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Limited vs unlimited mandate

Last Updated: Monday, May 31, 2010 - 20:39

Shashank Chouhan

P Chidambaram has a limited mandate to tackle Naxals. The latter, of course, do not seem to need any mandate or permission etc to do what they like doing best- spilling blood of the janta that they claim to represent, as well of the security personnel who are stationed to protect the common man.

In yet another daring and brutal attack, the red rebels have derailed the Howrah-Kurla Lokmanya Tilak Gyaneshwari Super Deluxe Express in their bastion of West Midnapore, killing over 140 and injuring 150.

Like always, there appears to be no particular reason that so many innocent lives were made a target. It is pointless violence which is more a turf war between the State and the ‘state-less’ actors that continues to take its toll on those who have nothing to do with it at all.

Victims of a limited vs unlimited mandate.

As the UPA completes its sixth year in power one wonders about who limited this mandate. A year back the whole country was talking about the ‘decisive victory’ of Manmohan & co. The coalition won 262 seats on its own- a full 44 seats more than Mandate 2004. With the scramble that this victory caused amongst parties to be seen with the winners, the Congress-led alliance ended up with the support of over 300 MPs in the Lok Sabha.

So who has tied the hands of the government of India? How come the Home Minister still needs to go back to the Cabinet and revise the policy to tackle Maoists? Why is the government not taking or seen to be taking any stern action against those who flout laws with impunity?

We need not get frustrated for the answers as the man in the hot seat himself answered them in one of his regular press conferences.

“Governments have to survive and also get re-elected and policymakers have to factor in all these before deciding on issues,” P Chidambaram said. The most basic reason of a politician’s existence is stopping them to protect the very people who send them to office.

That of course will limit any mandate that may be manipulated by a ruthless bunch of individuals who aren’t prepared to cede an inch of territory that they have acquired through years of political neglect.

The democratically elected government does not want to be termed dictators by taking the velvet gloves off . That it is thus being referred to as a soft state seems not much of a concern.

Limited mandate was later clarified as the limit of Centre’s powers in the affairs of law and order which are to be looked after by the state governments.

Compare this with the agenda of Naxals: to capture power in India by means of an armed revolution.

While the Naxals are clear that their fight is with the government - be it at the Centre or the state - , the governments are not sure if they at all want to put up a resistance and then too how much! The government should rather use the verdict of a case filed in a court against TADA which argued that since law & order was a state subject, the Centre could not make a law such as TADA. The court ruled that ‘defence of India’ in the Centre’s list includes preserving the internal sovereignty of the country and not just tackling external threats.

But thanks to the half-hearted approach being followed till now, the semi-trained paramilitary forces and locals recruited to help them almost always prove to be sitting ducks in the face of an adversary that seems determined, trained and equipped to win the war. Chidambaram, on the other hand, is not even ready to call this a war.

Supreme ambiguity rules at the highest quarter. That is a surprise because PM Manmohan Singh has been rightly calling Naxals the biggest threat of the country. However, he is not prepared to tell the people how we are dealing with this threat, saying that such matters will be discussed in the Cabinet.

Mandate is also limited by the allies of the Congress. Trinamool and the Left parties (erstwhile allies) continue to clip the wings of the Central government to score brownie points in their electoral territories.

There is also a sensible concern, though, that these wanton acts of violence may be perpetrated purely to extract a knee-jerk reaction from an edgy government. Target civilians, up the pressure from people, government will be forced to send in the Army resulting in casualty that will be termed civilian and lo! the government will be ridiculed again.

But that cannot be an excuse in remaining indecisive and handing out limited mandates.

The government has been given the mandate to protect the people of India and it cannot keep shying away from commenting on the matter. What is worse is that internal disagreements seem to be an obstacle in framing strategy.

In such times, only the inner voice that speaks of the interests of the people of India can truly guide any action. But this voice needs to emerge fast, lest more innocents are sacrificed en route to revolution. The government seems to be ready to be injured as Chidambaram repeatedly says that this is going to be a long struggle, but is afraid to strike.

While the acts of Naxals are appalling, the government’s inability to prevent them or punish those responsible is the real shock. And a mystery.

First Published: Monday, May 31, 2010 - 20:39

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