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The Congress gave five PMs in 45 years; non-Congress parties gave seven PMs in five years
A manifesto provides an opportunity periodically for any political party to articulate its loftiest hopes and noblest aspirations.
For the Congress, of course, it is more than that.
It is also an occasion for highlighting achievements and looking back on tasks accomplished.
It is an occasion for recalling the Congress as the only hand of experience and expertise.
A manifesto is a moment to offer to our people a freshness of vision, a boldness of intent and a clarity of purpose.
But it is also a sober moment.
For, a manifesto is a solemn pledge that a political party takes to fulfill promises and renew its commitments.
It is in a spirit of humility that the Congress offers this manifesto to the nation. A manifesto for taking India and each and every Indian into the 21st century -- the sixth millenium of Indian civilisation -- with dignity and pride.
Why Elections now?
The 11th Lok Sabha has been dissolved by the President. It lasted just 18 months. Its short life was inbuilt in the mandate given by the people in the elections held in May 1996.
Over 60 crore Indians are once again being called upon to elect their representatives for the 12th Lok Sabha.
The Indian National Congress appeals to the people of India to vote Congress.
The 13-day BJP non-rule and the 17-month experiment with two United Front governments clearly demonstrate the perils of non-Congress administration and the fragility of coalitions.
The Indian National Congress has given stable, purposeful and result-oriented governments to this country for 45 out of the last 50 years.
Each of the Congress governments has served its full five-year term under five prime ministers. However, whenever the Congress Party lost the mandate of the people to rule, coalition governments consisting of non-Congress parties were formed.
None of these coalition governments completed their full five-year terms because of their internal conflicts and contradictions.
Between March 1977 and December 1979, the Janata Party government of Morarji Desai lasted for a little over two years. It was followed by a government of a break-away group under Charan Singh that lasted for just six months.
The National Front government led by V P Singh and supported by both the Left and the BJP lasted for only 11 months, from December 1989 to November 1990 and a government of a break-away group led by Chandra Shekhar lasted for just six months.
In 1996 when the Congress was defeated in the 11th Lok Sabha elections, the country had to bear with three successive governments over a 17-month period, from May 16, 1996, to November 28, 1997.
In short, the Congress gave five prime ministers in 45 years. The non-Congress parties gave seven prime ministers in five years.
Earlier non-Congress governments had adequate numbers. The Janata Party government had a near two-third majority in the Lok Sabha. V P Singh's government had the support of nearly 300 MPs.
Despite numerical majority, non-Congress governments have not survived for long as they have not been based on any cohesive policy or programme based on a development ideology and social commitment.
Blind anti-Congressism brought non-Congress parties together for a limited period with the narrow objective of capturing power.
But experience shows that neither their lust for power nor the narrow objective of forming a government just for the sake of forming one will provide stability in our political system.
Non-Congress parties have a myopic vision and have not been able to rise to the occasion. Cracks in such opportunistic alliances, after a brief honeymoon period, are inevitable.
Therefore, it was no wonder that after 17 months of non-governance, the United Front government collapsed.
The 1996 Mandate
The BJP's attempt to form a government in May 1996 was a monumental fraud and a pathetic attempt at capturing power and sustaining it through horse-trading and defections.
This cannot be described as an attempt to form the government. It is nothing but sheer political adventurism.
Eighty pc of Indians voted for non-communal forces in 1996. The Congress met on May, 12 1996 and its working committee passed a resolution extending support to secular parties in their efforts to form a government at the Centre.
The Congress, even though it was the single largest party in terms of vote share and the second largest in terms of seats won, did not even consider forming a government of its own.
This was in keeping with the wishes of the people.
The United Front government consisting of 13 disparate political parties, mostly regional in character, came to office in June 1996 with the support of the Congress.
If the Congress had not extended this support, elections would have had to be held very soon thereafter within weeks of the May 1996 polls.
The Congress's objectives were clear.
First, to avoid another general elections so soon after the 11th general elections.
Second, to consolidate the secular forces and roll back the spread of communal ideology masquerading as principled politics.
The Congress hoped that United Front and the Congress party would work together to give the country an effective administration.
The Congress also hoped that the instinctive anti-Congressismof some of the United Front constituents would be kept in check keeping the larger national imperatives in mind.
Sadly, all these hopes of the Congress were dashed and belied.
The United Front failed to live up to its own Common Minimum Programme.
That was bad enough.
But what was worse was that the United Front spared no effort
and lost no opportunity to damage the Congress even while continuing
to enjoy office with Congress support.
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