The blurb for Outlook Magazine's cover story on Manmohan Singh this week reads: "With Manmohan Singh intent on pushing the nuclear deal when he should be worrying about inflation, many have begun to wonder if he's putting personal interest before the national one." Nothing could be further from the truth. It's decidedly against Singh's personal interest to pursue the nuclear deal, since it would mean losing his post and having to fight elections (which as a terrible politician, he is loathe to do). I seriously doubt that "many" of whom Outlook writes really exist.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, it is silly to link the two issues of inflation and the nuclear deal, since they have nothing to do with one another, apart from the fact that one may precipitate elections and the other may make it impossible for the Congress to win. Inflation, like all economic problems, is not easy to manipulate by the stroke of a pen, and it is likely that the PM is very worried about inflation but also very much at a loss about how to initiate a sudden reversal.
The bottom line is that this deal (as Shekhar Gupta correctly wrote earlier this week) is not about energy--the Left gets that right. It's about bringing India back into the fold after years of ostracism following its nuclear test. Any supposed limitations that it puts in place are already in place today--when India is still essentially under sanctions--so it is ridiculous to say that India should keep out of it to protect its autonomy. (Essentially, that is like a prisoner saying he doesn't want to come out of jail because if he breaks the law he'll be thrown back inside).
The Congress will have to face elections in April, regardless what it does now. And Manmohan Singh will be the de facto choice as its prime minister, since Sonia Gandhi has already demonstrated her unwillingness to take the post, Rahul Gandhi is too young (by consensus) and there isn't anybody else that Sonia can rely on to rule by remote control. With those realities, the more that the party hamstrings Singh and turns him into an emasculated figure of ridicule, the more it increases the (already likely) scenario that it will be thrown out of office.
Sunday, June 29, 2008
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