There’s something uniquely Indian about the groupings and alliances that have emerged after the government decided to go ahead with the nuclear deal with the US and the Left Front withdrew support to it.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani, the lead proponent of Hindutva in the country, should reflect upon this, especially when he voices his antagonism to the Indo-US nuclear deal. So should Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM, general secretary Prakash Karat, who has been subjecting Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and generally the Congress party, to a daily dose of tongue-lashing for getting into an alliance with the US.
Karat may well argue that the media’s portrayal of nervous Muslim politicians in the CPM, especially those who are deeply unhappy that the party and the “communal” BJP are going to vote on the same side, against the government, is both flawed and unfair.
After all, by standing up and opposing a deal with US President George W. Bush, who is largely seen by the Muslim umma (community) worldwide as the chief enemy of Islam, isn’t the CPM actually doing a service to the Indian Muslim?
The Left parties and the BJP have often been on the same side, sometimes with the Congress and sometimes against. The CPI (Communist Party of India) has been part of a Congress-led government in Indira Gandhi’s reign during the emergency and of the Congress-backed United Front government when Indrajit Gupta was home minister from 1996-98.
As for the CPM, it, along with the BJP, supported V.P. Singh’s Janata Dal government (1989-90) from outside.
So, as market forces take over the plotting and planning for the trust vote next week (Rs25 crore was being quoted as the price for support at last count, according to CPI leader A.B. Bardhan), the Left Front and the BJP will sup on the same side again. Call it the pragmatism of politics, derived from Indian philosophical concepts of the half-and-half, or the ardhanareeshwara, an incarnation of the Hindu god Shiva. The Left Front-BJP’s common ground could be a manifestation of the same half-and-half Indianism.
And since the diverse and extremely complex Indian mind is capable of integrating several contradictory thoughts at the same time, why should Indian politics shy away from this incredible inheritance?
So here’s some unsolicited advice: the Prime Minister can, and should, do both the Indo-US nuclear deal and the gas pipeline with Iran, the boundary dispute with China and better economic relations with Taiwan, improve relations with Pakistan, as well as its currently warring neighbour, Afghanistan.
The significant difference between the BJP’s opposition to the deal and the CPM’s has to do with belief.
Karat strongly believes in his opposition to America.
Advani doesn’t even do that. In his interview with The Hindu editor N. Ram last week, to Ram’s part-question and part-statement (“should you come into government, as is distinctly possible, after the 15th general elections, you will renegotiate the deal…?”), Advani admitted that if the nuclear deal “brings us into a strategic relationship with America, that’s not our objection”.
Contrast this with Karat’s explicit rejection of a strategic partnership with the US.
Listen, also, to what Advani has said just before: “…If America says, ‘No, we are not going to renegotiate’, we will naturally deal with the situation as it is there.”
BJP insiders admit that there is no real opposition to the Indo-US nuclear deal within the party. Former national security adviser Brajesh Mishra admitted to Mint that if he were still the national security adviser, he would have no hesitation in going ahead with it.
Jyoti Malhotra is Mint’s diplomatic affairs editor and writes every week on the intersection of foreign policy, trade and politics. Comments are welcome at email@example.com