boots, and ears, are on the ground.
It all goes South
With the imposition of President’s rule in the Union Territory (UT), the Puducherry administration officially comes under the unelected bureaucracy and the new Lt Governor – Tamilisai Soundararajan – who has been given additional and temporary charge of the UT. The constitutional powers of the administrator of a Union Territory are a notch higher than those of the elected chief minister. In a way, Puducherry has now come directly under the governance of the Union home ministry. Therefore, none of the half a dozen projects inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi this week bore the names of Congress-DMK members. But it is doubtful if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) can successfully trade these proposed projects for votes.
The outgoing chief minister has accused the BJP, especially the central leadership of the party, of indulging in unethical practices to topple his government. His words sound too hollow in the background of his own party’s not-so-ethical practices in the past in several states. But the wrongs of the Congress do not make the BJP’s doings right. The local unit of the party appears to have been in an indecent haste to wrest power in the Union Territory with a budget smaller than a municipal ward in the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).
Another irony is the daily pinpricks that the Narayanasamy government suffered, not from his worthy opponent the BJP (which incidentally had no member in the House) but from none other than former Lt Governor Kiran Bedi. The former IPS officer and anti-corruption crusader, known to be a stickler for rules, was considered a greater impediment for the Congress government than its political adversaries in Puducherry.
Aaya Rams and Gaya Rams
The situation in West Bengal is no different where more than a dozen Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders and several party workers have been joining the BJP. Many of these leaders are the ones who have stood by chief minister Mamata Banerjee all these years. While she is unable to retain them and make good use of them to ward off the challenges from the BJP, their unrestricted entry into the BJP makes the party vulnerable. The party can’t become the last refuge of “Aaya Rams” and “Gaya Rams”, something the BJP used to taunt the Congress with.
Democracy is not an ideology anymore, nor is principled politics the flavour of the season. As always, it is the winner who takes the cake and is not burdened to explain how the victory came about. The loser has to keep explaining why he or she lost the elections. But at some stage, political parties, especially national parties like the BJP and the Congress, should ponder over two things: restoration of principles in politics and consensus on national issues.
Seshadri Chari is the former editor of ‘Organiser’. Views are personal.