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The voter will decide

The result of the trust vote will be out by the time Business Today hits the stands. Going by news reports in the media, the vote is more about elections to the 15th Lok Sabha than about the merits of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

     Print Edition: August 10, 2008

The result of the trust vote will be out by the time Business Today hits the stands. Going by news reports in the media, the vote is more about elections to the 15th Lok Sabha than about the merits of the Indo-US nuclear deal.

And that, rather than energy security, is what makes it so critical to India’s future. The two obvious contenders for power are the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). The so-called “third alternative”—-the ragtag and bobtail coalition of mostly out of power regional satraps—which was thought to be dead after the Samajwadi Party crossed over to the UPA, has received a booster dose following Left supremo Prakash Karat’s success in wooing Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati over to his corner. This means the General Elections, due either in end-2008 or early 2009, will be a three-sided contest, in which none of the major contenders gets a clear majority.

Karat, Mayawati, Bardhan and Naidu: Deal time
Karat, Mayawati, Bardhan and Naidu: Deal time
In such a scenario, the UPA and the NDA may prefer to sit in the Opposition rather than risk forming an inherently unstable government. That, in all probability, may lead to the formation of a minority Third Front government that is supported from the outside by other parties. This will be disastrous for India. The country is paying a heavy economic and political price for four years of Left “support” to the UPA government. Important reforms measures—in the spheres of insurance, banking, labour, foreign direct investment and disinvestment— have been lying in a limbo as they clashed with the Left’s antediluvian world views. Most Third Front leaders don’t have strong positions on any of these issues and will happily flow with the tide. That will allow Prakash Karat and his fellow travellers, who hold dogmatic and doctrinaire positions on all of them, to set the agenda according to their ideological moorings.

The economy is slowing down; the foreign policy environment across the world is much more fluid than it has been anytime in the past half a century; and India is slowly emerging as yet another pole—albeit still a minor one—in the new geopolitical architecture. At this stage, the country needs decisive leadership that pragmatically seizes opportunities when they present themselves. New alliances—including, if necessary, a strategic one with the United States—will become imperative under the circumstances.

Both the NDA and the UPA have shown the courage in the past to break free from old ideology-based positions to take the country forward, and a return to power of either formation will ensure continuity with change. Will the voter oblige? For the sake of the country, we hope so.

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