SPIRALLING prices, the Maoist menace, the Bhopal tragedy compounded, the fiasco in Islamabad, feuding ministers. The list is long enough to make anyone think that there is trouble lurking around the corner for the government as Parliament prepares to meet for the monsoon session. Perish the thought.
The government has already drawn up plans to keep the Opposition wolves at bay and senior ministers of UPA II exude confidence as they say that they will tide over the severest of challenges with the least effort. Towards the fag end of the budget session, the government seemed to be teetering on the brink as the Left and the Right closed ranks and moved cut motions on the finance bill.
Since then, the Opposition has flexed its muscles on more than one occasion, the latest being the all India bandh on July 5 against rising fuel prices. Though the BJP and the Left parties gave separate calls for the bandh, it brought the country to a standstill, even triggering speculation that the two had worked in unison. Having seen the wrath of the combined Opposition, the government is least inclined to take chances.
The Opposition has an embarrassment of riches as far as issues are concerned to pillory the government, but the latter is not so lucky. But it has one trump card: the ideological card that will make it difficult for the non- NDA Opposition to rally around the BJP either on the floor of the house or outside.
The emphasis will be on dividing the Opposition by raising issues that would isolate the BJP and make it ideological untouchables. Governor H. R. Bhardwaj’s offensive in Bangalore typifies this in many ways. Occupants of Raj Bhavans are supposed to be impartial and apolitical and expected to play strictly by the book that is the Constitution. But governors have seldom been able to hide their political past. Bhardwaj is probably the only one who openly flaunts it.
As the mining scandal threatened to sink the Yeddyurappa government, Bhardwaj was brazen enough to say, “ I am proud to be a Congressman.” His statement makes it abundantly clear why the ace lawyer who got so many Congressmen, including some VIPs, off the hook in many serious cases, was sent to the Bangalore Raj Bhavan.
The same tactics are evident in Gujarat where the Centre is trying to pin down Narendra Modi by targeting one of his closest aides, the minister of state for home Amit Shah. Sohrabuddin Sheikh was killed more than five years ago by Gujarat’s Anti- Terrorism Squad in an alleged encounter and now the CBI says there is evidence to show Shah’s involve- H. R. Bhardwaj ment in the fake encounter. It doesn’t require special investigative skills to realise that the real target is the Gujarat chief minister who is perhaps the only one in the whole country who evokes similar sentiments in the Congress and the non- NDA Opposition parties. So they will target Modi to weaken the BJP.
It’s almost a week since Nitin Gadkari made the intemperate remarks about Afzal Guru’s relatives in the ruling party and the Congress seems in no mood to forgive. How can it, when the JD( U), the BJP’s coalition partner in Bihar, has slammed the BJP president? The 50- yearold fight between Karnataka and Maharashtra has surfaced once again and the Centre is watching with considerable glee as the Shiv Sena in Mumbai raises its pitch against Karnataka where a BJP government is in power.
The Congress strategy is working and consequently, the frustration in the Sangh Parivar is boiling over as was evident on Friday when hoodlums vandalised the office of the Headlines Today TV channel in Delhi. Such reactions are normally associated with those who have lost the common touch. And the Right has clearly lost it.
Just two months ago, it was all so different. With everything that could possibly go wrong indeed going that way, the government looked vulnerable and even the government’s spin doctors admitted the future looked bleak. But almost overnight, the doubts have vanished and there is a spring in the establishment’s step.
For that, they must thank the BJP. Democracy works not just because of the elected government but also because of a rigorous Opposition that scrutinises the government’s every step and seizes its chances. By that yardstick, the BJP’s performance has been a disgrace.
The punishment for that will be a much longer wait in the wilderness.