India's changed coalition politics

Posted by: Manjeet Krpalani on July 9, 2008

The Communists finally quit the Congress party coalition in New Delhi. Not a moment too late. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, currently in Japan for the G-8 meeting, can at last tell President Bush that India will go ahead with the US-India civilian nuclear deal, the one that the Communists had blocked for over three years.

What does this mean for the ruling coalition and for India?

First, India will no longer be an isolated emerging nuclear power.

Second, the Congress party will still continue to rule its coalition in New Delhi. The party made up for the loss of the Communists in its coalition (the Congress and its allies need 272 seats in Parliament to continue ruling) by accepting the support of the Samajwadi Party, a regional player from the populous (and severely under-developed) state of Uttar Pradesh, with which it has shared mostly animosity.

Third, the Samajwadi Party, whose issues are mostly about caste and which has been variously accused of corruption among other vices, is looking more like a national party than the Congress. While the Congress dithered over the nuclear deal all these years, wasting valuable time and international patience, the Samajwadi party stated right at the outset that it was supportive of the deal which, it declared, was clearly in the national interest. With that grand geste, it was welcomed by the Congress last week as a partner. The Congress could take a leaf out of that regional book.

Lastly, there’s suddenly a new expectancy in the air in New Delhi: with the Communists gone, can real reform be far behind? In the last 24 hours, this has been debated by television talk show hosts, newspaper editorials and common folk. So much needs to be done, that’s been held off because the Communists protested everything - from meaningful agricultural reform, to land acquisition for SEZs, to foreign policy changes - except the things that really matter for India’s success like issues of corruption and governance.

However, dear reader, don’t hold your breath for change. For the Congress party has shown itself to be, within itself, more leftist than the Left. It believes that India is a poor country, and that poor Indians need handouts - like the $15 billion farm loan waiver and the even larger oil subsidy and upcoming fertilizer subsidy - not more economic and entrepreneurial freedom. Under Congress rule, it has felt eerily like the Indira Gandhi era of the 1960s and 1970s, where the slogan of ‘Garibi Hatao’ or ‘Remove Poverty’ was dominant in politics and policy.

India, thankfully, is well past that. Indians no longer think of themselves as poor; even the very poor aspire mightily, and think of themselves as middle class. That’s been largely thanks to education - the #1 expenditure in Indian households both rural and urban, after food, is childrens’ education. And partly, for those less poor, access to credit to buy things like washing machines and fridges and televisions that take the drudgery out of daily life.

For four long years, there has been a disconnect between the ruling Congress coalition and the people. That’s why the reign of Sonia Gandhi, Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law, and her regent, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has proven so woefully short of the great hopes they brought with them when they won national elections in 2004. And that’s why, despite the Communists no longer being in the driver’s seat, there’s unlikely to be much new reform to look forward to in the last six months of Congress rule in New Delhi.

Reader Comments

Abir

July 9, 2008 10:21 AM

It is simple.
Listen carefully to what the commies say.
Then do exactly the opposite and not just India, but the whole world would prosper.
Truly, communism is a massive evil forced upon this world, on par with Islam and Nazism.

VIREN NAIK

July 9, 2008 11:56 AM

a lot of water has gone under the bridge in the last 4 years but everything has flowed under the surface..it is true that UPA started dithering but don't underestimate the vision of Manmohan Singh..the next 6 months has the possibility of stabilising the emerging world crisis on oil and food shortage under Mr Singh's guidence ably supported by a team led by Amartya Sen the Nobel prize winner on the subject of efficient administration of the scale of economies both at micro and macro levels.. it is possible that the Nuke deal will kick start serious process of environment protection and we will live happily ever after ....
viren naik

Arturro Rahman

July 9, 2008 1:45 PM

The Communist party prevented India from becoming once again a colony of the west. Communists and their ideology instilled pride in Indian nationalism, Asian-African-Latin American unity against American, Western, and Anglo-Sacox hegemony. However, India will once again become a colony of the United States, and become a slave to whatever America and Britain, the former colonial power of India dictates. It is a shame that the great nation of India is becoming a servile colony of the west by entering into such a deal.

Steve

July 10, 2008 12:41 AM

Rahman shopukld move to China and get gang-banged by some yellow Commies to knock some sense into him...Align with Africa? This man is a true joke

Riju Jose

July 10, 2008 1:23 AM

Let the raising eyebrows about the ideology of communism be continued. But the questions they raised are very valid for a 60 year old country which is on way to be a super power by its own. When someone tell to hold breath for change.. please remember it is the same changes which brought down the previous goverment and given the so called driving seat to Left. With inflation at 13 years hight, this simply is not the right time for making friends in nuclear world. Not right time for India I mean, but for Bush it is now or never...as the elections are on.

Noname

July 11, 2008 9:19 AM

The $15 billion handout is not coz Cong is "more left than left itself". It was shrewd politics. With upcoming elections this handout would have made the farmers vote for Cong. Unfortunately inflation will undo any (perceived) gains of this largesse

Nilanjana Ghosh

January 7, 2009 5:32 AM

Instead of being worried about loosing our sovreignity to USA we have other thigs to think about.The nuclear deal can be realy helpful to India if utilised properly.Even in this twenty first century there are thousands of Indian villages which do not have access to electricity and this deal can really solve that problem.Moreover we should not also forget about deplition of our fossil fuel.Having proper vision and proper implimentation may turn this controversial deal into a win win situation for India.Nevertheless the politicization of this deal is certainly not desirable which has been quite visible from both the right and the left wing.

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