Saturday, 30 January 1999

India as 'Uncle Tom' - Crawling when asked to Bend

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

When Pranab Mukherjee formed a party of his own after being
cold-shouldered by Rajiv Gandhi in the mid-1980s, it was clear
that he was an optimist. That quality was again in evidence on
the eve of his departure to New York for the UN General
Assembly meeting, when the external affairs minister said that
the passing of the Hank Brown amendment "would not affect"
Indo-US relations. Clearly, Mukherjee does not believe public
opinion: to be a factor in relations between democracies.

Had Josef Stalin been alive today, he would have felt at home
in the MEA and its US counterpart. Major negotiations and shifts
in position (the latter almost entirely on the Indian side) are
conducted in closed-door sessions. If it were not for the fact that
Stalinist secrecy is hard to maintain in the free-wheeling culture
of Washington, Indians may never have got to learn of the policy
positions taken by their own government. It is from the US side,
for instance, that we first learnt about the stopping of research
on Agni and the slowing down of the development of Prithvi.

It is worth remembering that several Senators who voted in
favour of the Brown amendment did so because, on the basis of
their talks with officials in New Delhi, they got the impression
that passing the amendment would not create major frictions in
Indo-US relations. Had the MEA been as feisty as the Indian
embassy in Washington in putting forward India’s case, at least
a few law-makers may have voted against the passage of the
amendment rather than for it. However, for the past four years,
the MEA policy has been to avoid "provoking" the United States.
Thus, even on matters where vital Indian interests are concerned,
the reaction from New Delhi is hesitant and mild. Despite the
rhetoric of being an Asian tiger, this country has lately been
behaving like a domestic cat.

Subservient Role
According to policymakers in Delhi, diplomacy has had to play
a subservient role to economic policy. If "sources close to the
Prime Minister" are to be believed, this kowtowing to US
sensibilities is on the advice of the finance ministry, which claims
that concessional assistance and other material goodies will flow
only if Washington is propitiated. Thanks to such advice 
embraced with enthusiasm by the Prime Minister’s Office-over
the past four years there has been a stream of unilateral
concessions to the developed world. If any extra benefit has
accrued to India from such a policy, this has not so far been made
public. On the contrary, whether on security issues such as Agni,
Prithvi and Kashmir or on trade matters, US·led pressure for
fresh concessions has never eased.

For an economy of its size, India must be the only country
where the government routinely puts foreign interests above
national ones. Whether it is in permitting MNCs to increase their
stakes in once-neglected subsidiaries cheaply, or in handing over
effective control to the foreign partner (as took place with Maruti
in 1993) or in the financial institutions tacitly helping an MNC
to retire an inconvenient chairman (the ITC case), those in charge
of economic policy have functioned as though their actions were
not dictated by the citizens of this country but the interests of the
multinationals. When economic policy is decided by those with
dollar pensions - and who are hoping for future dollar salaries -
is it any wonder that local interests get neglected?

Fault Line
The obsession with secrecy prevalent in South Block has prevented
it from getting feedback from outside its ranks on the efficacy of
its policies. Consequently, it has been unable to make the
gestures that would have generated public enthusiasm for its
policies. Had workers been offered discounted shares in PSUs,
or major cuts made in direct tax rates, or the food policy geared
to the interests of the small cultivator and the consumer rather
than the big landlord, today’s political landscape would have
been dominated by Narasimha Rao's party. The lack of a public
dimension in the framing of economic policy is only one of the
fault lines running through the present governmental structure.

Another is the inability to recognise that when the Clinton
administration says that it wants to pursue an "even-handed"
policy as between India and Pakistan, it should be taken at face
value. The direction of present American policy towards the
subcontinent is to wipe out the tactical and strategic advantages
that India has over Pakistan and ensure parity between the two.

This can only be done if Indian technological advances and
defence procurement are checked, while Pakistan's is not. Hence
the not-so-hidden pressure on the Russians to slow down or stop
critical supplies to India despite the rupee-rouble deal. This also
explains the open (and till now successful) efforts to destroy
Indian technological advances in the nuclear, missile and other
sectors. Another five years of this kind of policy and India will
be a sitting duck even for a conventional attack by Pakistan.

