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Coalition blues - An editorial - The Asian Age - Editorial

Posted By ashok (ashokvc@giasbm01.vsnl.net.in)

Title : Coalition blues
Publication : The Asian Age - Editorial
Date : 29\6\96

In terms of originality of thought, statements recently
made by many ministers of the United Front government
leave much to be desired. Take, for instance, Mr. Mulayam
Singh Yadav saying that the government would accord
"maximum autonomy to Jammu and Kashmir." It is certainly
not the first time that such a statement has emanated
from the powers that be. The Constitution itself has
outlined a particularly controversial provision - Article
370 - which confers a special status on Jammu and
Kashmir. By itself, Mr. Yadav's statement should not have
caused the furore that it did. Except that it was not his
to make. The subject on which he chose to hold forth
falls under the purview of the home ministry. Mr. Yadav
is the defence minister. And the outrage is regarding his
overstepping his brief.
In a coalition government, treading on each other's toes
often translates into offending partners, and impolitic
utterances have a way of snowballing into major political
crises Mr Yadav has not been the only one to ruffle
feathers. Finance minister P. Chidambaram and industry
minister Murasoli Maran are guilty of the same political
sin of putting their feet in their months. One has to be
incredibly native to believe that Mr. Chidambaram could
have been unaware of the impact that his proposed
austerity measures would have, particularly on the Left.
And it would be stretching credibility too far to assume
that the finance minister was merely floating a trial
ballon to gauge how far he would be allowed to go in
pushing reforms further. Politics, said the one and only
Vladimir Illyich Lenin,is concentrated economics. Mr
Chidambaram, though he cannot be accused of having
internalised that gem, is subconsciously acting that one
out. The moment he talked of rationalisation of the
workforce in government,he immediately encountered
spirited and extremely predictable opposition from the
Left. He had little option but to retract. Oddities are
but a part of coalition politics, but, so early in the
day, they do make one wonder whether what is being said
by authority is to be taken seriously or not. There is,
for example, no point in saying something with vigour
today and immediately pretending that nothing at all was
said anyways. Mr. Yadav must have been moved enough to
make the statement which he did. After all, since March
1987, there has been no election to the Jammu and Kashmir
state Assembly. That exercise, let us remember, was not
particularly credible in many objectives eyes. The
Communist Party of India (Marxist) spoke well when it
said that let the state Assembly decide what will be the
modicum of autonomy. It is a very important statement,
but it presumes that the next Assembly, when it is
constituted, will carry democratic sanction behind it. It
should be only then that the autonomy package is thrashed
out in real terms. Meanwhile, let us hope that the United
Front government realises a basic reality, it is always
so convenient and easy to differ all the time. But far
more difficult to keep contending perspectives at bay.
Consensus is a much misused word, but it is difficult to
escape from the need to hammer one. Mr. Deve Gowda, two
weeks before his government presents the budget, has
shown a welcome tendency to try and reconcile industry's
interests with the basic postulated of labour. Let us
hope that his finance minister will follow this excellent
example. But, at the same time, Let Mr. Gowda be prepared
to hear discordant voices from within the conglomerate
heleads. Contradictory perspectives are better that no

perspective at all. There is nothing wrong with debate,
till such time that the same does not lead to a squabble.
Round the globe - in Italy, Russia, Israel and so on -
Pragmatism seems to be winning and dogma given a silent
goodbye. There is no reason why the same cannot happen
under Mr. Deve Gowda.

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