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Politics of blackmail - The Indian Express

Editorial ()
July 2, 1998

Title: Politics of blackmail
Author: Editorial
Publication: The Indian Express
Date: July 2, 1998

>From one crisis to another. That is how the Vajpayee government
has been surviving all these days. It is a conjecture how long
this will continue. As long as AIADMK chief Jayalalitha's demand
to sack the Karunanidhi government is not conceded. her threat to
withdraw support to the BJP government is too real to be scoffed
at. The other allies of the BJP such as the Trinamool Congress
have also proved their capability to browbeat the government. A
party like the BJP has been putting up with their tantrums only
because the alternative is to sit in the Opposition or face an
election. It is for this very reason that the Congress has not
been very keen on giving government formation a try. It knows
that if it cobbles together a majority in the House, which is not
an impossibility, its government will be as susceptible to
pressures as the BJP government is. In fact, the situation could
he worse with the government dependent on such political
manipulators as Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo Prasad Yadav, not
to mention Jayalalitha herself. The logical alternative of going
for elections does not hold promise. more so as two elections in
less than three years have failed to throw up a stable
government. It would, therefore, be wholly unfair to force an
immediate election on the people. It is against this backdrop
that a solution has to be found to the peculiar political problem
that faces the nation.

In the search for such a solution, lofty ideas that require a
constitutional amendment such as the presidential form of
government and proportional representation will perforce have to
be kept in abeyance. This is because no political party is now in
a position to manage a two-thirds majority in the House to
formalise an amendment of the Constitution. Thus the solution
has to be easy to reach. One such was the suggestion made by
former President R. Venkataraman that the Lok Sabha should elect
its leader, who would, in turn, select his team of ministers. The
government would last as long as the leader so elected enjoyed
the support of the House. This does not require a constitutional
amendment. Think of it. If Vajpayee had been elected in this
manner, he would not have been as vulnerable to pressure tactics
as he is at present. In fact, he could have got greater support
than is the case now. Given a choice, many MPs who happen to be
in the Opposition would like to support his government.
Unfortunately, the suggestion was not even considered by the
mainstream political parties. It is not our contention that the
idea was foolproof. Like the national government idea mooted from
time to time, it too has some drawbacks.

Yet it shows that an innovative solution can be thought of.
Parliament is supreme and members of such a body cannot pretend
helplessness. They have to think of ways in which the nation can
be provided with a good, stable government. As the 1998 verdict
clearly implies, the people are unlikely to be bothered by the
combination of such a government so long as it works. They
should, therefore, reach an agreement that none of them will pull
down the government except in extraordinary circumstances.
Otherwise, tiny parties will be able to blackmail the government
into submission. It is for the mainstream parties to make their
choice and take the initiative.

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