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Gowda in Thackeray's Lair

The United Front Prime Minister Deve Gowda is in the habit of making himself visible at the door steps of every questionable political character scrounging for support for his hotch-potch of a government. But even his bitterest critic within the UF would not have expected him to stoop too low to the level of going with a begging bowl to Bal Thackeray. Incensed at his periodical pilgrimage to Rao's Race Course Road residence, his leftist colleagues in the UF Steering Committee had to give him some angry lectures in political etiquette.

More than a question of protocol or the unchanged mindset of a political parvenu, it is an unhesitant readiness to throw any and every principle to the winds for the sake of stability of one's own gaddi. It is a realpolitik of unprecedented opportunism. Just as Gowda turned his back on some of his UF partners in inheriting and carrying forward Congress' economic policies, he didn't hesitate to spite them - and the so-called secular mandate they are supposed to carry - by calling on a rank reactionary communalist. He hesitates not for a moment before trampling the common minimum programme underfoot to pursue his single-point programme of political survival. And, above all, he has no compunction in plainly betraying the interests of Muslims who stood solidly behind his coalition and even voted en masse for his party in Karnataka to make him the CM in the first place. True, BJP is in a quandary in Gujarat and Maharashtra but remember how the same UF partners heaped ridicule on Vajpayee for making opportunist overtures to political adversaries cutting across principles for the sake of sitting tight in power.

More brazen than the meeting itself was the excuse he offered for meeting that mass-killer: a sympathetic courtesy call on someone mourning a death in the family! And the occasion to share the grief was a lavish dinner thrown at a Juhu Beach villa by movie moghul Amitabh! A Muslim leader rightly came up with an angry poser - Why didn't he bother to call on the survivors of those thousands of Muslims who lost their lives in Bombay at the hands of Thackeray's goons? But then Gowda knows which side of the political balance is, where he can draw broader support and whom to court, whom to cold-shoulder and whom to take for granted. He is not alone in this, rather he has a whole section of UF with him, as well as a section in Congress. The Left within UF must be blind not to see the emerging political polarisation and realignments. It is not without reason Naidu carefully cultivates a Vaghela who still swears by his Hindutva convictions and sticks to the high-flying Khajuria style and who himself has established an axis with Thackeray who in turn has offered to join Naidu's Federal Front while carrying on his own tete-a-tete with Rao.

A 'secular' coalition is not forgiven for the unguarded hour in which the 'last' adventurer who came along to head it takes them for a honeymoon with the scum of the communal forces. What happened to the socalled 'larger objective' of secularism for the sake of which CPI and CPI(M) went on stretching their limits of compromise? Those who are in the habit of tailing any unscrupulous centrist leader would be taken wherever the hungry political animal runs, their protestations over political decorum notwithstanding. Gowda has time and again shown his inclination to stoop before Congress and communalists. The need of the hour is a strong assertion by the progressive opinion and every genuine secularists and democrats to prevent opportunist real politics getting the better of principled opposition, to salvage the mandate from getting squandered away at the altar of Congress and communal variants. Assert they should before it is too late.


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