Naya Mahagathbandhan

India is in election storm today. The election results of the five Indian States have been just announced. These results have been rather alarming to the ruling party National Democratic Alliance (NDA), led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Congress seems to be coming back.

Prime  Minister (PM) Narendra Modi and the BJP President Amit Shah were not expecting such results. A meeting was convened on emergency basis to take a stock of the situation, identify the threats and refine the strategy for the national election of 2019. All key ministers, strategists and senior party workers were present.  My Professor friend, who is the secret advisor to the PMO got me in as his assistant.

After the PM made opening remarks showing his surprise as well as concerns, Mr Amit Shah presented his analyses assuring all that the results of the State elections should interpreted carefully, and he does not see a swing to the Congress at the national level.

Mr. Amit Shah said that the trend observed in the five States indicates that the regional satraps might play key roles in 2019 general elections. He presented a State-wise statistic that was a complex mix of caste and class equations. He ended showing his  concern about the attempts by non-BJP parties to put a united front against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s bid for a second term.

A Mahagathbandhan (Grand Alliance) was conceived. The driving force behind the Mahagathbandhan was Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N Chandrababu Naidu, who was making efforts to put together an anti-BJP front after walking out of the Modi government. Congress president Rahul Gandhi, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, former Union minister Sharad Yadav, National Conference leader Farooq Abdullah, Samajwadi Party leader Ram Gopal Yadav, Janata Dal-Secular Chief H D Deve Gowda, Nationalist Congress Party’s Sharad Pawar, DMK’s M K Stalin, Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party leader Mayawati were to be part of the Mahagathbandhan. In this Mahagathbandhan, the position taken by the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) was going to be critical. The parties in Mahagathbandhan were planning to focus on issues related to farmers, demonetisation and the controversial Rafale deal.

PM asked the senior members of the party to react to Mr. Amit Shah’s presentation and the Mahagathbandhan.

Mr. Suresh Prabhu who was earlier Union Minister of Environment & Forests spoke. He said that his informers have reported that there is a yet another Mahagathbandhan getting formed, something that has been quietly brewing over last five years with a potential to grow across the States, religions and casts, rich and poor. He said that this New Mahagathbandhan should not be neglected and more investigation is required to know who are involved and what will be this Mahagathbandhan’s election manifesto. All he came to know that this New Mahagathbandhan (Green Alliance) is basically pro-environment or green and is led by illustrious people of India, leading the field of environment, pollution and social justice.

Mr. Arun Jaitley, the Finance Minister said “Suresh, you mean a party formed by the environmental activists? In that case simply don’t worry. These activists will never come together, they will fight between themselves and unlike us they will never get united as they supposedly don’t have any financial interest – that’s the bond we all politicians have. This interest keeps us together as we share the common goal of making money”

I whispered to the Professor “ I think Mr. Jaitley is right”. “We” simply keep complaining while we watch our environment and natural resources getting butchered. Some of us try to speak out but we are immediately zipped up, Some protest, write letters and fast for the good cause and but are simply neglected with least sensitivity, some sacrifice their lives in protecting our resources and restoring the damage done, but then spokes are put to stall their efforts if their work affects the financial gains of someone higher up. Sadly, these environmental crusaders and change makers are not connected to form a national network. They often work individually. I am glad that there is now a move to form a Naya (New) Mahagathbandhan. Imagine if this succeeds and we have from April, 2019 a green party to lead India or at least get some seats on the cabinet to voice”

Perhaps, Mr. Jaitley’s response to Mr. Suresh Prabhu was good enough and the members did not discuss further about the threat of the Naya Mahagathbandhan. The meeting focused more on the Naidu led Mahagathbandhan and discussed  how to ensure that this Mahagathbandhan does not happen.

When we were returning, Professor asked me to come to his house for a chat. We sat in his library with a south Indian coffee. He lit his cigar.

“Dr Modak, Suresh Prabhu was right. I know that such a green Mahagathbandhan is indeed getting formed, albeit not with seriousness it deserves. You must know  that earlier effort such as the Uttarakhand Parivartan Party (UKPP) formed in 2009 has failed. The party fielded two candidates in the 2009 parliamentary elections and 15 candidates in the 2012 state assembly elections. UKPP is raising awareness about Green politics among the masses, although yet to win representation in government. More recently, The India Greens – or The Green Party of India was created in 2018. They held their National Convention very recently on 17th November, 2018. The Party is still in the initial stages of creation and is seeking to register with the Election Commission of India”

Any party or politician is labeled “green” if it emphasizes environmental causes. The Global Greens Charter lists six guiding principles which are ecological wisdom, social justice, participatory democracy, nonviolence, sustainability and respect for diversity. Imagine if these principles are listed in the election manifestos of NDA or the Congress! But these principles are so hard to communicate and convince both the rich and poor of India. Of course we all are looking for roti, kapda aur makaan.

The first Green Party to achieve national prominence was the German Green Party, famous for their opposition to nuclear power, as well as an expression of anti-centralist and pacifist values traditional to greens. In Finland, in 1995, the Finnish Green Party was the first European Green party to be part of a national Cabinet. Other Green parties that have participated in government at national level include the Groen! (formerly Agalev) and Ecolo in Belgium, Les Verts in France and the Green Party in Ireland. In the Netherlands GroenLinks (“GreenLeft”) was founded in 1990 from four small left-wing parties and is now a stable faction in the Dutch parliament. More details of green parties in various countries can be found on the web

Imagine, if the Naya Mahagathbandhan of greens gets formed and works in coalition with the ruling Government. Imagine if the greens were  to manage few critical portfolios for protecting, preserving and enhancing India’s assets of natural resources – apart from all the gold and cash reserves the RBI has! Will we see an emergence of greens on India’s political canvas? But again, I was not sure whether the greens will function in a balanced manner considering both economic development of the country and balance with protection of the environment. The experience in India as well as in other countries has been rather uneven.

I stayed silent. I must be dreaming.

“This will never happen Dr Modak, let me be frank with you” Professor broke the silence while looking outside the window.

“Do you know that Vasundhara Raje ordered broadening of roads and beautification of the cities by removing the encroachments. In the process, several temples, many of them makeshift ones, were either demolished or removed. This angered the Hindus who thought the BJP was working against the interests of the majority community. And was one of the factors why BJP lost to congress apart from the promise of the loan waivers that Rahul Gandhi made”.

“Dr Modak, this country does not have today any strong national association of professionals, environmental NGOs and academia on the subject of Environmental Management. There is no towering national body that can take on the Government if there is need to be – in the interest of environment. So, forget your hope for the Naya Mahagathbandhan” Professor gave me a kind smile and extinguished his cigar.

Professor was right. Good initiatives even in the interest of environment do not get recognized or supported as what is green for someone is perhaps brown for someone else!


Cover image taken from https://www.haribhoomi.com/news/lok-sabha-election-2019-congress-opposition-mahagathbandhan-pm-candidate-to-be-decided-after-2019-lok-sabha-election-results


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