Monday, November 12, 2007

Chameleon thy name is Indian Politician

Chameleon thy name is Indian Politician
Syed Ali Mujtaba

When Gopalasamy alias Vaiko, a politician from Tamil Nadu, crossed over to the ruling AIADMK to sew an electoral alliance for the forthcoming Assembly elections, it sent shock waves across the state. For, his latest alliance partner had put him behind the bars under the draconian Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) on charges of sedition and he had to spend 19 months in prison. Even the ruling dispensation, National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre of which Vaiko’s MDMK party was a part at that time, could not get him out of the jail.

Having come out of the prison, Viko formed an alliance with the opposition in the last Parliamentary elections in Tamil Nadu that shored up the chances of Congress-led United Progressive Alliance to come to power at the Center. Every thing was going smooth for Viko till the announcement of the assembly elections where differences seems to arose over the seat sharing issue. This prompted the pro LTTE politician to go ahead to script yet another episode of unholy alliances in the Indian politics.

It’s just two months ago another unholy alliance was struck in Banglore where the current Chief Minister H D Kumaraswamy defected from Janata Dal (Secular) led by his father H.D. Deve Gowda to align with the BJP, a right wing Hindu party to form the government in Karnataka. The ideology of secularism and the family persuasion did not move the ambitious son of the former Indian Prime Minister to adhere to any political ethics.

It is not only the sons who are a spoiled lot in Indian politics, the son- in-law too claim to have such distinctions. The infamous revolt of former Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu against his father-in-law in 1996 is not far from memory. Chief Minister NT Ramachandran’s second wife Laxmi Parvati’s growing influence in the state politics was the reason for Naidu to dump his father-in-law in a democratic coup unprecedented in the recent history. He went on to rule the state for next ten years and earned the accolade of Hi-tech Chief Minister in India.

The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) in Tamil Nadu, which champions the cause of secularism, threw it to winds when it struck an alliance with the BJP-led NDA at the Centre in 1999. DMK leader late Murasoli Maran who had earlier mooted the formation of a Third Front government to ward of the BJP threat, changed his colours and went on to align with the BJP to remain in the Union Cabinet under a new dispensation of NDA. Later, the DMK dumped the BJP once again to align with the Congress, which ensured a cabinet berth for his son Dayanidhi Maran, who is now the IT minister of India.

Another name, which rings the bell, is Sanjay Nirupam, the firebrand Shiv Sena leader of Mumbai, the capital of Mahrashtra. Nirupam’s utterances against the Muslims shot him into limelight and in many ways he surpassed many Hindutva hardliners who were competing for the same slot. Later his differences with the party chief Bal Thackeray led to his ouster from Shiv Sena and he eventually had to wear secular cloak and take refuge in the Congress camp. The late Sunil Dutt, actor turned politician, had seriously objected to Nirupam’s entry into the Congress and personally met party president Sonia Gandhi to keep him away, but political considerations prevailed over the ideology.

Arif Mohammad Khan, branded as secular leader in Indian politics is another name to recollect. He shot into limelight during the Shah Bano controversy in 1985 for not succumbing to the pressure of the Muslim extremists and preferred sacrifice his cabinet position rather than go with Congress whip in the Parliament to undo the Supreme Court judgment on the issue of providing alimony and maintenance of an old Muslim lady. The Uttar Pradesh politician after toying with the Dalit outfit, Bahujan Samaj party, once again knocked the doors of the Congress but got a lukewarm response from there. He then preferred to shelve his political ideology and aligned with the BJP, that preach Hindutva or cultural nationalism, in the country. Arif Khan’s dreams dashed to the grounds as he badly lost the election and his party too could not return to power.

P A Sangma the former Lok Sabha speaker and Congress leader from Meghalaya is another character in the same mould. He along with Sharad Pawar and Tariq Anwar, broke away from the Congress on Sonia Gandhi’s foreign origin issue and formed the Nationalist Congress Party. He then went on to from his own party to espouse the cause of the northeast region. Sangma even struck an alliance with the Trinamool Congress of Mamata Banerjee and the two together aligned with the BJP in hope of ministerial berth in the future NDA government. However, all his calculations failed because the NDA could not click in the hustings and that made the northeast politician to once again join the Nationalist Congress His comrade Sharad Pawar who was not so adventurous set aside all the ideological differences and decided to align with the Congress for the reward of Agriculture minister of India. Sangma’s other chum, Tariq Anwar, a politician from Bihar, got Rajya Sabha nomination from Maharastra.

BJP leader Kalyan Singh is another shade in the same tribe of Indian politicians. Once a champion of Hindutva ideology, he threw his saffron hat after having differences with the BJP. The ‘Ram bhakt’ went on to align with the Bahujan Samaj Party, an anti BJP dalit outfit in Uttar Pradesh. The former Chief Minister who had preferred to face a day’s sentence for the demolition of the Babari mosque in 1992 rather than criticize that outrageous act, turned his ears deaf when Bahujan Samaj party leader Mayawati lampooned Hinduism for subjugating the lower caste Hindus. However, when he found little gains from such unholy alliance Kalyan Singh returned to the BJP. The BJP too needed him due to the depleting political base of the party in Uttar Pradesh. The homecoming of Kalyan Singh was more a marriage of convince than to do anything with political ethics.

Another politician to be bracketed in the chameleon club is George Fernandes. A trade unionist leader, Fernandes was stalwart of Janata Party that replaced Congress after emergency in 1977. He was respected for his opposition to the rightist policies of the Congress and for espousing the cause of the working class, minorities and the down trodden. He however lost all his esteem when he chose to align with the BJP and to become the Defence Minister of India. The wily socialist remained a mute spectator to the mindless privatization of the public sector undertakings taking place during the NDA rule and also towards the atrocities committed during that time against the Christian and Muslim minorities in the country.

The list of the murkiest shade of the Indian politicians is unending. Suffice to say that it has a pan India character and ideology and principles are loosing sheen in Indian politics. The maxim that politics is the survival of the fittest with no permanent enemy or no permanent friend rules the roost.

However, this is just one shade of the changing kaleidoscope of Indian politics. There are many politicians who may still like to cling on to their ideology and may not like to part with till their death. The imponderables of Indian politics thus remain as mysterious as ever.

Syed Ali Mujtaba is a journalist based in Chennai, India. He can be contacted at


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