Sunday, 17 May 2009

What Next?

Is the decisive win for the Congress going to change the way the party functions and the way the new government will function?

It’s probably in bad taste to raise this issue, but when I saw Sonia Gandhi and Manmohan Singh addressing the press yesterday, the body language was not that of two equals, which is what it should have been if one assumes that the Congress was voted back on the basis of performance of the government. Singh was not deferential towards Sonia, but the sense one got was of her being the dominant one of the team.

That misgiving got further reinforced when I saw Jyotiraditya Scindia on NDTV talking about Rahul as Prime Minister. Utterly disgusting any way but even more so coming from a young man whose father was considered prime minister material and the only thing coming in his way was the Dynasty.

I am raising this issue because there is a larger question involved – the Congress may have got a free hand vis-à-vis its allies, but how much of a free hand will Singh get vis-à-vis his own party? The separation of the party president’s post and the prime minister’s post is good, but the balance between the two is an uneasy one in any party and is likely to be non-existent in a dynastic party like the Congress.

Will Singh have a free hand to pick his team? In the last government, apart from the coalition partners who were in a position to dictate terms, there were any number of Congress ministers who were foisted on Singh because they were family loyalists and who made public display of the fact that they owed their allegiance not to the Prime Minister but to Sonia Gandhi. They functioned pretty much like loose cannons and Singh could do nothing to rein them in. The coalition pressures will still be there but will Singh be able to hold his own against party pressures?

I am also worried about is the impact of the election results on economic policy, especially because of the talk that this is a vote for the middle path etc. Already Congress leaders are going around talking about how schemes like NREGA, farm loan waivers etc brought in the votes. A lot of the economic thinking in the Congress is woolly-headed socialism and I fear that the mandate will be seen as one for such bleeding heart policies and they will just continue.

What the country needs is a good dose of drastic economic, administrative and police reforms. I, certainly, will judge Singh by what he does on all three counts, now that he is not shackled by blackmailing allies.

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