Congress Raj hangover in RS

Party yet to master coalition-era politics


Ashish Sharma | March 10, 2010

For somebody who fails to summon enthusiasm over reservation or so-called positive discrimination anywhere, the fracas over women's quota bill in Rajya Sabha proved a curiously captivating affair. If the Congress party had indeed orchestrated the entire show to deliver a bravura performance in what would otherwise have been a dull numbers game, it could have scarcely hoped to do better. As the expectant nation watched and waited, Sonia Gandhi, the woman behind the bill, eventually emerged triumphant in a cathartic climax. She had been nervous, she admitted thereafter, lending further credence to the display of righteous determination in the face of adversity. The turn of events, however, tells a more familiar tale of hubris on part of her party.

The dead give-away in the two-day thriller came in the penultimate sequence with the walkout by members of the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, which remains a member of the ruling coalition. It became clear that the Congress party, which leads the ruling coalition, had not prepared adequately to get even its allies on board, let alone handling the inevitable opposition of the Yadav brigade or factoring in the last-minute call for debate by the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Left parties.

The larger issue here is not just floor management in parliament or even the women's reservation bill, which incidentally faces a tougher test in Lok Sabha. It has to do with the functioning of a party that leads a coalition much as it would a majority government on its own strength. Whether it be the Indo-US nuclear deal or the issue of price rise or India's response to the relentless war being waged by Pakistan, the Congress party's instinctive impatience with democratic norms smacks of a reluctance to come to terms with the requirements of coalition-era politics. In the process, it risks running afoul of its rightful mandate.



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