Democratic risk

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 15 May, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 15 May, 1996, 12:00am

The refusal of the Communist Party of India to join the bid by the National Front-Left Front (NF-LF) to form the country's next government will increase pressure on the President to turn to the Hindu nationalist Bharatia Janata Party (BJP). In fact, the BJP should have been his first choice.

It emerged from the recent election as the largest party in parliament. International opinion, not to mention a significant proportion of domestic opinion, fears its policies will lead to division and violence. There is no doubt that it favours upper-caste Hindus over others, especially Muslims, or that it is jingoistic and wants nuclear arms.

But India is a democracy. The BJP was the favourite of the electorate, despite its failure to win an overall majority; and its rhetoric against multinationals has not stopped it welcoming foreign investment if the terms are right.

A coalition government built solely on a 'stop-the-BJP' platform would be unstable and ineffective. No other group has the policies to match it. The Congress Party is fractious, tainted by corruption and drifting.

International distaste for the BJP is understandable. But an NF-LF coalition, with or without Congress, would be more hostile to liberalisation. The BJP is unlovely and its policies must be monitored closely. But it should be more pragmatic in power. It ought to be allowed to prove itself or fail in office. That, in the end, is what democracy is all about.