With friends like these

By Akrita Reyar | Last Updated: Saturday, March 24, 2012 - 17:11
Akrita Reyar
Shades of Grey

Julius Caesar as he fell to the ground, stabbed to his heart (literally and allegorically) by his coterie, he uttered the unforgettable “et tu Brutus”.
Brutus, his beloved friend, too had betrayed him.
Indian politics draws much inspiration from the times of the Roman Empire. Possibly, we are a notch better. Our politicians stab from the front and that too in broad daylight.
DMK played no cloak and dagger games. It simply had the poor PM by his collar. Vote for a resolution against Sri Lanka or we’ll pull the rug.
So the PM obediently complied with instructions. The President’s speech contained a clear reference to what was to come. India broke from its long standing tradition of avoiding vote against specific country based resolutions and pushed the red button against our neighbour.
It was morally right, some would say, considering the scale of human rights violations. But what is the price that we paid? We upset the delicate strategic balance in the region. And now will clearly be edged out by Pakistan and particularly China, which has been pursuing the encircle India policy.
Tomorrow, if Pakistan manages to bring a Kashmir centric resolution to the UN table, where does one see Sri Lanka vis-à-vis us?
In an already incendiary South Asia we have abandoned national interest due to compulsion of domestic politics. A point made in the scathing letter from a very upset Sri Lanka.
A day earlier, Mamata nominee Mukul Roy, our new and hon’able Rail Minister, removed a couple of life support tubes that his predecessor Dinesh Trivedi had provided the Railways, struggling in the ICU!
The roll-back of fare hike in all segments except first and second class A/C means that the Railways can no longer mop up the expected Rs 7,000 crore. It would instead have to settle with a paltry Rs 300 crore.
Mamata had put a gun to the head of the UPA to withdraw the tariff hike that had been proposed after nearly a decade. In the last 10 years, when the rates of electricity, diesel and coal have sky-rocketed, how then can Railways continue to sustain such humungous losses? Where will it find the money to improve its pathetic safety standards, Trivedi had rightly argued.
For the first time, there were reports of the Rail Minister putting in papers a day after presenting his maiden budget. Would the government survive was the question debated, not whether the Railways was perilously close to going the Air India way.
And once again populist politics won over national interest.
The saga has been played over and over again in the two terms of the UPA. Whether it is FDI in multi-brand retail or pension and insurance reforms, the government has been paralysed by its recalcitrant partners.
There was a time when Jayalalithaa was as whimsical about every move made by the Vajpayee-led NDA government. The headstrong Madam (of the South) had given a bitter pill right at the beginning in 1998, when her elusive support to his 13-day government led to NDA’s collapse.
In the second and more stable NDA innings, the former southern siren turned politician traumatized the old man so much that he would have heaved a sigh of relief saying, “Bhoot Uttara” (the devil has been exorcised) when she quit the coalition.
Eventually the point to debate is not how handicapped UPA is, but the nature of our federalism. Would absence of a clear mandate for national parties mean that governments remain hostage to whims of parochial state level parties? Regional politics is played out on a fairly narrow circumference of self-interest and possibly promotion of state profit to some extent. It misses the larger picture.
National parties continue to compromise to just sustain at the Centre. Under such circumstances, how do governments press ahead with what is good for the nation on the whole?
What may be partially unsavory for some is often in the consolidated good for all. Regional agendas, after all, cannot be allowed to impede national growth. We need to decide whether we want to see India tied-up and tugged from all corners or a united and self confident nation on the march?
Unfortunately and increasingly, the answer is more than apparent.
With friends like these of any Central government, it really won’t need enemies to stop India’s progress in the tracks.

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First Published: Saturday, March 24, 2012 - 17:11

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