Dr. Mohammad Manzoor Alam on what to dread about and hope for in the weeks and months ahead.
If one looks loosely at the pattern of events of last few years, up to the last few days of 2010, one could make a fairly reliable guess about the events and trends ahead of us. So, less us guestimate.
On the domestic front, the UPA government’s difficulties would continue well into 2011. The 2G scam that plagued the government for the entire winter session of Parliament is not going to go away anytime too soon. There is a limit to which the country’s Parliament can be held to ransom.
A time will come when the people will start getting fed up with the horror show going on at a daily cost that most of our people cannot even imagine, especially those 73 per cent of our population who earn less than 20 rupees a day. Neither the treasury benches can afford this show, nor the opposition.
If push comes to shove and Manmohan Singh quits, I don’t see any clear successor - Sharad Pawar’s tactics and unbridled ambition notwithstanding. Rahul Gandhi and his young team may not have their moment till then. Let us hope somehow the UPA is able to avoid a show down as the electorate’s mood does not seem to be as overwhelming in support of Congress Party as in the last Lok Sabha election. The bottom line here is that the uncertainty would continue.
Onions are a necessary element of our food (except of some strict vegetarians who eschew both onion and garlic, along with meat and fish). And onions are politically dangerous, too, as they have felled NDA government in the past. They are equally dangerous for UPA as well, but we hope imports and improved supplies would ease the situation on the onion front. However, price escalations due to proposed diesel-price hike in coming weeks would make matters worse for consumers who are already reeling under the impact of high prices of essentials. All that is not going to be easy for the UPA to handle.
Another major trend to watch will be how the RSS-affiliated terror story unfolds in the months ahead. As things stand today, this group of terrorists inspired by RSS ideology of hate against Muslims, turns out to be behind a string of blasts across the country, for which Muslim youth had been thrown into jails, tortured, humiliated and harassed. The media that reported their supposed wrong-doing did not produce the real story with the same enthusiasm. Let us hope this year will see the dots connected for a complete picture to emerge.
Telengana is another time bomb at the end of a fast-burning, short fuse. Congress Party has never been known for making bold decisions, except for a short while during Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s time. Her confrontation with the “Syndicate”, her decision to forefiet privy purse and nationalise major banks showed the height of courage. This courage, extended to the point of recklessness through declaration of Emergency, undid the personal gains of the other brilliant moves. Expect no such act of courage from the UPA, much less an act of recklessness.
We have been often told that some “bold” initiative on Kashmir would be announced soon. We don’t expect any breakthrough. Kashmiri Muslims expect such a breakthrough only under Atal Behari Vajpayee, or one of his successors. The group of “interlocutors” sent by the Centre to Kashmir has no authority, nothing whatsoever. Don’t expect anything from it. Measures like withdrawing security forces from the middle of populations makes sense. For that no interlocutor is required. In any case, the forces will remain in J&K, where the real action is, closer to the LOC.
Internationally, clouds of war are gathering over the Middle East once again. Let us hope that they blow away. But we must remember that all clouds do not necessarily blow away and every threat is not always empty. This time, we are told, Israel is preparing for a “decisive” war, smelting like 1948 and 1967.
This time round, the shot is aimed at Iran’s “supporters” (or, those allegedly “supported” by Iran): Syria, Lebanon (particularly, Hezbollah) and Gaza (Hamas, supposedly). When Hezbollah is attacked, it is Lebanon that suffers, and an attack on Hamas means destruction of Gaza. Iran, too, is in the crosshairs, though that would be a little more difficult to handle. One must remember that all this is not possible without US help, which Israel has so far taken for granted.
There is very little movement on the Roadmap for Peace between Israel and Arabs. With every day that passes, Palestinians are losing large chunks of land to illegal Israeli settlers. Ultimately, little will be left for a Palestinian state, if and when it is created.
In July, Sudan will have a referendum to partition the Arab-Muslim majority northern Sudan from the Christian-animist South. A division looks certain. This will be the second non-Muslim state created out of a Muslim state within the last few years. First, East Timor was created out of Indonesia under the Clinton presidency.
Nearly all the oil fields are in the south that is largely Christian-animist. The Arab-Muslim north may not accept it. There could be a vicious war between the north and south. Already the Sudanese have lost thousands of lives in the long civil war. Let us brace for some difficult times ahead.