One of the many admirable features in the US system of
government is the power of the legislature to order enquiries on
matters of concern. A future Parliament will need to investigate
why critical technologies were allowed to be aborted at a time
when Pakistan was "upping the ante" through subversion. It will
need to investigate how proposals for the purchase of cheap
frigates from the UK or tanks from Russia were scuttled. It will
need to find out why so much official prominence has been given
to a group of failed Kashmiri politicians with open links to
Islamabad, the Hurriyat. Or why a Congress chief minister in a
north-eastern state is being allowed to openly promote subversion.

Or why a "godman" who would be a security risk in any part
of the world is allowed regular access to the Prime Minister, even
to the extent of taking his car up to the doorstep of the official

Borrowing a leaf from George Kennan's essay, India needs
to surround its major security threat, Pakistan, with a ring of
alliances forged on political and economic grounds. Rather than
just waste time on the Bhutto fan club in Washington, New Delhi
needs to focus on giving trade incentives to its neighbours.
Specifically, Kabul should be helped to ensure that Afghanistan
does not become a client state of Islamabad. Trade ties need to
be developed with Iran and the Central Asian republics. Despite
the Kozyrevs, the Russian government is slowly emerging out of
its subservience to the West, and contacts with Moscow - and
Beijing - need to be regarded as being more crucial than the
postures of the self-declared "sole superpower". If Mahathir
Mohammed is not adopting the Indian habit of merging fiery
rhetoric with capitulation, he should welcome India’s entry into
ASEAN, despite opposition from influential quarters.

Repeating 1962
Clearly, a favoured model for present day Indian policy-makers
is the "hero" of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel. While this may
please some NRI businessmen and "godmen" and their
international patrons, it runs the risk of repeating 1962, this time
with Pakistan. Had the leadership of this country shown the
same resolve in deterring Islamabad from its subversion as it has
demonstrated against the likes of Arjun Singh, N.D. Tiwari and
Rangarajan Kurnaramangalam, India would not now have been
reduced to its present cringing status. The undertakers of Indian
science are actively lobbying for the replacement of the Abdul
Kalams with some of their own people. Why bother about
forming a new East India Company when Raisina Hill itself is
doing the job so thoroughly?

Thursday, 21 January 1999

More, Not Less-Improving the Delivery of Justice

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

From Singapore to Chennai takes less than three hours, and yet
it is a universe away. At Changi, the staff are courteous and
efficient; the floors are clean. Anna airport, despite its interiors,
has the run-down appearance of an addict. Those at the snacks
counters take longer to serve than to prepare the food, while
there is litter everywhere. Interestingly, both at Anna and at
Changi, many of the workers are Tamils.

Excelling Abroad
Inside India, the people of this country appear to be among the
dirtiest and least organised in the world. Refuse gets thrown
from car windows, streets are unusable because of the filth, and
work is the first casualty of any occurrence, whether a
demonstration or a death. And yet, when these same laggards go
abroad, they excel. In Britain, while other ethnic groups have
largely remained part of the underclass, those from India have
thrived. In the US, emigrants from this country do better than
any other population segment.

The blame for India’s poverty lies not in our genes but in the
laws and their implementation. Aware of the agility and potential
of the Indian mind, both the Mughals and the British sought to
cripple it in a welter of regulations. Almost any productive
activity became a criminal act, so much so that after generations,
initiative and even intelligence faded. Since 1947, the country has
largely been ruled by a family that is European in all but
nationality. As ta result, the system of regulations continued,
with new ones being added. It was only in the brief periods of
Indian rule (as with Lal Bahadur Shastri in 1964-65 or Narasimha
Rao during 1991-96) that a small shrinkage took place in this
web. As for Deve Gowda, he is being handicapped by his 
dependence on the Congress party, which to this day proudly
flaunts its servitude to the Nehrus.

