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Indians have lost our nationalistic pride

May 17, 2004

As an Indian, I have experienced mixed emotions during the last few days.

On the one hand, I am excited because Indian democracy has once again proved it works and is thriving.

The Indian electorate gave their mandate for a change.

Atal Bihari Vajpayee's government had to go because it did not perform and did not deliver on its promises.

They diluted their manifesto and used the excuse of being bound by the National Democratic Front agenda (The NDA is a coalition of around 25 parties led by the Bharatiya Janata Party. They came together to form the government after the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the 1998 general election).

They focused extensively on the urban population and ignored a huge chunk of India's population that lives in the villages.

The BJP constantly used the catch phrase 'feel good' and said India was 'shining.'

This is a truckload of hogwash.

While India might be 'shining' for its 200 million strong middle class population, let us not forget there are 800 million of its citizens for whom India is still 'stained.' These 800 million people proved Vajpayee's 'India Shining' slogan wrong by giving him a ticket to the Opposition benches.

India's electorate used its mighty power to put the BJP and its allies in their rightful place.

For this, I would like to offer my kudos to the Indian electorate.

Yet, on the other hand, I feel revolted, outraged, violated, disgusted, sickened and ashamed. I can safely assume that a huge number of self-respecting Indians feel the same way; at least, every Indian I have talked to so far does. Many of us never imagined we would see the day when a foreign-born person from a Western civilisation would rule the world's oldest Eastern civilisation.

Sonia Gandhi's supporters might say the masses gave her a mandate which is why she deserves to become prime minister.

This, again, is a truckload of hogwash.

Let us examine the election results closely. The final tally of seats is as follows:

Indian National Congress -- 145

BJP -- 138

Communist Party of India (Marxist) -- 43

Samajwadi Party -- 36

Rashtriya Janata Dal -- 20

Bahujan Samaj Party -- 19

Dravida Munnetra Khazgam -- 16

Shiv Sena -- 12

Biju Janata Dal -- 11

Communist Party of India -- 10

The rest went to smaller regional parties.

What do these results tell us?

They tell us that, at present, there is no national party in India. If a political party cannot even win 33 percent of the total Lok Sabha seats (179 out of 543) on its own, it cannot call itself a national party.

The Indian masses did not give any party a national mandate. Thus, Sonia does not have the mandate to be in the prime minister's office. Her party, the Congress, has got only 27 percent of the total seats. This is no mandate at all.

The difference between two leading parties -- the Congress and the BJP -- is just seven seats. Unless they re-establish themselves as true national parties, national politics and elections in India will be controlled and manipulated by regional political parties.

Also Read: Why am I disturbed about Sonia as PM?

Today, political parties in India have no moral standing. They are willing to partner with anyone in order to create a ruling coalition. Sticking to pre-poll and announced alliances is not a requirement anymore. For the sake of grabbing power, any kind of post-poll alliance will be conjured up. Isn't that cheating the public who voted for these political parties based on their post-poll alliances? But who is watching and who is mandating?

Living up to their declared manifestos is not a requirement either. After a discussion, each coalition comes up with a Common Minimum Programme.

Let us look at what this means.

Take the word 'common.' In this case, it is an oxymoron. Most parties in a coalition have nothing in common, except the party/person they are opposing.

Take 'minimum.' It is another word for zip, zero, zilch. Every coalition member party is ready to throw its publicly declared manifesto out the window and settle for this 'minimum.'

And, since 'minimum' amounts to zilch, there is no 'programme' to talk about.

That, in a nutshell, is the Common Minimum Programme.

It does not matter whether a coalition is led by the BJP or the Congress. Both will follow the CMP concept.

Isn't that cheating the public who voted for these political parties based on their manifestos and trusted them to work on those manifestos? But who is watching and who is mandating?

Sonia's supporters might say she has sacrificed a lot for India. She lost her mother-in-law and her husband in the service of the nation.

Also Read: Case For Sonia | Case against Sonia

But let us not forget that she did not apply for Indian citizenship for many years. She married Rajiv Gandhi in 1968 and it was only after her husband joined active politics in 1984 that she applied for Indian citizenship. So, in a way, someone who has been an Indian citizen just for 20 years is becoming India's prime minister.

