Time for common minimum good

Satish K Singh

Call it coincidence or hard realities of the times - economy on a roller coaster ride, years of social solidity showing signs of cleavages yet again, competing electoral politics cracking the roof - things don’t look and feel good. Critics and commentators will agree that when you do not have much to offer or give, promises of all kinds - mostly empty, takes centre stage. Do we not smell it in the battlefield of Uttar Pradesh - division of the state, reservation for minorities, bonanza for weavers, 24X7 electricity supply by 2014, number one state by so & so year and what not - all within two months.

Switch to Pan India stage - the promises read like a ‘Fortune 120 crores list’ – food security, land acquisition, FDI multi-brand retail, Citizens Charter, public grievance law & zero tolerance on corruption - the list goes on. However, a new trend looks ominous; none of the political actors look ready to credit the doer.

If UPA says that improved land acquisition law will be a reality, Maya discredits the centre for failed delivery and instead credits herself. On the other hand, the Opposition goes to the extent of supporting legislation in one house, opposing or absenting in the other. Now, take the example of FDI in multi-brand retail - barring the left, both BJP and the Congress have either supported or opposed the move in recent history as per their convenience.

The moot question is, can we go for onetime kill or leap? Can the political parties rise over their petty interests and agree on a broader minimum agenda for common good and keep ‘politics’ over and above it? This does not mean that they stop opposing or supporting issues on the basis of their ideologies, beliefs, policies and programmes. Nonetheless, an aspiring nation can’t be made to suffer or be kept hostage to petty politicking. The sooner the political class across the spectrum realize this, the better it will be not only for the electorates but it will also suit the varied political outfits – regional or national as a whole.

By such an effort, the political class as a whole can save themselves from the chronic onslaught of their detractors, electorates and in considered view, assured continuity can be handy for enjoying legitimacy, respect and acceptance of the policy makers, entrepreneurs and even the lobbyists and pressure groups of different strands.

And why can’t they achieve it? There are examples of the success of ‘consensus dividend’. Take the case of common minimum programmes of UF government, NDA coalition and UPA-1. Even the BJP had to suspend their core agenda for the entire period of the NDA rule. Also consider the recent examples - whenever there is trouble for the incumbent government, coalition in particular, it takes recourse by crying ‘consensus’ politics or all party conclaves and such moves always result in some bit of ‘positive dividend’. Ask the Anna phobia struck UPA-2.

Let us return to the basic premise of this write-up. Are the political class promising too much and delivering too little? You do not even need a sample survey research finding to support the conclusion. But what makes them do this? And why do they need to do this? We all know the answer to this - you do it when you are hungry and in a hurry to outsmart each other. But then, what happens when the electorate asks or analysis your promises – you lose credibility, legitimacy and voice, even though you can hoodwink and pickpocket your ‘votes’ for the moment.

Let us not forget then you produce and invent Anna in each household. Today, he is pitching for Jan Lokpal, tomorrow he may just silence you by taking you to task for all the promises you make and the accountability seekers may not be one ‘Anna’ alone. So why not agree to a basic ‘common minimum good’ or in other words common minimum programme of governance - you may christen it by any other nomenclature, but agreed in vow, by all relevant actors of democratic political class. Let us not forget, even the nascent Indian democracy had ‘consensus’ foreign policy for long. So is it not time to give a definite try for ‘consensus’ economic and social policy? Let there be no doubt that there is an urgent and definite case for it as never before and it will be a win-win situation for each stakeholder of Indian democracy.

Just one last thing - have we seen any pro or anti Anna Lokpal, political rallies or turnout by any of the political parties, major or minor? Where is the boat club jamboree or Ramlila assembly of left, right or centre on the issue? Is it because, there is a ‘secret consensus’ among the entire political class to avoid or ignore Anna and if they can show this understanding or complete consensus on ‘apolitical’ Anna and his sound pitches, why can’t they agree on common minimum good at least for their own sake.

( Satish K Singh is Editor, Zee News)

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