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As opposed to an Opposition

Yashwant Sinha isn’t great with the wisecracks. His crooked smile suggests more self-righteousness than a witty streak.

india Updated: Aug 13, 2011 22:53 IST

Yashwant Sinha isn’t great with the wisecracks. His crooked smile suggests more self-righteousness than a witty streak. But even his reference to former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda bringing a sack each time he would come to Delhi to be filled up by Congressmen with “jackfruit, mangoes and litchis” (as opposed to money in exchange for Jharkhand Mukti Morcha support to the UPA) could have raised a titter in Parliament if the rest of the proceedings were, well, parliamentary. The problem is last week’s box office opening of the monsoon session was anything but that.

The BJP has a talent for frittering away golden opportunities. And part of its genius, as evident pretty much throughout the tenure of a cabinet, cribbed and confined UPA 2, has been to believe that it’s being an excellent Opposition party when all it’s doing is conducting a series of political hit-and-runs. With the BJP’s obstructive tactics, the government is as strong and weak as it has been by its own doing while the business of Parliament is held ransom.

Have no doubt about this: the government is struggling to keep its head above the water. But it must be thanking its lucky stars that the BJP’s floor management is so inept that, barring raising the pitch on various scams that run the danger of segueing into each other, the main Opposition party has contributed nothing constructive to the debate. So what is the BJP up to instead? Shouting its head off and demanding, much in the fashion of the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, that heads roll from the shoulders of the prime minister downwards.

Manmohan Singh seems to be an easy target for the BJP. It’s another matter that we’re talking about nothing more potent than doughballs hitting the target here. Determined as it is to chip away at the prime minister’s (dented) image of a clean man in a filthy joint and show that his hands are just as soiled as the next politician’s, the BJP has tied itself up in knots. So we hear the same old same old refrain: Manmohan Singh must go.

And then what?

Well, that’s the Ram setu the BJP doesn’t seem to know how to cross.

The Opposition’s job is to make life difficult for the government. It isn’t to stall governance or legislation. This session, several crucial bills are pending which, if passed, will make India take a direction that will set its destination. However much Pranab Mukherjee sucks on his imaginary pipe and comforts us that India’s economic fundamentals are strong, the world economy has caught a cold and India needs a very clean handkerchief ready in its pocket.

Assembly elections to crucial states like Uttar Pradesh and Punjab are around the corner. And around the kerb of that corner will be the run-up to the 2014 general elections. You don’t have to be me to realise that it would pay handsome dividends for the BJP to be seen, at exactly this stage, as the alternative. Instead, we have a gaggle of churlish leaders going on a graffiti-spraying, public property-defacing spree.

There’s no doubt that the Comptroller and Auditor General’s (CAG) report into the Commonwealth Games fiasco and the recirculated Parliamentary Accounts Committee report on the 2G scam have to be tackled by the government sooner or later. So for the BJP to heckle and hector fishmarket-style in Parliament and stop proceedings is to generate sympathy for a government that the latter, frankly, doesn’t deserve.

With governance and legislation a casualty, Parliament looks shambolic. Little surprise then that extra-parliamentary forces are gaining popular support. The ordinary citizen is asking, “How worse can something else be?” The BJP’s newfound aggression is clearly due to the recent developments both within its fold and outside. The Yeddyurappa opera in Karnataka has given the party those extra few inches of a higher moral ground. Sensing a possible advantage coupled with the general flailing about of the ruling party, the BJP has decided that it is time to strike. But to go loco is hardly to deliver a political ninja punch.

No doubt the BJP hopes to win back the middle classes that had once put their trust in Manmohan Singh and now are restless enough to listen to Anna Hazare seriously. But a leadership vacuum in the post-Advani party has somehow made the BJP fail to pick up any relevant issue and run with it. Nitin Gadkari as party president isn’t quite the man to storm the Bastille of the Hindi heartland.

The UPA government’s bodyguards in the Congress are doing it no favour by hitting out blindly against the institutions such as the CAG that are probing alleged misdemeanours by rogue agents of the government. But the main national Opposition is doing the government a favour by standing in the way of governance. All that the UPA has to do now is to look coyly into our eyes and tell us, ‘But those guys are not letting us run your business.’ And that is a really shambolic state for the country to be in.