Friday, April 17, 2009

Why the Third front is Good

After a flurry of plaintive laments from pseudo pundits and crypto analysts, the words have finally been repeated by the Prime Minister. Dr. Manmohan Singh feels that the Third Front is a bad idea, because it will promote ‘regionalism’ at the cost of a national vision. The pseudo pundits have, of course, labeled even the possibility of a Third Front government as an unmitigated disaster for India. Everybody says that coalition governments are messy, unruly, incoherent and consumed by centrifugal forces. History perhaps supports this contention with prime ministers like Morarji Desai, Charan Singh, V. P. Singh, Chandrasekhar, Deve Gowda and I. K. Gujral leading notoriously fractious and unstable governments. Pseudo pundits even claim that the era of coalition politics that descended upon India since 1989 is singularly responsible for preventing the country from emerging as a genuine World Power. They lament that coalition politics that sacrifices the ‘national’ for the ‘regional’ is singularly responsible for India not clocking double digit growth rates and falling way behind China in the global sweepstakes.

The arguments are surely logical and persuasive on the face of it. But, really, the caveat is: On the face of it. For, the shrill cry against the Third Front and regional chieftains reveals a disturbing streak of feudalistic elitism. As long as regional chieftains of the Congress party ran notoriously corrupt governments in major states of India, there were hardly any complaints about the absence of governance. That was till the late 1980s when the intermediate castes and the Dalits really had no say either in elections or governance. It also helped that the Congress regional chieftains knew how to tackle the ‘national’ media. Do you seriously believe that states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar were islands of good governance and prosperity till the ‘Third Front’ type of regional chieftains empowered the backward classes and rode to power?

The fact of the matter is: good governance depends on both institutions and individual leaders; not on elitist distinctions between ‘national’ and 'regional’. Tamil Nadu has been ruled by regional parties since the late 1960s and Madhya Pradesh has been ruled by national parties forever. Where would you like your kid to grow up – given a choice? Given good leaders and a strong civil society, even national parties deliver good governance. Shiela Dikshit and Congress are a classic example in Delhi.

But I am happy that the Third Front is growing because it will lead to more chaos and more instability. It is only then that we Indians can finally accept the fact that our Constitution is a great document; but perhaps urgently needs some tweaking. And please don’t talk about precedents and the sanctity of the Constitution. Remember, out Constitution talks of a ‘elected’ Prime Minister. Our current PM is an ‘appointed’ one. Also remember, the same Constitution was used to impose the Emergency. So for heavens sake, at least talk of how to deepen democracy, rather than cursing emerging backward caste leaders.

Jawaharlal Nehru had unparalleled knowledge and experience of foreign policy and diplomacy; something no ‘regional’ chieftain can acquire. And yet, he gave us lemons like Kashmir in 1948 and China in 1962. I rest my case.



  1. Variety is the spice of existence.

    More parties means more voices, more alternatives for any decision making problem.

    One party is a stereotyped Think Tank with a party policy dictum.

    To deepen democracy we need activist intelligentsia like the IIPM.

    We need all pillars of Democracy to function smoothly without the rust of corruption or the lust of power monging.

    More leaders are required who think about national progress than vote bank for next election.

    I mean the goal should be serving the nation and not embossing the name in NCERT text books.

  2. As I began reading your post I thought I might have to critise you grossly. But as you 'rest your case' I agree with you in almost all points you had raised. Talking about coalitions the UDF and LDF set ups in Kerala are classic examples of how coalitions could and will work in modern times. I appreciate your understanding of the rise of dalit and other minority leaders. But one problem we see when members of Regional parties become union ministers is that they tend to behave like ministers for their own state. The likes of T.R Baalu and Dayanidhi Maran are examples of that. Whatever they did was mostly for their states.