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UPA Inner War Begins?
by Rajinder Puri Bookmark and Share

The first detailed information regarding Sharad Pawar’s involvement in an IPL bid publicized by media was most likely leaked only by official sources. If this inference is correct, the first shot in a power struggle to wrest control of the Union government has been fired. 

On May 23 this scribe wrote in his comment "Political Climate Change Begins":
“While one set of ruling politicians under pressure of public opinion is impelled to expose the names involved (in corruption)… there is another set of politicians who are aware that their heads are on the chopping block. The second set that feels threatened cuts across political parties. For survival… to pre-empt their exposure… (They can only succeed) by toppling the government and seizing power. According to the political grapevine they are already on the job…The conspiracy to change the government within the next few months is under way. It remains to be seen whether a clash between the two groups is ignited to create a major political realignment ... Before winter we should know.” 

If this surmise was correct, the government has pre-empted the toppling exercise by exposing Sharad Pawar. The renewed IPL crisis is not the only signal of the impending war within the UPA. There are other signs. Telecom Minister D Raja is crucial to the Karunanidhi dynasty. The Tamil Nadu patriarch has made clear more than once that he would not brook action by the Union government against his favourite. If there is vast corruption in the Spectrum scam for which Raja is responsible the kickbacks collected would include several beneficiaries in Tamil Nadu and possibly even elsewhere. The close rapport that exists between Sharad Pawar and Karunanidhi goes back a long way. Indeed it was their combined initiative that compelled the Congress to select Pratibha Patil to become the UPA presidential candidate. 

Now the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has intervened to prevent Raja from participating in an international conference. The snubbing is not one sided. Raja on his side has removed the Congress Minister of State Gurudas Kamat from the Telecom department and confined him to the department looking after Posts. Clearly, tension between the Congress and DMK is growing. If Raja is subjected to any action or is transferred to another ministry the tension could escalate to an open break. At present therefore there are two potential parties that could revolt against the UPA government, NCP and DMK.

Together the DMK and NCP account for 27 Lok Sabha MPs – 18 with DMK, 9 with NCP. In all there are 543 Lok Sabha MPs. For getting a majority 272 are required. The UPA has a total of 268 MPs. The NDA has 153, the Third Front has 114. There are 8 independents. The UPA government has succeeded in getting the required majority each time largely because of a divided opposition. Also, very often UPA majority is obtained by the fact that several opposition leaders have CBI inquiries pending against them which persuade them to keep the government in good humour.

If 27 MPs of the DMK-NCP combination were to walk out of the UPA the government could be in an insurmountable crisis. To cover the loss neither Mulayam Singh’s SP, with 22 MPs, nor Mayawati’s BSP, with 21 MPs, would suffice. On present reckoning both these parties cannot be on the same side. The Left Front with 24 MPs along with either Mulayam Singh or with 8 independents could conceivably fill the breach. But that can safely be ruled out. If the Left supports Congress, 19 MPs of Trinamool Congress will quit UPA. All this makes the Congress spokespersons exceedingly circumspect when commenting on either Sharad Pawar or D Raja.

Why then would official sources have leaked damning exposures related to Pawar or Raja in the first place? The likely answer is that certain government circles know that regardless of what the government may or may not expose, the conspiracy to topple the government is already under way. Exposure was pre-emptive action. Pawar is the crucial kingpin of Operation Topple. Why so, when he has only 9 MPs? Well, he is the biggest political fund raiser in the country.

Many MPs to support the toppling exercise would require proof that in the event of a mid-term poll they would be financially looked after. Curiously, two national dailies, supporting respectively CPI-M and BJP, grossly underplayed the Pawar exposure. The last time CPI-M and BJP colluded was against the Indo-US nuclear deal.

In his recent press conference the PM said he would not retire until he had completed his unfinished tasks. His biggest unfinished task on which he has staked his reputation is to achieve a breakthrough in the Indo-Pak peace process. President Obama in Washington declared that he expected his November visit to India will create history. Does he expect that by November a breakthrough in the Indo-Pak peace process to which the US has committed itself will be announced? 

Twice earlier a breakthrough in Indo-Pak peace was scuttled at the last moment. Prime Minister Vajpayee’s game-changing visit to Lahore was followed by the Kargil attack. The man who scuttled the Lahore effort, General Musharraf, later as the Pakistan President, was on the brink of a peace breakthrough in the Agra summit. At the very last minute differences over one word in the joint communiqué, whether it should be “terrorism” or “cross-border terrorism”, scuttled the agreement. It would seem that forces opposed to Indo-Pak peace have a very, very long reach. These forces have the ability to play upon the petty ambitions and concerns of politicians to manipulate them and thwart peace prospects.

The Indo-Pak peace process was jinxed twice. Will it be jinxed again or will India be third time lucky? The intrigues afoot deny easy answers. Before winter it should be known if the UPA government survives, whether major political realignments occur, and whether President Obama’s visit to India will end as victory or farce. All this may appear wildly fanciful. Perhaps. But suspend judgment till November, 2010.  

More by :  Rajinder Puri
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