What’s the BJP upto? Apart from asking for the moon on Coalgate (the PM’s resignation, no less), and walking out of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on the 2G scam, it seems to be upping the ante in general.
With the Congress not about to yield much, the country’s two principal political poles are in an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation that threatens to stall everything.
After two days of disruption of parliamentary proceedings, there has been a further hardening of positions on both sides. Even as the BJP core group was meeting on Wednesday evening at LK Advani’s residence, emphasising that they will settle for nothing less than the resignation of Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi chaired a meeting of the UPA Coordination Committee, resolving to present a united face inside and outside Parliament and aggressively countering the Opposition.
The Times of India even seemed to suggest that the BJP may consider getting its MPs to resign en masse, and the Congress was preparing to weather that.
While BJP members, including Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha, took the rare step of walking out of JPC, accusing Congress members of indulging in uncharitable remarks, the Congress closed ranks with Mamata Banerjee standing for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s innocence.
Two questions emerge: will the monsoon session be a washout? And what does the BJP hope to achieve with its belligerence, given that it does not have the numbers to force anything?
There is a strong possibility that the monsoon session, which was to otherwise continue till 7 September, may not transact much official business. This week is gone for sure, confided a senior BJP leader who preferred to remain anonymous. The BJP’s core group will meet again on Friday evening to see if it is possible to review their position. That would be dependent on how the Congress reacts to the developing situation over the next two days.
While no BJP leader wants to talk about it on record, some leaders are privately talking about the “longevity of holding an extreme position — nothing less than the Prime Minister’s resignation.” A retraction from this position could be embarrassing, at least during this session.
A BJP leader told Firstpost: “We know that Sonia Gandhi and the Congress would not let Manmohan Singh resign because the BJP is demanding it, howsoever serious the charges may be. But if we had not taken this position, what else was left to us? Any number of debates in Parliament means nothing. Once a debate is held, the issue is gone forever. The UPA, with its majority, has made a mockery of the JPC and PAC (Public Accounts Committee). With this extreme positioning we have kept the heat on the PM and Congress.”
Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley showed uncharacteristic aggression by declaring obstructionism as a legitimate parliamentary tactic.
There is, however, another reason for the BJP’s anti-PM strategy. Another leader of the party made the party’s real agenda clearer. “The CAG report and our agitation will make Manmohan Singh a lameduck PM, who, in any case, has been doing nothing in UPA-2. His continuation will generate greater anti-incumbency against this government. And if, by any chance, he goes, then UPA can’t hold any further and will have to head for fresh elections.”
UPA sources said the prime minister was well prepared to take the Opposition head-on both on facts and political points. But that depends on whether he gets a debate in Parliament. He can, of course, choose to speak amidst the din and lay his statement on the table of the House but no decision on the timing of it has yet been taken.
Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal has begun retaliating by saying that it was the BJP and non-Congress CMs of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Rajasthan and West Bengal who held the centre back from going through with its bidding route for coal blocks. He termed it a conspiracy against the nation to obstruct growth and tarnish the image of some honest leaders. Incidentally, the CAG report pertains to the period before Jaiswal took over.
The BJP leaders don’t seem to be worried about the possibility of its CMs being dragged into the charges. “Allocation of coal blocks has been the domain of the centre”, is their common defence.
Unlike previous occasions, when the BJP’s extreme positions emerged from the decisions of one or two leaders, this time the party has played it cautiously. All decisions are being taken by the Core Croup and executive committee of the parliamentary party, thereby giving it the credibility of collective decision-making.
With the Prime Minister and the Congress not about to oblige the BJP, it may turn out to be a battle of political nerves. The UPA has closed ranks, its numbers and strength remains intact. On the BJP side, problems are surfacing with allies, with the JD(U) not keen on an all-out confrontation with the Congress. But two non-NDA parties – Jayalalithaa’s AIADMK, the BJD and the Telugu Desam – are willing to corner the Congress.
Both sides are hoping that the other side will blink first. The BJP is hoping that its aggression will confirm the UPA as a non-performer and result in a governance casualty that can only benefit it at the next elections.