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Vajpayee government: It's a crisis of confidence, not performance - The Times of India

Prakash Nanda ()
July 10, 1998

Title: Vajpayee government: It's a crisis of confidence, not performance
Author: Prakash Nanda
Publication: The Times of India
Date: July 10, 1998

A hundred days is not a long enough period to evaluate the
performance of any government. It is not surprising that, at a
time when it is poetically correct to belittle every thing that
the BJP does, criticisms have come in plenty that the BJP's claim
to provide "a stable government under an able Prime Minister" has
proved to be a national disaster, failing on all fronts, from
economic to diplomatic. On a closer scrutiny, however, the
Vajpayee government appears to be just as good or as bad as its
predecessors, if not better.

Essentially, there are three main criticisms against the present
government. First is that it is not coherent enough, with the
allies speaking in different voices, not to speak of one ally -
the AIADMK -threatening to withdraw support. Instances are given
how this weak government has been forced to make concessions one
after another in the budget proposals in general and in reducing
the hike in petroleum prices in particular.

In July, 1996, due to the soaring deficit in the oil pool
account, H D Deve Gowda announced an increase in oil prices for
the second time in the month. But, soon after, when the leftists,
his alliance partners, collared him, he backed off. Actually,
those talking of the lack of coordination between the BJP and 14
of its allies, should remember the regular fights between the
Left and other constituents of the United Front both within the
front's steering committee and outside.

Much is being made of the manner of Buta Singh and R Muthiah
quitting the Vajpayee government. But then, it is being forgotten
that Taslimuddin, the minister of state for home in Mr Deve
Gowda's government, was also forced to quit because of criminal
cases pending against him. At least, in its 100 days in office,
nobody so far has left the ruling alliance, all its incoherence
notwithstanding. But in the first 100 days of the UF regime, an
important leader like Ramakrishna Hegde was expelled from the
Janata Dal, the party to which the Prime Minister belonged.

The second major criticism against the Vajpayee government,
particularly from former prime minister Chandra Shekhar, West
Bengal chief minister Jyoti Basu, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Laloo
Yadav, is that it has caused irreparable damage to the country's
federal system, by interfering in the law and order process of
the non-BJP ruled states with a motive to dislodge their
governments under Article 356 of the Constitution. A related
aspect of this criticism is that the government has appointed
pliable governors in those states.

It is to be noted that the first major source of conflict within
the UF government was the decision of Prime Minister Deve Gowda
to appoint Romesh Bhandari, under the pressure from his defence
minister Mulayam Yadav, as the governor of Uttar Pradesh. The
Left parties were bitter in their criticism of this decision. And
what is more, it was the Deve Gowda government which imposed
President's rule in Gujarat which contrary to its constituents'
pronounced belief in the recommendations of the Sarkaria
Commission, did not allow the BJP, the single largest party in
the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections to form the government.

It is ironic that Chandra Shekhar now talks of showing his
concern for federalism. His must have been the only government
in independent India's history which dismissed an elected
government of a state (Tamil Nadu) despite the fact that the
state governor had given a report that the law and order
situation was satisfactory. Indeed, the Vajpayee regime deserves
kudos, not brickbats, that despite its vulnerability, it has not
dismissed the Tamil Nadu government in order to placate Ms

Sending Central teams to assess law and order situation is the
prerogative of any Central government. Those who compare the law
and order situation in Bihar and West Bengal with that of the
rising crime rate in Uttar Pradesh and Delhi are missing the
point that unlike in the former, in the latter, people are not
being killed because of their political affiliations. In fact, by
refusing to receive the Central team in Calcutta recently, the
Jyoti Basu government has violated the Constitution, a sufficient
ground for the imposition of President's rule in the state.

Article 365 clearly says, "Where any State has failed to comply
with, or to give effect to any direction in the exercise of the
executive power of the Union under any of the provisions of this
Constitution, it shall be lawful for the President to hold that a
situation has arisen in which the Government of the State, cannot
be carried in accordance with the provisions of the

The third major criticism against the Vajpayee government is that
it has not been able to achieve anything concrete on any front
and that the nuclear test, its only achievement, was unwarranted
since it has led to the country's isolation in the world and
ruined relations with China, this, again, is an exaggeration in
the sense that any government's major achievements in just three
months can only be few. In this sense, making the country a
nuclear weapon power is not a mean achievement. In fact, the only
major achievement of the United Front government in its first 100
days was the decision not to sign the flawed Comprehensive Test
Ban Treaty (CTBT).

That the tests have led to India's international isolation is
debatable. Further, every opinion poll carried after the tests
has approved the government's action overwhelmingly. As regards
China, this much can be said that a country which presumes to
interfere in what is strictly an internal matter of India by
criticising the prime minister's decision to entrust the task of
handling Kashmir affairs to home minister L K Advani, should be a
factor of concern in India's foreign and security policies.

All this is not to suggest that the Vajpayee government is not to
be faulted. Much remains to be desired in the field of
ministerial responsibilities. In fact, no ministerial colleague
of the prime minister, with the possible exception of defence
minister George Fernandes, has defended the record of the
government with confidence and clarity. So much so that the
government allowed last month the Congress to portray itself as
the winner of various by-'elections, despite the fact that
Congress tally had dropped from 18 seats to 16, whereas the
ruling alliance had gained three seats overall, apart from
attaining a majority in the Himachal Assembly.

Similarly, despite this year's Central Budget being most pro-
people in many years by reverting to the basics of health, water
and education, and this while not derailing the liberalisation
process of the previous governments - in fact, Yashwant Sinha is
the only finance minister who did not criticise his predecessors
while presenting the Budget proposals -no attempts have been made
towards its proper projection.

The Vajpayee government has had to face many crises, but the most
serious crisis it has to contend with is a crisis of confidence.

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