However, in the recent past many of the Supreme Court’s
judgements have shown that a pro-active mindset can convert
even Indian laws into instruments of mass betterment. During
the tenure of Chief Justice Venkatachelliah, the judiciary
reinforced its independence of the executive by shedding
restraint in chiding the latter for wrongdoing. He did not spare
his own brethren, promoting a policy of transfer of judges, so
that the pools of judicial thinking did not stagnate into vested
interest. Venkatachelliah clearly recognised that those who
enforced the laws needed to be subjected to their rigour. Such an
approach needs to continue, so that both transfers and dismissals
are used to ensure that judges do not themselves fall prey to

The policy of acting as a check on the excesses of the
executive+including the political class—has been continued
with distinction by Chief Justice Ahmadi. There is no doubt at
all that the Venkatachelliah-Ahmadi revolution will be continued
by Justice Verma, who is next in line after the present Chief
Justice. However, progress means new approaches, not just
continuing with more of the same. While bringing errant 
bureaucrats and politicians to justice is a necessary task of the 
judiciary, it is not a sufficient one. Indeed, it is ironic that there
is an outcry about judicial "activism" in a country where judicial
processes move at an arthritic speed. What is needed is much 
more activism, so that cases get disposed of in years counted in
the low single digits, rather than in decades as now.

Thanks to the slow process of justice in India, it is likely that
more economic value has been lost than by the entire excesses of 
foreign rule. Many individuals file cases not to get a decision, but 
to avoid one. Thanks to a liberal policy on adjournments,
decades pass before cases get decided, even in the lower courts.
During the interregnum, assets get neglected and uncertainty
kills initiative. There should be an estimate in each proceeding
of the financial costs involved in the many delays in decisions.
Once shown such figures, judges may not be as willing to grant
adjournments, at least in cases involving property and other
assets that could depreciate as a result.

Time Limits
There is definitely need for extensive judicial reform. However,
this is not of the kind that certain politicians are contemplating,
of halting the enforcement of laws on the political and bureaucratic
elite. Rather, they should be focused on areas where colonial
procedures have made the law a nightmare for the poor and the
honest. There is no reason why an Indian should not do as well
in Delhi as in Denver. What is needed is to make the system here
as transparent and fair as it is in Denver, Berlin or Singapore. A
beginning would be to set clear limits on the length of time
needed to decide cases. It should be one year in the lower courts,
one year in the High Court, and the same period in the Supreme
Court. In case there are delays, the judges concerned should be
made answerable, including in the awarding of damages against

Apart from clear time limits on the disposal of cases, the
present system of omnibus courts needs to be replaced with one
that has several parallel types. For example, commercial matters
can be disposed of by a court where the bench has specialised in
such matters. There have been suggestions that such courts
should have on the bench former practitioners in commerce.
While this may not be necessary—after all, a judicial mind is
trained to evaluate possibilities in a multitude of fields—it may
be desirable to have a panel of experts to help guide the
deliberations of the judges.

Specialised Courts
Rather than economise on the number of judges, there is need to
increase their strength, though not by creating more omnibus
courts. Instead, specialised courts in commercial, administrative
and other mattes should be set up, whose procedures will be
subject to strict time limits and whose deliberations will be in
open court. The Supreme Court can hear final appeals from all
these courts, though even here the right of appeal needs to be
very sparingly granted. That the higher courts hear a case should
be the exception rather than the rule. At present, far too many
cases go through the entire gamut of judicial procedure, from a
city civil or criminal court right up to the Supreme Court.

Rather than choose judges behind closed doors, the entire
process of selection of individuals to the bench—including
promotions—needs to be made transparent. As in many other 
experiments in democracy, the United States provides a model
to follow. India too should initiate the practice of public hearings 
when judges get selected. In this way, objections can be recorded 
and alleged blemishes come to the surface. While the selection
should be left in the hands of Judicial Commissions rather than
of politicians, the procedures should be public. After all, 
individuals without dark secrets have no need to fear scrutiny.

The judiciary should not be in a position where different standards 
get applied to it—for example in comment or scrutiny—than to 
politicians, bureaucrats or journalists. Democracy implies a
system of checks and balances. Any attempt to create a cocooned
base of authority fosters the danger that such unchecked power
may sometimes get misused. Indeed, judges should welcome
being themselves evaluated by the public, for such scrutiny can
only enhance their performance and remove some of the ills that
infect the Indian judicial system.

Saturday, 2 January 1999

Lessons from 1969 Congress Politics Then and Now

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

An electoral disaster for the Congress in several state assembly
elections; questioning of the Prime Minister’s ability to deliver a
victory in the forthcoming parliamentary elections; jockeying for
advantage in the race to be the successor. No, this is not India in
1994, but in 1967. For that was the year that the 'natural party of
governance' was rejected by the voters in states as populous as
Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

For two years after that, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi
attempted to co-exist with her tormentors. Finally, by mid-1969,
she had enough. Having been informed that the victory of the
Congress candidate, Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, in the presidential
poll would be followed by her removal from office, she decided
on a preemptive strike, openly backing V.V. Giri against the
candidate she had helped propose just a few weeks earlier.

