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Thursday, May 20, 2004


What's next?

Dr.Manmohan Singh is scheduled to take the oath of office on Saturday, May 22nd. Thereafter the focus will shift onto the announcement of key cabinet portfolios. And the rest of the cabinet in due course.

As and when the announcements are made I will provide some insight into the choices. I'll talk about the people chosen, their records, their views and their aspirations. In parliamentary democracy a lot can be learned from looking at a cabinet's composition. A note of caution here. The process of portfolio determination is getting tricky with coalition partners deciding to join the government and in return seeking strategic positions. A balancing act that the Congress must master as it will have to exercise it many times over its tenure in power.

It must be said that the respect and admiration that has come Mrs.Sonia Gandhi's way will definitely strengthen the Congress's bargaining position in the event of an unreasonable request being made. For example, if the leader of a 6-7 member parliamentary delegation starts threatening to not support the government unless granted a key ministry Mrs.Sonia Gandhi's current popularity will desist them from making too much of a fuss. Hence, by not accepting the Prime Ministership she has really strengthened her political position. Critical for the leader of a party that only has a 7-seat lead over its chief rival - the BJP.

That is what's in store for the Congress and its allies. What I am interested in seeing is how the BJP and more importantly the RSS responds to this new reality. Their platform has been rejected and the only thing they could have claimed any credit for - the reforms - are being carried out anyways. With the foreign origin issue even further eroding their stature they are out of sorts. May be this will force them to be a more responsible opposition in the legislative sense.

I feel for the BJP to survive the moderates have to make a clear break from the extremists. The "Hindutva" (which is a linguistically wrong word for "Hindu-ness"!) forces within the party MUST be isolated. The BJP may be the progeny of the RSS but it may be time to move out for its own good. Something for them to think about.


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