The Congress abuse of 'coalition dharma'

Remember what Forrest Gump said?

“Stupid is what stupid does.”

That very much applies to the Congress which recently told Mamata Banerjee that she would be crossing the lakshman rekha, and breaching the coalition dharma, by attending the swearing in ceremony of Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab.

She should instead have the senior partner in UPA-II to just shut up and stop moralising and learn its manners.

After all, Badal is a senior politician and her counterpart in Punjab who had bucked the anti-incumbency factor. After all, his swearing in was not a party affair but a state function where the Governor would be present. A governor, it is known, is a constitutional office.

The logic, articulated by Manu Singhvi, the Congress spokesman, apparently is because one should stay away from a political rival’s crowning moments. And perhaps, there was in the background that Badal of the Shiromani Akali Dal was an ally of Bharatiya Janata Party, always tagged by Congress as being ‘communal’. And it had nicely trounced the Congress.

The very use of the word ‘coalition dharma’ by Manu Singhvi of the Congress betrays the distortion of politics and throwing away of the normal civilities one expects of people in public office.

The announcement of intent of Sharad Pawar, another important ally of Congress, to attend Badal’s crowning too raised eyebrows as if he was committing a cardinal sin. The very use of the word ‘coalition dharma’ by Manu Singhvi of the Congress betrays the distortion of politics and throwing away of the normal civilities one expects of people in public office.

Call her what you will — loose cannon, whimsical, temperamental et al — but Mamata Banerjee is smart; yes she may have her rough edges, that is all. She at once announced that she would not attend the swearing in ceremony in Lucknow either, thus taking away the meaning that Congress was ridiculously trying to infuse into the simple act of attending an official function.

These naturally provoke questions.

In states where Congress was battered out of shape – for instance, Uttar Pradesh, Goa – in the recent Assembly elections, would the party stay away from the swearing in of Akhilesh Yadav and Manohar Parrikar? If the party directs, as it almost did with Mamata, its Opposition leaders in the state, it is setting a confrontationist tone to politics in the respective legislature, and thus the entire country.

Going by the Congress logic which implies that you are with us or you are entirely against her, shouldn’t Mamata Banerjee have been sent out of the UPA-II for her opposition to several policies and actions of that coalition. And Samajwadi Party ought to have been told by now that given the way it hurt the Congress in UP, it ought to cease supporting the UPA-II.

They should then have been free to hobnob only with Nitish Kumar, Navin Patnaik, Jayalalithaa, Akhilesh Yadav, Narendra Modi, Manohar Parrikar and be happy with it? That would be too dangerous a move for the Congress so it decides to moralise to her to the extent it was to fill her engagement diary.

If attending the swearing in of a person as chief minister was to be construed as a wavering of loyalties of an ally, then politics is being driven deep into mud. Then what about doing business with them later in the very same legislatures, including Parliament?

If disapproval it was, then all the talk about ‘respecting the verdict’ and ‘we will sit in Opposition’ is pure bunkum, worthy of no note except as routine platitudes, of no substance at all. The TV crew and newspapers could easily have ignored it for the later events where coalition partners were asked to stay away showed only pettiness.

By these Congress-promoted norms in politics, it has to be assumed that the Congressmen in Parliament ought not to be even seen chatting with the BJP members in the Central Hall, leave alone participate in the same deliberative assembly with them. Oh my, aren’t they Opposition and that too with the ‘communal’ taint?

Then how do these Congress worthies sit with, say Narendra Modi now and will have to with Badal as well as Parrikar henceforth for five years in the National Integration Council as well as several of the Chief Ministers’ Conferences? Would they absent themselves or walk out when the political rivals come in or get up to speak, much like BJP did when it boycotted P Chidambaram?

Fact is, outside of these public stances, the politicians are different in their conduct. There is a lot of bonhomie, personal friendships cutting across party lines. Without that, take it as given, no party in power can hope to have some working floor coordination in any legislative body. There would be worse chaos than what is visible already.

Such gestures cannot signify political equations apart from civil conduct of public men. If it were signals, then the Congress ought to take the hint from what transpired in Uttarakhand where their own partyman Harish Rawat stayed away, with over half of the Congress legislative party in that state, from the ceremonial induction of HN Bahuguna. Was Harish Rawat sending any different single than disapproval?

Forrest Gump was right. Though he was a dullard, he knew the right thing about stupidity. On the other hand, the Congress is too clever by half.

Updated Date: Mar 14, 2012 12:09 PM

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