The media has got it wrong on the BJP this time. While the party has generally given the impression of being rudderless and lacking in a coherent strategy, by design or circumstance it is working to a better gameplan right now.
Viewed from the outside, the BJP’s disruptionist tactics in Parliament over the coal blocks scam seem self-destructive. Most editorials in the print media have roundly blasted the party for this, and have advised it to debate the issue in Parliament instead of playing spoiler.
TV channels, many of which make it a point to instigate slanging matches between the spokespersons of various parties, have also been talking about the need for debate and discussion. How pious.
There is some validity to all the criticism, but there is also a method to the BJP’s madness.
It is the first off the block in signalling a countdown to the next elections. The chances are the BJP, by being deliberately obstructive in Parliament and raising the pitch in the Joint Parliamentary Committee probing the 2G scam (or should we say wasting taxpayers’ money in a pointless exercise), is actually thinking strategically from an electoral perspective.
Before we analyse what gain the BJP sees in all this, let’s first look at the wrong assumptions of the media’s critique by asking a few questions.
When was the last time a parliamentary proved crucial in deciding sensible policy action?
Are political parties’ positions on any issue decided by intelligent public debate on alternatives or by shoving emotive ideas down the public’s throat without debate? (For example, will the issue of reservations in bureaucratic promotions be decided by discussion or thoughts of short-term political gain? The answer is obvious. The fact that no party, barring Samajwadi, has opposed it should tell us something about the value of debates in Parliament or even in the media.)
Has discussion ever changed a political party’s decision on what its stand should be? Has the Congress-led UPA decided any policy in the last eight years by discussing it with the BJP or the Opposition? Did even the choice of president – an ideal issue for consensus — get decided by consultations with the principal opposition party?
If your answer is yes to any of these questions, you are entitled to noble opinions on debate and decorum. (I am not arguing for gutter politics, but for a better understanding of what is motivating political parties right now.)
The Indian political reality is that when it’s close to election time, political parties tend to take positions based on what they think will work best for them with voters, and not on the basis of decorum or constitutional niceties.