Manmohan Singh: Lacking in legitimacy
This article originally appeared in CRI content has now been subsumed in The views expressed here are personal and do not necessarily reflect those of the editors of

At the time of writing this it is yet unclear as to how the ugly situation rising out of government’s mishandling Kisan Baburam Hazare’s protest-fast is going to be defused. Whilst speculation on next steps in the government’s crisis management continue to abound in the usual media outlets I should like to step back to see what led the country to this morning.

What makes the Anna Hazare led India Against Corruption movement stand out from others is the tremendous outpouring of support through emails, phone calls and city-centre agitations from middle India.  Speaking to a fellow blogger it occurred to me there are only two ways to interpret this rather abrupt mobilisation: Either middle India is fully disillusioned with the entire political classes that run the country or middle India is terribly angry with the incumbent administration. The former line of thinking is quite dangerous for the future of India’s polity whilst the latter would be a fortunate development. But which one is it?

The reason I’m not particularly favorable to assuming that middle India has lost all hopes it had for the political class is that we see its expression of anger a mere 3-4 months after state assembly elections brought out more voters than ever in the recent history.  In India’s electoral history we rarely see such large turn-outs.  If the anger we witness on the streets is against the entire political class how does one explain the fact that nearly 70% of the electorate came out and chose a candidate from the same stables to  represent them a mere 3-4 months ago? This is clearly the utter disappointment and anger of the people against the incumbents being voiced out. In Anna Hazare’s campaign for a stronger Jan Lok Pal middle India found just the right vehicle.

This anger coming only two years after having granted the UPA another full five year term may appear hypocritical. Why grant a renewed mandate when you have already witnessed a rather extra-ordinary effort at delinquency and vacillation to extra-constitutional centers of power? Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that a ruling majority at the central level is more often than not constituted by verdicts derived based on regional and state-level issues/leadership. Add the obligatory communal social engineering our ruling Congress dispensation has mastered over decades and you have what is at best many state-level verdicts translated into more bench-strength in the Lok Sabha.

In the absence of any nationwide ‘wave’ or electoral phenomenon, such as it was during the 1999 polls which saw a Vajpayee ‘wave’, it is on the consolidated strength of regional verdicts affected more by state-issues and regional personalities that a Union Government is constituted. Others may trumpet a verdict for Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh but the UPA has managed two terms merely by virtue of regional consolidation and communal social engineering.  It was always deficient in popular legitimacy.

However, despite the flawed manner in which our union executive is chosen the process has been agreed and an ordinary performance from the UPA would have saved the day. But, no, Manmohan Singh had to make it worse for himself by cracking down on civil liberties just to avoid yet another PR disaster.