Lucien Rajakarunanayake …. in the Daily News, 17 May 2014
By the time this is published, Narendra Modi, who leads the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) the centre-right alliance of political parties led by the Bharathiya Janatha Party (BJP), will be elected the next Prime Minister of India. The results so far (on Friday 16 morning) give Modi and the NDA he leads more than the 272 needed to form a single party government. This takes away the possibility of the BJP having to bargain with regional political parties, to form a government. Yet, the trend as counting continued yesterday largely in favour of the NDA – with Narendra Modi as Prime Minister from the BJP, has already resulted in intense jockeying for key Cabinet positions by leading members of the BJP such as Sushma Swaraj, Opposition leader in the Lok Sabha, Arun Jaitley, Opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, Rajnath Singh, Chairman of the BJP, and LK Advani, the BJP’s Parliamentary Chairperson.
Similar to the rise of the BJP will be the fall of the Congress, which has held power through the past decade; the indications are that the Congress and its electoral campaign leader Rahul Gandhi will suffer a very bad defeat, possibly the worst since independence in 1947. Current results show that while the BJP has cleared the 272 seat mark needed for Modi to form a government, Congress has so far won only 79, and all others 140 seats. The rise of Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of the state of Gujarat, and the BJP, with its close links to the strongly right-wing, and para-military Hindu Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which was responsible for the selection of Modi as the campaign leader and prime ministerial candidate, and Modi’s own description of himself as a Hindu Nationalist, has given much cause for concern about the rise of Hindutva to power. This has led to fears of endangering relations with the minorities, especially the Muslims, within India, and also to some extent with India’s neighbours.
Some Hope: Yet, what is seen as the likely size of the pro-Modi and BJP trend in this campaign gives cause for hope that once elected to power, there will be a downturn in the Hindutva rhetoric, because the BJP and its immediate allies in the campaign have a sufficient number of seats, to prevent it having to depend on one or two large regional parties to form a coalition to gain power.
There were fears expressed in this column too about the dangers for Sri Lanka, if the BJP has to ally itself with Karunanidhi’s DMK or Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK in Tamil Nadu, to form a government, when the tail would begin to wag the head, and the pro-Tamil politics of Tamil Nadu will influence the Centre in New Delhi through the manipulations of coalition politics. But the currently projected size of Narendra Modi’s victory rules out the need for such a coalition at the Centre.
However, it is necessary to bear in mind that among Modi’s allies are two very strong pro-LTTE Tamil politicians in V Gopalsamy or Vaiko, founder and General Secretary of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK), and S Ramadoss, founder- president of the Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK). The size of the BJP in numbers would most likely leave little room for these two, even if elected, to play a major role in the policies of the BJP in power.
Another matter of interest for Sri Lanka is the presence of Dr. Subramaniam Swamy, the leader of the Janatha Party, who has been a strong supporter of Modi from the start of the campaign, and who has been one of the strongest critics of the LTTE, and the pro-LTTE and Tamilian politics of Tamil Nadu for the past several years. He is also well known to President Mahinda Rajapaksa, and has been unreservedly forthright in his criticism of the LTTE and the extreme pro-Tamil politics of Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi, Vaiko and Ramadoss. If Dr. Subramaniam Swamy, a former Indian Minister of Law, gets an important portfolio in a Narendra Modi Cabinet, it can give much cause for relief among policy makers in Sri Lanka. Diplomacy
However, in the current trend there is little doubt of the rise of Hindutva, in the future politics of India, with good cause for concern both among India’s minorities and her immediate neighbours – Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Of course, there is also the restraining influence of power in these equations. There is no doubt that Sri Lanka will need to carry out a very careful re-appraisal of policies towards and with India in facing up to the politics and policies of Narendra Modi and the BJP in New Delhi. While the broader friendship between the two countries will remain, the finer points of policy will have to be re-assessed in the context of changes taking place across the Palk Strait.
With an important role for diplomacy in this relationship, it is most timely that President Rajapaksa has chosen the well known archaeologist, who has specialized knowledge of Indian and South Asian archaeology and history, Dr. Sudharshan Seneviratne, to be the next Sri Lanka High Commissioner in New Delhi. His knowledge of India’s past and present will help him better understand the future that is so important in strengthening relations with our closest neighbor in the years ahead. Although not a professional diplomat, he has the capability of delivering good results in diplomacy, through his intelligence, knowledge and understanding of history, cultural relations, and political developments. Dynasty Unlike on earlier occasions, the defeat of the Congress in this election will show a definite move away from the dynastic politics that has held sway from the time of Independence. Current reports say it has a tough time in the family borough of Amethi. As political analyst Shiv Visvanathan, stated in The Hindu on May 09, the changes expected in the Gandhi family stronghold of Amethi, will be unprecedented. “Amethi was part of a collection of anomalies a family fiefdom in the age of democracy. It was treated as a family constituency, a package of entitlements that began with Sanjay Gandhi and passed on like a family legacy.
Last time, it had sent Rahul Gandhi back with a victory margin of 370,000 votes. In an age of democracy, it behaved like a fiefdom and entered history as one.” “Amethi was Amethi because it was a Nehru-Gandhi borough…Everyone knew it was an anomaly, speaking a feudal idiom in the age of citizenship. The Gandhis behaved like royalty and Amethi was content to treat them like one. But as decades cascaded into each other, as a new generation less respectful of the Nehrus emerged, Amethi was itching for change.” As India moves on to a new path it is also important to note the role of the newcomer Aam Aadmi (Common People’s) Party in the new equations, although its number of seats will be small. Yet, it has raised new questions in Indian politics, and brought a new third force that has time to strengthen in the years ahead. This apparent end of the power of dynastic politics in India, is also a good indication for other democracies in this region of the new political trends that can emerge when political feelings run beyond the traditional following of family leadership, in the new age of TV, Internet and Social Media.
Manmohan Singh: This is also the time to say farewell to Dr. Manmohan Singh, whose stewardship of India will be the topic of analysis for a long time ahead. As The Hindu described it editorially: “Perhaps he reconciled himself too readily to a situation where he would be in office while the real authority lay elsewhere. While Ms. Gandhi’s respect for the Prime Minister was never in doubt, the system of dual power centres initially and the emergence of a third power centre in the person of Rahul Gandhi later constrained the working of the government. Dr. Singh saw his popularity and credibility dip very quickly with the unearthing of one scam after another. The image of a clean and incorruptible prime minister gave way to a picture of a prime minister who, while retaining his own integrity was tolerant of venality all around, the tolerance coming dangerously close to being seen as complicity. The benign tolerance of corruption was undoubtedly a major flaw. Yet, uniquely among Indian leaders, even in the midst of scams, his personal integrity remained beyond question and he retained a sense of balance and decency in the most trying of circumstances.” It is also noted by analysts that Dr. Singh’s efforts to improve the relationship with Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, meanwhile, saw significant progress before stalling because of opposition from his coalition allies … or the coalition compulsions as he described it. As we inexorably move on to a new relationship with India, it is important for diplomats, academics, the media and policy makers here to remember that India did play a major role in helping Sri Lanka to successfully defeat the LTTE in May 2009. The new Indian Prime Minister will most likely be sworn in almost coinciding with the fifth anniversary of the defeat of the LTTE. The record is that despite the “fasting farce” by Karunanidhi and other protests in Tamil Nadu, New Delhi stood by Sri Lanka’s “No Fire Zone” policy and strategy towards the defeat of the LTTE, in a necessary military operation for humanitarian reasons. Thus the importance of India in our external relations remains a vital element in our strategies in internal politics. This calls for policies that look outwards and are not confined to internal political advantage.