By demanding the resignation of beleaguered Akali minister Bikram Singh Majitha following the Enforcement Directorate summons to him in the money laundering case of the multi-crore drug scandal, the BJP, the ruling partner in Punjab, has put itself in an awkward position.
Reason: the opposition Congress was quick to latch on to Punjab BJP chief Kamal Sharma’s ‘Majithia-must-resign’ outcry and up the ante by pressing for a no-confidence motion against the SAD-BJP government in the Vidhan Sabha session on Tuesday.
Sharma’s stance – “politically incorrect”, as a senior BJP leader put it — has come handy for the Congress to set up a high-voltage discussion on the drug issue in the House and target both the government and Majithia.
Sharma’s hurried move is set to leave the 12 BJP legislators red-faced in the House. That’s because they face the Hobson’s choice — whether to go by the party line on Majithia or defend their own government on the drug issue that has rocked the state politics for over a year now.
“We will have to take a hard line on the drug issue but have to side with the government when the no-confidence motion is put to vote,” says a seasoned BJP MLA. “That would show up the BJP as having double standards and would be embarrassing,” he added.
Until Monday afternoon, a belligerent section of the saffron party was gloating over Sharma’s ‘oust-Majithia’ move, believing that it has not only cornered Akalis, but also put the party on a high moral pedestal.
However, Sharma’s surprise and apparently unilateral gambit to deflect the drug taint on Akalis began backfiring following the Congress’s masterstroke that leaves the BJP legislators in a catch-22 situation, literally.
The Congress has the numbers — one-fifth of the House strength — to set up a no-confidence motion which means the speaker will have to accede to the opposition’s demand for debate on the drug issue and put the motion to vote before allowing any other business on the floor of the assembly.
Since the BJP has been vociferously demanding the resignation of Akali MLA Avinash Chander after he was questioned by the ED in the drug issue, adopting a different yardstick on Majithia will also chip away the party’s moral grandstanding on the drug issue.
And, if the BJP legislature group chooses to rally to the defence of the government which has ruled out Majithia’s resignation, it will face blushes in the face of the Congress onslaught. “Even keeping mum is not an option,” says a BJP legislator.
As per BJP insiders, Sharma took the step of demanding Majithia’s resignation without consulting party colleagues or the party legislature group. Finding that his strategy had boomeranged, Sharma reportedly came up with a face-saver. By late Monday evening, he reportedly conveyed to the party legislature group to take a strident stand on the drug issue during the House debate but side with the government when it came to voting.
When contacted, the state BJP chief said “our party will oppose the no-confidence motion” and refused to take further questions.
A section of the BJP legislators, peeved at Sharma’s “ill-conceived move”, said they would rather leave it to the party legislature chief Chunni Lal Bhagat and his deputy Anil Joshi to speak on the drug issue and defend the government.