The limits of coalition dharma are reached when an action threatens to break the partnership and bring down the government—leading to adharma. Mamata is breaching these limits and no one can support her
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has hundreds of enemies and more people who merely dislike him. There are many more who think he is a wimp, spineless, a door-mat—one could take out Roget’s Thesaurus and list all the synonyms.
Yet, there is one person whom Manmohan should be happy to have as an enemy: Mamata Banerjee. To modify the common quip, with Didi as an enemy, he doesn’t need friends.
Manmohan would describe Mamata as a “useful idiot”. This is a term coined by Vladimir Ilich Lenin to describe political rivals who, “by the very stupidity of their opposition, made your point far better than you ever could.”
Take the example of Mamata’s incredibly childish tantrum over this year’s Railway Budget. She shrieked in Kolkata so loudly that she did not need a telephone to be heard in Delhi. She demanded that the prime minister should sack Dinesh Trivedi, her own party man and nominee as railway minister, for having dared to increase railway passenger fares for the first time in nine years
“This is anti-people,” screamed Didi and demanded that the proposal to raise fares be dropped from the Railway Budget.
If her demands were not conceded, she threatened to move a “cut motion” during the debate on the Railway Budget. Mamata has 19 MPs in the Lok Sabha and a cut motion could be dangerous to the UPA government; defeat in a financial motion means automatic fall of the government.
“Off with his head,” Mamata ordered. Her antics, which border on the loony fringe, remind me of only one character: Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland; and a Queen of Hearts presiding over the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
All this brings us to the idea of coalition adharma. Where there is dharma, there is adharma; else why should Vishnu take ten avatars?
Newspaper reports say Congress leaders reacted to Mamata’s demand to sack Trivedi by parroting Manmohan Singh’s favourite phrase: coalition dharma.
They said coalition dharma gives the UPA’s allies the right to name anyone as a central minister within the quota given to them. And it gives them a lot of rights to demand certain policies that are helpful to the allies to strengthen their positions in their respective states. All very well and very fair in theory.
But in practice, the principle has to be applied with caution and after a process of logical reasoning. Otherwise, it could mean disaster for the country.
The DMK was accommodated under coalition dharma and A Raja was appointed telecom minister. According to the Comptroller and Auditor General, the decision cost the country Rs175,000 crore. Praful Patel was made civil aviation minister and Air India was forced to crash-land; its nose is still stuck in the mud.
These are examples of coalition adharma; just as Mamata’s flip-flop on the railway minister is coalition adharma.
The first principle of coalition dharma is to keep the coalition in power. It is all right to set off firecrackers under the prime minister’s chair if it is meant to keep the senior partner on its toes and run the country well.
The limits of coalition dharma are reached when an action threatens to break the partnership and bring down the government. Mamata is breaching these limits and no one can support her.
Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi might as well say: we cannot put up with this woman anymore; we would rather give up power and face fresh elections than give in to her unreasoning demands.
That would be the action of self-respecting people. But do politicians have self-respect?
(R Vijayaraghavan has been a professional journalist for more than four decades, specialising in finance, business and politics. He conceived and helped to launch Business Line, the financial daily of The Hindu group. He can be contacted at [email protected].)
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