Commentary/ Vir Sanghvi
1997: A year of political upheavals, midnight dramas, sudden
resignations and declarations of withdrawal of support
I am sorry to begin the year on a pessimistic note but it doesn't
look as though 1997 is going to be much better -- politically
and economically -- than 1996. Or, to put it another way, things
are going to get much worse before they start to improve.
It has long been my view that Sitaram Kesri has a four-phase agenda.
Phase one was to get himself elected as Congress president, no
matter how many ankles he had to grab in the process. Phase two
was to oust P V Narasimha Rao and have himself installed in his place.
That leaves phase three:
to pull down the Deve Gowda government. And of course, there's
phase four: to get himself made prime minister.
I refer to this as Kesri's own agenda because I'm not sure that
the rest of the party agrees with him. Sharad Pawar would be
quite happy accepting deputy prime minister
and leading a Congress continent into the Cabinet. Pawar is smart
enough to recognise that such a course of action would make him
the preeminent politician of his generation and yet, leave Deve
Gowda in place to take the blame for the failures of the government.
Such a course of action is not available to Kesri. He
is 78. If he is going to be prime minister, then this is his last
chance. Unlike Pawar, he cannot afford the luxury of waiting.
Therefore, he will waste no time in
packing his bag, grabbing his Pomeranians and moving into Race
Course Road before the party changes its mind.
Unfortunately , this will not be as easy as Kesri thinks it is.
With 147 seats in a House of 543, the Congress is a long way from
an overall majority. It will probably get the support of the TMC-DMK,
some Independents and a few regional parties but it is hard to
see how it can cross the total figure of 200 seats, which will
leave it at least 72 short of majority.
Kesri reckons that he can split the United Front and win over
individual factions. But why, for instance, would Chandrababu
Naidu, whom he has been cultivating, back the Congress? After
all, the TDP opposes the Congress in Andhra Pradesh and Chandrababu
is immune to the blandishments of a Cabinet post in Delhi. The
CPI will almost certainly have grave reservations about joining
a Congress government and no Congress prime minister in his senses
would keep Indrajit Gupta on as home minister.