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When media advisor to former PM Dr Manmohan Singh expresses disdain for ‘strong leadership’ in a democracy

The only thing Harish Khare is clear in his entire article is that the Congress is worthless and should not be anywhere close to this “popular front”.

Time to resurrect a popular front”, thundered the headline in The Hindu’s Op-Ed page. The author Harish Khare is no ordinary “senior journalist” as the article claims. He was once the media advisor to the Prime Minister of India when Dr. Manmohan Singh was holding that post. Which means that he was in a position of considerable power to shape the discourse of the country. So, when such a once powerful person writes that something needs to be “resurrected”, you would imagine that it existed before.  

Harish Khare’s definition of “popular front” is “command the majority of popular vote”.  In his infinite wisdom, he reminds us of the oft-repeated, beaten-to-death argument – “the NDA, as per the 2019 results, still does not command the majority of popular vote; its combined vote share was nearly 45%, of which the BJP’s contribution was 37.4%;

Now, you would think that this is an amazing argument and that it indeed time to “resurrect” a “popular front” that existed before. Instead of belabouring this point further, let’s simply take a look at the table below to know how many seats a pre-poll arrangement of parties won in each election and their voting percentages.

How many seats a pre-poll arrangement of parties won in each election and their voting percentages

Gosh, it turns out that India never had a “popular front”. Not a single leader ever won more than 50% votes in any election in India since 1952. Leave voting percentages, did you notice how Sonia Gandhi did not even win the requisite 272 seats, both in 2004 and 2009? Did we ever see articles and seminars and debates and discussions around the voting percentages when Sonia Gandhi was in power from 2004 to 2014? Did Harish Khare ever reflect as to why he agreed to work under a Prime Minister, who didn’t even contest elections, leave alone getting a “popular vote”? 

So, what does Harish Khare propose to “resurrect” something that never existed in the first place? In his own lofty words – “restoring a balance between the Centre and the States — the Centre has made a mockery of the federal spirit and arrangement;”

Now, if you are using strong words like “mockery”, readers would expect that you give some serious examples to prove your point. Harish Khare gives exactly zero examples. You are now left wondering – is it because of the fact that there are no examples to give? For example, why is it a mockery if each one of the 43 GST Council meetings, members of which belong to many political parties, have ended up taking significant decisions unanimously? For example, why is it a mockery if the Prime Minister invites the Karnataka Chief Minister (who is from the Congress and has declined the invitation) to accompany him on a foreign tour so that he can attract more investments? For example, why is it a mockery if the darling of the English media and the famed Kerala Chief Minister from the Communist party acknowledges the tremendous help received from the central government for the devastating Kerala floods? Why is it a mockery when Captain Amarinder Singh says– “I have no problems. I am getting full co-operation” and even cites examples to bolster his statement?

The lofty arguments continue with us now being told that there is a need of “restoring a sense of partnership and participation to the minorities—it is entirely unhealthy that a ruling party of 303 MPs cannot boast of a single Muslim member

I never understand this argument. Has there ever been a single instance in the past 70 years when Muslims MPs, cutting across party lines, have formed a lobby group and got something specifically done for the welfare of Muslims? The answer is an emphatic NO. So, if the Muslims MPs themselves are divided by their party lines, what is this obsession with a meaningless symbolism? Why don’t the likes of Harish Khare question about the other minorities too? For example, how many Christian MPs? How many Jain MPs? There will never be an end to this argument. Or better yet, has Harish Khare been able to cite a single instance of minorities losing a “sense of partnership and participation”? Why couldn’t Harsh Khare cite some examples of blatant discrimination in policies by the Modi government? Lazy to do research or because those examples don’t exist?

Harish Khare goes on to talk about “restoring the constitutional institutions to their original vitality”, meaning that institutions should listen to what their ilk says and not act independently. So, how and who does Harish Khare propose to be part of a “popular front” that will restore “a semblance to sensitivity and civility to our political life”? 

According to his infinite wisdom, the “popular front” should “also accommodate and tame an Asaduddin Owaisi”. The choice of words is an example of the haughty arrogance these people proudly possess! Harish Khare actually wants to “tame” Owaisi? Has he really not heard and seen Owaisi? And who does he think can “tame” Owaisi? Naveen Patnaik and Nitish Kumar! 

The only thing Harish Khare is clear in his entire article is that the Congress is worthless and should not be anywhere close to this “popular front”. Otherwise the entire article is simply another attempt to showcase the English language skills of Harish Khare without providing a single example to make his point. Harish Khare’s disdain for democracy is very evident in his concluding paragraph – “Too much of strong leadership has robbed India of its democratic exuberance and constitutional dynamism.” Ours is perhaps the only place in the world where having a “strong leadership” is seen as a disadvantage and where the English media yearns for the return of a weak leadership that can “tame” Owaisi (am still LOL’ing!). 

The sooner Harish Khare realises that lofty rhetoric is not a substitute for ground realities, the better understanding he will have as to why Prime Minister Modi is so popular in the country. He has won the mandate of the people a whopping 5 times in the past 18 years. He must have done something right for that to happen, no?

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S. Sudhir Kumar
Obsessive eater, Compulsive sleeper, Repulsive Writer

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