In the works: A workable, credible and winnable multi-party Opposition front


By Jan Arden

In India, as much as it’s the case here, negotiations to forge a workable, credible and winnable multi-party Opposition front are far from a done deal. And even when each leader is willing to sacrifice personal ambitions, egos and demands in favour of the greater national objectives, the ultimate test will rest in the buy-in by an electorate that has seen many variants over time.

We know how the publicly conducted, prolonged negotiations in 2014 and the unsaleable twin engine formula (Labour Party-MMM) of power-sharing left large segments of the population feeling stranded. While the LP retained most of its core electorate, both rural and urban, it was the MMM that lost many of its key lieutenants and faithfuls since the 2014 negotiations, and recovery has been made more difficult by further defections through the lure of MSM in office.

That reality, manifest in their modest showing at the 2017 by-elections in urban Belle-Rose/Quatre-Bornes constituency, combined with the necessity for an alliance to win over a clear mandate in the rural areas that constitute half of the electoral seats, may hang in the background as Opposition leaders are working on a winnable and credible formula between the three traditional parties in which the LP has already been recognised as the perceived and real locomotive.

Some may feel that such a platform would be an almost sine qua non to limit the ability of other Opposition figures/parties (Resistans ek Alternativ, Nando Bodha, Roshi Bhadain, Bruno Laurette and others), with due respect to their individualities, to muddy the waters or detract from the grander national objectives of a more democratic and less oppressive society. 

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Stag Party and other diversions

Amidst the widely mediatised drug planting allegations, amidst the prolonged inability of ICAC to pursue vigorously its investigations once it had unearthed or was in receipt of whistle-blower allegations of corruption in what has been termed the Black Label Stag Party near Grand Bassin, one could remain baffled that the signatories of the 700 acre lease were neither subjected to elementary vetting nor, it would seem, would Cabinet approval been sought for such a large transaction.

Any moderately astute Minister overseeing that process might have thought it fit to cover his departmental action by the legal sanction of collective responsibility that a green light from Cabinet could have provided. Such legal and administrative literacy might have been helpful if only to his personal credentials.

In what are seen as deliberate attempts to light counter fires and distract either from that Stag Party storyline or from the continued extortionate fuel prices at the pump, the now notorious Special Striking Team, initially confined to drug investigations, has been charging like a bull in a china shop, targeting Opposition voices in the social media blogosphere. Rumours have it that others would soon be the object of the same attention that have been meted out last week to Harish Chundunsingh and lawyer Rama Valayden, both out on bail.

The US ambassador has voiced his concern publicly, a rather unusual act, and no doubt the EU representatives are also keeping tabs on any derailment of processes and curtailment of our democratic space and values. While the MSM brass are fond of the « so what? » attitude, large swathes of the population who constitute the undecided middle ground may feel increasingly uncomfortable with those repressive gyrations. These took a new unprecedented low this Tuesday with the obnoxious parliamentary question that allowed the PM to wallow in the mud of personal and medical revelations of a sexual nature against his obsessive nemesis, Navin Ramgoolam, who, by the way, is not even a Member of Parliament.

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Pakistan: the dreams of the country’s founding fathers turn to ashes

The situation in debt-crippled Pakistan amid tensions between Imran Khan and his PTI followers against their opponents now in power and running the show, had dragged the Army/ISI into the fray, as some of its installations were attacked during continuous violent riots and arson that followed the army’s high-handed arrest of the former PM and, this week, by the detention for 8 days by the National Accountability Bureau.

While matters were already complex and volatile enough with that unprecedented decredibilisation of the army, the Chief Justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court, Umar Ata Bandial, had thrown in his own curved ball by terming the manner of that army arrest illegal, leading to the liberation of Imran Khan on bail. That attracted immediately the public wrath of both the army, promising crackdowns on PTI sympathisers or rioters (some 2000, including many PTI bosses, have been arrested) and political heavyweights of the ruling factions, directly challenging the Chief Justice and his visible sympathy for the former PM.

While most cities are under siege or burning, riots have been even more intense in the outlying districts (Balochistan and Khyber areas particularly) all suffering from decades of army exactions at the behest of a Punjabi establishment. In an ominous editorial of May 10th, Dawn wrote that « the Rubicon had been crossed and that all hopes of a negotiated truce or settlement can be put to rest ».

Even as large segments of the population and the country are teetering on the edge of bankruptcy, the fractures and fault lines that run through the country’s diverse ethnicities and its corrupt elites and agencies are increasingly bitter both locally and in its overseas diaspora. There is little visibility for a reprieve or a truce between warring factions, both sides having been alternately blessed then falling out from the army good books.

If the Sharifs or Bhuttos could be charged, arrested, or hanged relatively easily, the former army-selected blue-eyed boy Imran Khan, with his intense followers, are a far deadlier phenomenon to handle. Even martial law or a new army coup, in the last resort, could only result in more destructive violence as the dreams of the country’s founding fathers turn to ashes.

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Thumping win for Congress in Karnataka

The high-stakes State elections in Karnataka delivered last Saturday a thumping win for the Congress with a comfortable number of seats, some 135 when 113 would have been needed for a simple majority, against the BJP’s slump to about 70 seats despite a high-octane campaign of PM Modi and other party stalwarts.

The BJP high command will necessarily dwell on the fact that Modi’s popularity at a national level was not enough to prevent it from losing its only foothold in the South, overcome allegations of corruption against the local BJP state government, as well as frustrations over rising inflation, a lack of job creation outside the city’s thriving capital, Bengaluru, and a campaign of « freebies » by Congress.

With such a result, Congress will undoubtedly feel buoyed for the upcoming 2024 general elections and boost its cards in negotiations for a wider Opposition alliance, but it has immediate worries managing success, as key contenders for the Chief Minister’s post are now in the sort of ugly tussle that has marred Congress in other states.

Mauritius Times ePaper Friday 19 May 2023

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