Thursday, March 28, 2013

The later Mughal era today
S.K. Sinha
 ASIAN AGE, 27-03-13

Despite Mulayam Singh Yadav's prime ministerial ambitions and record of changing his stance like a chameleon, the chances of a Third Front appear very dim.

Rajiv Gandhi won an unprecedented electoral victory in the 1985 parliamentary elections with a bigger majority than his grandfather, the great Jawaharlal Nehru, had ever managed. Rajiv is reported to have asserted that he was not interested in studying history, he wanted to make history. He was not wrong. A Prime Minister of a great country like India certainly can make history but that does not mean that he should not learn from history. Those who fail to do so are doomed to repeat past disasters.
Chanakya compared the Centre’s relations with the provinces to a wheel, the Centre being the fulcrum and the provinces or the states being the spokes of the wheel.
This means that the Centre must be a strong entity to hold the wheel together. Our history of thousands of years under scores the need for a strong Centre. The first Indian empire in history was that of the Mauryas, who established their rule for well over a century from Kashmir in the north to Karnataka in the south and from Kabul in the west to Kamrup in the east. The Mauryas defeated the invasion of the Greeks led by Alexander’s successor, Selucus Nikator. The Mauryan Empire survived for a century and a half.

This was followed by five centuries of national disintegration during which India succumbed to repeated invasions of later Greeks and Scythians (Sakas). The Guptas, like the Mauryas, established an extensive empire. They maintained the country’s integrity for over half a century.

Chandragupta decimated the Scythians (Sakas) and Prince Skandagupta defeated the dreaded Huns. Atilla the Hun had devastated Europe and Rome quailed before him.

After the Guptas we had instability and a weak Centre succumbing to repeated invasions till the Delhi Sultanate in the 13th century established a strong central rule.

After over 150 years, a weak Delhi Sultanate was decisively defeated by Babar, establishing Mughal rule from 1526 till the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, secure against foreign invasions. There was a brief interlude of Sher Shah and his successors. Humayun reestablished Mughal rule. India suffered devastating invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali. The great Mughal emperors were reduced to being puppets with strong subedars and rulers in the outlying provinces of the empire becoming very powerful.

Emperor Shah Alam, a descendent of the Great Mughals, now ruled from only Delhi to Palam. The Mughal emperors became pensioners of the Marathas and were helpless before the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Wazir of Oudh and the Nawab of Murshidabad. After the battle of Plassey came the first colonial empire in India with the British exiling the last Mughal Emperor to Burma in 1858 and establishing their empire in India for another century.

After the Second World War, the British, rendered economically weak and militarily exhausted, had to quit India in 1947.

The founding fathers of our Constitution were fully conscious of the consequences of a weak Centre and the need for autonomy for states in a country of continental dimension.

Thus, they gave us both a unitary and a federal polity.

Jawaharlal Nehru, a true democrat who respected both the Opposition in Parliament and the autonomy of the states, ruled by his own party.
Towards the end of his prime ministership, he gave in to his daughter and dismissed the Namboodripad government in Kerala. Indira Gandhi cared little for democratic values and was dismissive of the autonomy of states. She blatantly introduced dynastic rule and would dismiss state governments at the drop of a hat.
After her great military victory in Bangladesh and after firmly dealing with Sikkim, she became more intolerant.

However, when cornered by the judgment of the Allahabad high court, she jettisoned democracy and suspended the Constitution. The judiciary was subverted, the right to life denied, the police was let loose to commit atrocities, freedom of press curbed and over a lakh Opposition leaders jailed without trial.

During the 1977 parliamentary elections, as a result of the JP movement, Indira Gandhi and the Congress were routed and thrown out of power. The Janata government of three squabbling senior leaders lasted barely a year.

Indira Gandhi swept the polls to rule for four years, till her assassination in 1984. She was followed by Rajiv Gandhi riding to an unprecedented poll victory on sympathy wave. Soon after his electoral defeat in the 1989 elections, Rajiv met a tragic end.

India now entered the era of coalition politics at the Centre.

The coalition governments of Narsimha Rao, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh, UPA-1 did well. We had a booming economy and a sky-high international image. The heads of states of all the five permanent members of the UN Security Council visited Delhi in 2010, with Barack Obama looking for 50,000 jobs for his countrymen.

The situation changed most drastically during the UPA-2 regime with uncontrolled inflation, rising prices, numerous mind-boggling scams of lakhs of crores of rupees, a devaluing rupee and pathetic misgovernance.

The UPA-2 became a tottering government held to ransom by unreliable alliance partners.

Internationally our image suffered, with Pakistan virtually mocking our soft policy, a small country like the Maldives treating India with disdain, unabated anti-India feelings in Nepal, Indo-Bangladesh relations held hostage by Mamata Banerjee over Teesta waters and a similar situation over Sri Lanka in Tamil Nadu. With alliance partners like the Trinamul Congress and the Dravida Munnetra Khazagham snapping ties,

the UPA-2 is now reduced to a pathetic state, surviving on life support from Maulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati. Arbitrary dismissal of state governments under Article 356 has been stopped by the Supreme Court’s judgment in the Bomai case of 1995.

Despite Mr Yadav’s unbridled prime ministerial ambitions and record of changing his stance like a chameleon, the chances of a Third Front appear very dim. Some regional leaders, through questionable means and covert Congress support, have thrown their hat in the ring for the prime ministerial race, like Nitish Kumar taking the unprecedented step of organising a show of strength in Delhi.

The situation today is like later Mughal days dictated by regional satraps.
Notwithstanding all this, the much-discredited Congress has a fighting chance to bounce back to power in 2014.

It has the advantage of unlimited money power, strict party discipline, and the TINA factor. The BJP has two national leaders with a mass base, L.K. Advani and Narendra Modi, three outstanding parliamentarians like Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Yashwant Sinha, and three very successful young chief ministers, Narendra Modi, Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

Yet it must put its act together and be seen as a united party to be a viable alternative to the Congress.

It is imperative for our democracy and our nation that one of our two main political parties emerges as a strong leading party with well over 200 seats in Parliament, a strong Centre not held hostage by a coalition partner. If that does not happen, India may well disintegrate and suffer the fate of the later Mughals.

 Comment: Though rather aged, Lt Gen SK Sinha is himself a befitting Prime Ministerial candidate!!!

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