By Surekha Vijh
WASHINGTON: Hindi film star-turned-politician Shatrughan Sinha says there should be a coalition government in India if a clear cut does not emerge in the 2014 elections.
Speaking in Washington DC, a day after addressing the United Nations in New York for the third time (no other member of the Indian film industry has addressed the UN that many times), Sinha said, “In the interest of our nation, let’s unite and rule instead of divide and rule.”
Sinha, a BJP MP, said a coalition government between the Congress and the BJP was the answer after next year’s election, if neither of the parties won a majority. The Congress (UPA) is in power at the Center and BJP is the main opposition party in India.
Calling himself a revolutionary, the BJP MP from Bihar said as the elections were around the corner, such a decision by the leaders of the two major parties would result in a strong and stable national government, calling it the need of the hour.
“The political parties can fight but after the election, they must unite, if none of the parties gets a majority, rather than playing up to the regional parties’ tantrums and demands. It would prevent any blackmailing tactics from regional players and smaller parties in the event of a fractured mandate after next year’s general elections,” Sinha added.
Citing examples of successful coalitions, internationally and nationally, Sinha said, “Germany has proved that two opposition parties can rule together gracefully.” In the Federal Republic of Germany in 1966, the government was formed by the Social Democratic Party and the Christian Democratic Union, the two major arch rival political parties.
“Many of our own leaders have acted pragmatically in the past. Former Prime Minister Narsimha Rao had sent Atal Biahri, the then opposition party leader as a head of the delegation abroad. Jai Lalita from Tamilnadu and Mamta Banerjee from West Bengal have changed sides with parties for the same practical reason. Jai Prakash Narain (who toppled Indira Gandhi’s government after the emergency) and Lalu Prasad Yadav, the oppoition leader, worked together inspite of their ideological diffrences,” the senior BJP leader said.
“If the DMK (from South) and Congress (at centre) can join hands together, Mulayam Singh Yadav supports Congress; Mayawati forms a government with support from the BJP, Mamata can be part of the both the NDA and UPA, why not Congress and BJP,” Sinha said.
The popular Hindi film actor of the 70’s and 80’s, considered bold and outspoken, clarified that this was his personal opinion and not his party’s viewpoint, and that he was speaking as a conscientious citizen and as an artist for whom the nation comes first and was on top of all other priorities. “I hope, wish and pray that one day it becomes his party’s view as well as the view of other parties including the Congress party,” Sinha added.
The actor pointed out that the country faces problems of malnutrition, poverty and a lack of education and health for all. Instead of fixing those problems, our leaders tend to fight on party politics..”Let’s stop this hypocrisy in the interest of the nation, for good governance. Let’s put the nation first.” he said.
Sinha said he often told people to be positive, be constructive including his own party leaders. “It is the call of the day. It is not a profession for me, it is a mission. I am a nationalist. Hope good sense prevails amongst the parties,” he added.
Meeting with leading Indian American diaspora at the tastefully decorated Indian restaurant, Aroma, in Virginia, Sinha explained that how unity between the two major parties could bring stability. “This is for the progress of the people, for the eradication of poverty, for national security, for sound foreign policy.” He said, “Let’s have friendly relations with our neighbors, If the mindset of the people needs to be changed, let’s change it. Let’s send a message to the World, that we mean business and that we are above petty politics,” Sinha added.
Daljeet Singh Chatwal and his wife, Jtyoti Chatwal, the Aroma Restaurant owners, warmly welcomed Sinha, provided a sumptous banquet and made a very cozy setting for the occassion. The former successful Bollywood actor suggested that it was time to have the next President of India from the film fraternity, as the Hindi film industry just celebrated its successful one hundred years of its founding. “Lets have Mr. Amitabh Bachchan, as the next presdient of India, He has all the qualifications. He’s articulate, well-read, suave and known all over the world. If not more he is not less than any of the previous Presidents.”
Sinha said in states like Tamilnadu and Andhra Pradesh, they have had actors as successful chief ministers. Now why not India? “Hope our friend, Mr. Modi is listening?” Sinha said.
The actor and the BJP leader said, both the Congress and the BJP share a lot priorities when it comes to the national interest. They share their views on foreign policy, defense issues, counter terrorism and economic reforms.
Although he expected the BJP to form a majority government after the next election, he said in case there a hung parliament, the two parties should give serious thought to a strong coalition government based on a common minimum programme.
The coalition was “in the large national interest, functioning of the government, good governance, stable government, and of course a government of checks and balances,” Sinha added.
(A poet and journalist, Surekha Vijh is based in Washington DC. In India, she worked for the Times of India in Delhi)