I was one of the participants along with a veteran Marxist, who is also the editor of the Left's local mouthpiece. I was ostensibly invited to represent the aspirations of the common man, the middle class and, of course, the educated lot.
In Tamil Nadu, the current vice-president is still an unknown commodity and, thus, the debate centered on two persons -- Pratibha Patil and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam [Images], the current President.
Initiating the debate, I pleaded for the cause of Dr Kalam (he had till then not said he wouldn't run for a second term), who is also an internationally renowned scientist. As there is no constitutional bar on his re-election, I implored, "Why not have him elected unopposed for the second term?" After all he is a Bharat Ratna.
Unlike many of our politicians and leaders who end up in the cool comforts of their air-conditioned rooms, Dr Kalam was in Pokhran in the sweltering heat of the desert when the then government went ahead with its decision to test the N-bombs.
This seemed to upset my fellow participant, the veteran communist. His answer to my observations on Dr Kalam stunned me. Pointing out that the Communist ideology did not permit him from supporting the idea of a nuclear bomb, he dubbed the Indian nuclear programme as 'fascist,' especially as it was detonated when their bete noire, the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, was in power.
Hence, according to him, the candidature of Dr Kalam was out of question as he was instrumental in detonating the bomb!
Naturally, the next question I posed was assuming that the Indian bomb was indeed fascist, what about the Chinese and Russian bombs? Readers may recall that when China and the erstwhile USSR detonated nuclear weapons, it was hailed as a bomb against the imperialist forces by Communists. If that were so, why then only dub the Indian bomb as fascist?
My fellow participant's answer did not even remotely satisfy me. The infamous Communist duplicity was on full display.
Why Kalam did not find favour with the Communists?
But this duplicity hides more than what it reveals. To understand this we need to fully comprehend the psychological impact of what Pokhran-II had on our collective psyche and how it, in turn, affects the Communists. Needless to emphasise, the tests had a tremendous transformation on a nation that has seen very little of nationalistic assertion in the past thousand years or so.
It may not be out of place to mention that while every Indian and virtually every other political party was celebrating the event, the Communists were mourning!
It may be recalled that the late prime minister Indira Gandhi [Images] was instrumental in carrying out Pokhran-I. Since then, every successive prime minister of India, irrespective of his political affiliation, was instrumental in keeping the nuclear doctrine alive.
Obviously, this facilitated the National Democratic Alliance in testing the nuclear weapons in 1998 within weeks of assuming office. And even the United Progressive Alliance government has continued with the nuclear weapons programme and taken the same forward.
Yet, the Communists, as expected, disassociated themselves with an event that was the cause of nationwide celebrations.
Strangely, Pokhran-II also virtually coincided with the Y2K problem that confronted the digital world at the end of the previous millennium. And this gave India a chance to successfully demonstrate her soft skills even as testing of the nuclear weapons demonstrated her military power.
After all, the world recognises only the strength of a currency of a country and the power of its military.
It may be recalled that no classical economist has ever attempted to link the collective psychology triggered through by events with the macroeconomic performance of a country. It remains in my considered view the emerging yet unexplored frontier of modern economics.
Post Independence, Pokhran-II is perhaps the rare instance of a singular event capturing the imagination of virtually the entire nation. Apparently the coincidence is inescapable from a macroeconomic perspective. No wonder, it had the calculated effect of converting latent potential into the blatant, and then transforming the potential energy into kinetic energy of the nation.
And one of the chief architects of these tests was Dr Kalam. Communists, my fellow participant told me, did not want to allow a second term to him precisely for this reason. It is indeed disheartening to note that Dr Kalam had to pay the price for being a party to this nationalist aspiration.
Naturally, the Communists, the consummate practitioners of poverty politics, are aghast, even incensed, with these and associated developments since then.
India, which was hyphenated with Pakistan, Sri Lanka [Images], Afghanistan and Bangladesh even till the late nineties, is now bracketed with China, Russia [Images] and Brazil [Images], and thereby forms the fourth country in the BRIC quartet.
Naturally, an economically strong and politically assertive India offers very little role for our Communists and their brand of politics.
But what needs to be understood is the attempt of Communists to portray our nuclear programme -- which is a reflection of national aspiration -- as fascist! And this, even when violence caused in the name of Communism is no less than the violence perpetrated by fascism.
In fact, the number of people who died because of violence unleashed by Hitler would be insignificant when compared to deaths caused by violence unleashed by Communists. Yet the Communists occupy a high moral ground.
Communists -- authority without responsibility
This posturing and strategy is a common Communist ploy to take a high moral ground first, regardless of the truth. It is now well-known and demonstrated by some historians of the active role played by the Communists in sabotaging the Quit India movement and in the process stabbing the Mahatma in the back.
Similarly, their role during the Chinese aggression in 1962 is well-known, as is their role during the Emergency. Yet other political parties have been reduced by their virulent campaign to be mere pallbearers of all their abuses, accusations and vilification campaigns.
It is in this connection that the late Russian leader Stalin is reported to have said: 'First let's stick the convict's badge on him and then we'll examine his case. And I think that we must stick the convict's badge on anyone and everyone who tries to undermine Marxism, even if we don't go on to examine his case. That's how every revolutionary should react.' Naturally, coming from Stalin, our fellow Communists have faithfully followed this as gospel.
The net effect of all this is that Communists have perfected the art of imposing themselves on the nation with perhaps a 10% vote bank and perhaps a far lower representation in Parliament and state assemblies.
And, increasingly, they resemble, as somebody so brilliantly put it, multinational companies on a leveraged buyout.
Thanks to the support they still enjoy in some quarters within the country, they have been systematically successful in shutting out the 'other point of view' from the general public. Naturally, it follows their ability to derail discourses and prevent people from learning the truth.
And the truth is that they are wielding enormous power, far disproportionate to their strength. Crucially, they carry veto power on virtually everything -- from the Presidential poll to foreign policy to the policy on FDI and, in the process, fashioning every policy. All this has come without any responsibility. This turns the very definition of democracy on its head. And that is the biggest danger the nation is facing today.
Take the case of the UPA Presidential candidate Pratibha Patil. It is well known that she was not the first choice of her own party -- the Congress. It was only following the intransigence of the Communists over the candidature of others that Patil was finally declared the UPA candidate. With uncomfortable accusations against her tumbling about, the Communists seem to be enjoying the UPA's discomfiture.
What is amusing is that the onerous task of defending Patil lies with Congress. And at every inconvenient turn, the Communists seem to selectively distancing themselves from inconvenient accusations against Patil.
In the great Indian tradition, while the Communists continue with their perfidy with absolute nonchalance, the task of cleaning up the mess lies with others -- the Congress in the instant case.
The earlier the nation and the political parties realise these facts the better it is for the nation, the electorate and our democracy.
Published at: http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/jul/05guest.htm