Let us also not forget that she retains her Italian citizenship. If, hypothetically speaking, India and Italy go to war tomorrow, whose side will she be on -- India's or Italy's?

Please don't get me wrong. I don't blame Sonia Gandhi at all.

The blame is ours.

Today, I am ashamed to say we Indians have lost our sense of nationalistic pride. We have lost what we used to call 'India.' We have turned the clock back and returned to the time we lost our freedom and were part of the colonial British Empire.

Which is why anyone who tells you Sonia Gandhi has the mandate to become prime minister is blowing smoke right in your face.

There is a fundamental flaw in our Constitution that allows a foreign-born individual to rise to the prime minister's post. That flaw needs to be eliminated NOW. While it exists, it is incumbent upon our politicians to exercise a sense of nationalism and make sure they don't choose a parliamentary leader who has one leg in a foreign country and whose allegiance to the Constitution is, at best, sceptical.

But that would be asking too much of politicians like Ghulam Nabi Azad, Ambika Soni, Arjun Singh, Laloo Prasad Yadav, Harkishen Singh Surjeet, et al. For all these politicians, their self-interest is supreme and takes precedence over the national interest.

In previous elections, it was heartening to see people like Sharad Pawar and Purno A Sangma sacrifice their self-interest in the interest of national security and national pride. They stood up for their principles and opposed Sonia Gandhi's nomination as candidate for prime minister. They walked out of the Congress and formed their own party, the Nationalist Congress Party

The fact that Sharad Pawar has finally succumbed in the game of political numbers is a tragedy for India and its citizens (Sangma, who has had bitter arguments with Pawar on this front, left the NCP and joined Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool National Congress. He won from Tura. Pawar, who contested from his traditional seat, Baramati, won by over 4 lakh votes).

Someone who is born in India, has his roots in India, but holds dual citizenship (in India and another country), does not right the right to vote an Indian election. But an Italian-born Indian who grew up in foreign lands, has her roots in Italy and holds dual citizenship, can vote in India and become India's prime minister.

How ridiculous is that?

This is what outrages me. I am sure outrages many of you too.

What can we do about it?

Those of us who care for India's national security and pride need to force our representatives in Parliament to immediately work towards introducing a bill that will amend the Indian Constitution and bar any foreign-born individuals from occupying critical posts like President, vice-president, prime minister, deputy prime minister, finance, foreign affairs and defence. These posts are too critical to be run by a foreign-born individual whose allegiance will always be with his/her country of birth.

In these times when national security is of utmost importance, India needs to quickly plug this loophole in its Constitution.

Remember, the elected MPs are your representatives in the Lok Sabha; they need to listen to you and your demands. They need to remember the next election is, at best, only five years away. YOU will again control their fate on election day. They had better listen to you.

That is the true sense of democracy, where there is a government by the people, of the people and for the people.

Another important and urgent task facing all Indian citizens is the need for a public debate on changing the process by which our prime minister gets elected.

The current process of letting MPs nominate the prime minister is fundamentally flawed. How else can one explain the appointment of Haradinahalli Dodde Gowda Deve Gowda as India's prime minister? Deve Gowda belonged to a party that had less than 20 elected representatives in the Lok Sabha. He ended up becoming the prime minister and a joke.

The current process gives too much control to a few when it comes to choosing the country's prime minister. This post is too critical to be in the hands of a few politicians who control their respective parties.

Besides, the prime minister should be someone of national standing rather than a local one. It is very difficult for a person of national stature to emerge as prime minister in the current atmosphere where national politics is controlled by regional parties.

The people of India should directly elect their prime minister. This will force regional satraps out of the contention and make sure only candidates with the necessary national stature and experience emerge as contenders. It will make sure leaders like Laloo Prasad Yadav, Deve Gowda and Mulayam Singh Yadav don't get to be prime minister unless they have first proved themselves at the national level. This will be an excellent way of stemming the rot that is afflicting India's national politics. It will also maintain the sanctity of the Prime Minister's Office.

In my previous article, I had argued that Indian voters should become nationalistic and vote for the security interests of our country. I had hoped this election whould be an election for the security of our nation. I didn't know then that it would mean handing over the code for our nuclear button to an Italian.

Lalit Koul is the publisher and editor of the Kashmir Herald, an Internet-based web Journal and member of Kashmir News Network

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