Direct Attack
Indira Gandhi has usually been portrayed as a pugnacious
fighter, quick to assert her supremacy and intolerant of dissent. 
The record shows, however, that she was hesitant to act against
her critics, moving decisively only when her position came
under direct attack. After her victory in the 1969 presidential
polls, she soon welcomed back individuals who had supported
Sanjiva Reddy, and gave them important positions in the

As for her 'radicalism’, till the 1967 assembly reverses, she
took the side of the then 'libera1isers' such as L. K. Jha and Asoka
Mehta, implementing recommendations of the IMF such as a
drastic 57 per cent devaluation (which contributed less to exports _
than to inflation). In her foreign policy, she and this in a very 
bipolar world — attempted to be conciliatory to the United
States, although this was disrupted by that country’s attempt to
link better ties with it to a 'settlement’ over Kashmir.

It was only after 1967 that Indira Gandhi appreciated the
need to fashion policies that would have the approval not just of
1818 H. Street (the Washington headquarters of the World Bank)
but of the ordinary voter. However, the process of refashioning
policies got accelerated only when the threat to her position
assumed dangerous proportions in mid-1969. Soon after getting
a fresh mandate, Indira Gandhi rediscovered her caution and her
conservatism, and by 1973 had reined in the radicals in her
government, giving precedence to technocrats such as T.A. Pai
from the Manipal banking family.

However, her earlier reverses had made her wary, and thus
to balance the pragmatists, she encouraged traditional politicians
such as Pranab Mukherjee, who could be relied on to spout
radical rhetoric even while assisting 'friends' of the ruling party.
It took 17 years before another technocrat, Manmohan Singh,
dismantled most of that part of the state apparatus dealing with
barriers to imports. However, the finance minister has not been
as energetic in reducing corporate, personal and excise taxation,
within India, nor in lowering the costs of key inputs such as
domestic capital and power. The election arithmetic of the just-
concluded assembly polls in Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka
indicates that the voters would prefer a sparrow in the hand
rather than two in the bush. They have given a cold reception to
the claim by the Prime Minister that he can get 'millions of
dollars in the dead of night'. Evidently, the voters in these two
states could not discern with clarity the nexus between such a
capability and their own lives, just as in 1967 they could not see
much personal benefit in the devaluation of the previous year.
It was only after the announcement of programmes that provided
a direct linkage between the implementing agencies and the
beneficiaries that the political fortunes of the Congress revived.

It can, however, be argued that the 1969-73 'radical' phase of
Indira Gandhi’s rule created still more bureaucratization of the
economy, and reduced incentives for private investment by
retaining expropriatory rates of taxation, and by the adoption by
the government of an unsympathetic attitude to the fruits of
private accumulation. lf the latest poll reverses are accompanied
by a similar strengthening of the power of the state vis-a—vis the
individual investor, future economic expansion would be
curtailed, if not reversed. What is needed, therefore, is to spread
the benefits of the liberalisation process not mainly to the
importers (and consumers) of foreign goods, but to Indian
companies and taxpayers. This can be done by reductions in
individual and corporate taxation, relying on buoyancy rather
than on rates for greater collections. At the same time, the
disinvestment of (currently) non-productive state assets can be
stepped up.

No Common Ground
The finance minister is mistaken if he believes that there is no
common ground between good politics and sensible economics,
for lower rates of taxation would tend to increase investment and
output. Similarly, the setting aside of a percentage of PSU equity
for employees to purchase at a discount could — provided a lock-
in period is specified — generate an interest among the workers
in more efficient working, and give them a commitment to the
progress of a unit that has not so far been conspicuous. As for
imports, examination of growth patterns will show that it was
the import-oriented 'Chicago—school' economic policies followed
in South America in the 1970s that provoked ruinous inflation
and lower real product, and not the domestic manufacture-
oriented policies of the South-east Asian countries. Indeed, as the
U.S. reliance on Super 301 and on quotas shows, even that Mecca
of 'free trade' believes that charity begins at home.
Manmohan Singh has been claiming to be bemused by the
hostile reaction of the voters to his claims of an 'unprecedented'
outlay on social schemes. He has forgotten just one bagatelle,
which is that the money provided has not been matched by
efforts at improving the administrative infrastructure. This is
akin to generating water through dams without providing for
canals to take the water to the fields. Most of the funds so
considerately provided by the finance minister have almost
certainly gone into channels quite different from those envisaged 
by him. Unfortunately, a laissez-faire attitude is being taken by
the Centre to the administration in the states, even though it is
these governments that have a direct relationship with the people.

