Published in the Times of India
The Bhartiya Janta Party has announced that it will embark on a “jail bharo” andolan to protest the “loot and plunder” under the UPA Government. The Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), the youth wing of the BJP protested outside the Prime Minister’s residence demanding his resignation. The BJYM chief Anurag Thakur and the BJP’s Delhi unit chief, Vijay Goel led the protest. This protest is but a continuation of the BJP’s unremitting demand for the resignations of the Prime Minister and the former Law and Rail Ministers – a demand which washed out almost the entire second half of the Budget session. By repeatedly marginalizing the Parliament and adopting the politics of protest, the BJP is removing any distinction between it, the principal opposition party and a bunch of unruly disgruntled protesters on the streets of Delhi.
Certainly the BJP presents no alternative to Congress. It has cynically disrupted the Parliament, holding up debate and passage of important legislations for the mindless demand of the resignations of the Prime Minister, and two Cabinet Ministers. The former Rail Minister is mired in classic rent-seeking corruption of modest scale and while he can probably be held individually accountable, this issue is in no way of such paramount importance as to trump all other business. In the instance of the CBI report being vetted by the Law Minister and Joint Secretaries of the PMO and Coal Ministry, it is no one’s case (including the BJP) that this illegality was an end in itself. The demand for the Law Minister’s resignation was then at best a red herring. Moreover, if as the BJP has repeatedly held that the various Ministers, including the PM, are mere puppets and act at the behest of the Congress “High Command”, then the resignations of individual ministers have no meaning as long as the party remains in power. In fact, given that the BJP narrative for Coal-gate explicitly blames the “High Command” including for the allocation of coal mines, the obsessive demand for resignations of these three individuals makes little sense and was at best an opportunistic ploy to disrupt the Parliament.
As a responsible opposition party, BJP should have used the Parliamentary forum to put the government in dock and demand accountability. It could also have used the Budget session to press for institutional reform and free the CBI from political control. In February, just three months ago, the BJP was attacking the government for not being serious in giving the CBI autonomy under the Lokpal Bill. However when the opportunity presented itself in the form of CBI Director’s affidavit in the Supreme Court, it completely abdicated its responsibility as the principal opposition party to press again for freeing the CBI from Government control. There is consensus that defining the administrative structure of a police agency is really is the job of the Legislature and the Supreme Court is being forced into judicial activism due to a recalcitrant Executive – a detailed discussion would have provided the Supreme Court bench indication of the legislature’s views and general consensus. Instead the BJP chose to disrupt the Parliament. Again. Obviously, the BJP leaders were motivated by their own hopes of being part of the ruling coalition soon enough, and thus did not want to let go of this valuable political tool to control opposition and allies alike.
The BJP has repeatedly flayed the UPA calling it a minority government, forecasting its fall before the end of its term. It has also repeatedly asked for the Prime Minister’s resignation arguing that he has “lost confidence”. However while it has disrupted the Parliament bringing Parliamentary democracy to a virtual standstill, it has not moved a no confidence motion knowing that it does not have the requisite numbers. It has instead accused the government of using the CBI to coerce the SP and BSP to support it from outside. The CBI affidavit to the Supreme Court along with a publicly assertive CBI Director changed these political equations by considerably constraining the Government’s actions. Yet little changed in the BJP’s approach from then and now.
One reason for the BJP’s prevarication is the fact that its own leadership question is not settled. Narendra Modi’s third time reelection in Gujarat and projection as the messiah of governance has catapulted him onto the national scene; however his larger acceptability remains in question not just within the NDA alliance but also voters outside of the Hindu-Hindi belt. This uncertainty keeps the leadership question alive, and provides incentive for the BJP to keep the government in a state of limbo, unable to govern. However with its increasingly destructive approach towards Parliamentary democracy, another question now becoming pertinent is how long before the people get fatigued of the BJP – just like they did with the repeated agitations led by Anna Hazare.
The electorate in Karnataka threw out BJP to give the beleaguered Congress an absolute majority after 14 years. Congress leaders exulted (without a trace of irony) that this was the electorate punishing the BJP for its corruption and inability to govern. In this the BJP can seek solace that the anti-incumbency spawned by massive corruption and misgovernance which defeated it at the state level may well give it the bigger prize in the Parliamentary elections come 2014 (or earlier). These elections it seems, are to be lost, not won. Unfortunately for the people, elections have become a tool not to extract accountability but only to recycle power between the ruling party and the opposition without any real political alternative.