Corrupt System
The very same pundits who prophesied that the people of
Andhra Pradesh would not be taken in by NTR's 'gimmickry'
are now postulating that the Telugu Desam won because of the
rice at Rs 2 promise. They are making a mistake. The voters in
Andhra Pradesh did not just get 'taken in' by a promise. They
reacted to the corruption and insensitivity of the administrative
structures they came in contact with — the check-points, the
police stations, the transport, revenue and registration offices.
Even in Karnataka, the 'drive against corruption' launched
by Veerappa Moily focused almost entirely on his predecessor.
On the other hand, numerous officers against whom action had
been recommended by the Lok Ayukta were left untouched. This
indifference to a thorough administrative overhaul is why populist
schemes are unlikely to yield positive electoral results, unless
linked to efforts at improving the delivery of the services
promised. Unlike 1969, this time around the voters will not be
impressed with a mere declaration of policies; they will insist on

Thus, what is called for is change at all levels and not just at
the top. However, such a cleansing must of necessity begin at the
level of the Union cabinet, if it is to be effective lower down.
There is, therefore, no escape from a further round of personnel
changes, as well as an administrative overhaul, if the Prime
Minister and his party are to regain the political initiative. 1967-
69 showed that the Congress has the resilience to survive major
setbacks. The question being asked today is whether it still
retains the will to do so.

Friday, 1 January 1999

Rao's Achilles' Heel Allies, Not Rebels, are the Real Foes

(Originally appeared in the 1990s in the Times of India, as published in M. D. Nalapat's book "Indutva", Har-Anand Publications, 1999)

For most of its 110-year existence, the Congress has had obituaries
written about it. And yet, whenever public disenchantment with
the party's functioning assumes life—threatening proportions, a
tail of leaders sloughs off, and in the diversion thus created, the
main party escapes oblivion. Such a process has been visible
throughout Congress history, which is replete with discontented
individuals — whether voluntarily or otherwise — shaking off its
coils and getting banished to the fringes of public life.

Before independence, those in favour of a different approach
towards the British were forced to leave, joining formations such
as the Justice Party. After freedom, both socialists such as
Jayaprakash Narayan and conservatives such as Chakravarty
Rajagopalachari found it impossible to function within a Congress
dominated by Jawahar1al Nehru and broke away to found new
political structures.

However, it was during 1966-84 (the period of Indira Gandhi's
dominance) that flux within the party reached unprecedented
proportions. There were formal splits in 1969 and 1978, and
major changes in the composition of party units at both the
central as well as the state level. In particular, during 1969-71,
almost an entire layer of state and central leaders was replaced,
Despite the fact that most of the new entrants swore by Indira
Gandhi, no chances were taken by her, and from 1973 onwards
internal democracy within the Congress ceased. Elections to
party posts were abandoned in favour of nominations, with the ,
result that a ’power base' was defined as proximity to the leader
rather than acceptance by the workers. This had its impact on the
health of the organisation and, by 1975, the Congress was in
political retreat, although the Emergency gave it two more years 
in power before the 1977 defeat.

New Faces
During 1977, a substantial clutch of leaders once again left the
party, largely because it was no longer in power. As a result,
when party lists were drawn up for state assembly polls in 1978
and the Lok Sabha polls in 1980, many new faces emerged, and
the grassroots workers once again became active, with beneficial
results. After the 1980 polls, however, the ticket prospects for
base-level workers (as opposed to the well—heeled who were able
to cultivate the top leadership) receded yet again. The reason
why the baneful effects of this were not evident in the 1984
parliamentary polls was that the youthful figure of Rajiv Gandhi
symbolised a dramatic change from the past, the expectation
being that the young inheritor of the Congress mantle would
soon blow away the chaff that had been clinging to positions of
power, Alas, apart from a public show of anger against 'power-
brokers' in 1985, very little got done to reopen the clogging
arteries of the ruling party.

After P. V. Narasimha Rao took over in June 1991, he rapidly
re—established internal democracy within the Congress. However,
as in the case of Indira Gandhi in 1973 he discovered by 1992 that
the individuals who were propelled forward by the democratic
process were far different from those whom he himself would
have voted for. For example, the highest number of votes in the
elections to the Congress Working Committee were polled by
Arjun Singh. In many Pradesh Congress Committees, 'established'
leaders found their candidates outvoted. Just when the Congress
was on the brink of a change in its composition as momentous
- as the one that took place during 1969-71, the Working Committee
halted the entire process on the grounds that 'full attention'
needed to be paid to local elections taking place around that
time. Keeping the support of the grassroots needs an entirely
different orientation from cultivating a handful of top leaders,
and many in important positions of responsibility within the
Congress hierarchy were relieved that all the nonsense about
democracy was buried once again.

Same Tendency
The decline in the political support base of Narasimha Rao can
be traced to the decision to abandon inner—party democracy
within the party. Like Rajiv Gandhi before him, the Prime 
Minister turned for support to the nominated warhorses of the
earlier era. As a consequence, the lists of party candidates for
each election were replete with the names of the friends and
relatives of the satraps. Despite the experience of Rajasthan and
Delhi a year back, when candidates whose sole merit was
closeness to those granting tickets were trounced, the Andhra
Pradesh and Karnataka lists showed the same tendency. Today,
in spite of the results in those two states, the Bihar, Orissa and
Maharashtra lists are dominated by hangers-on of Jagannath
Mishra, J.B. Patnaik and Sharad Pawar. Should the Congress
improve on its earlier performance in the six states going to the
polls, it will be despite the strenuous efforts of the party's central
election committee to ensure its defeat through wrong choice of
candidates. And yet, such inability to take remedial action is
endemic in a structure that relies on non—elective methods to
choose leaders and candidates.

'The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars but in ourselves'.
Over the past two decades of the nomination raj, a clique of
leaders has formed within the Congress that relies on
manipulation and cultivation of their superiors rather than
mobilisation at the base. Such a system, based as it is on personal
interest rather than on ideology or any concept of the public
good, feeds on and is in tum fed by patronage. As most such
favours depend on access to the governmental structure, it is no
accident that a Jagannath Mishra is perceived as being close to
Laloo Yadav or a J. B. Patnaik is considered to be the best asset
of Biju Patnaik in his bid to hold on to power. It is not only
Vazhapady Ramamurthy in Tamil Nadu who has complained
that more solicitude has been shown to non—Congress chief
ministers than to the interests of the local Congress units. The
same complaint has been heard from party units in almost every
major non-Congress state.

Fractured Parliament
While political operators within the ruling party may salivate at
the prospect of using their manipulative skills in a hung
Parliament, the danger is that their antics within the Congress
may lead to a fractured Parliament in which no party crosses the
200—seat tally that makes a stable government potentially viable.
Should the single largest party in the new Lok Sabha have less 
than this number, the prospects are for a shifting coalition much
like the Samyukta Vidhayak Dal regimes that ravaged many
Hindi-speaking states after 1967. If one excludes the Janata Dal
National Front (which is itself a coalition), only the Congress and
the BJP have the ability to generate 200-plus seats.

Should the Congress persist with its descent, the BJP will
form one pole of the political arena, with the smaller parties at
the other. Neither pole is likely to provide a stable government.
Should Narasimha Rao see the present crisis within his party in
disciplinary rather than in basic policy terms, he will find his
party’s free fall intensifying despite the suspension of his principal
detractor. Great political leaders, even while taking action against
their opponents, have usually appropriated the platforms of the
dissidents. Unless Narasimha Rao follows up the action against
Arjun Singh with a democratisation of his party’s structure, his
victory will be a pyrrhic one.

However, such a reintroduction of elective methods into
Congress functioning will go counter to the interests of most of
those who have backed Narasimha Rao in his action against the
former HRD minister. And yet, unless history is repeated and
such individuals find themselves purged through a democratic
process, the ills afflicting the Congress will remain and intensify.