The BJP-led government will go on the offensive in Parliament over the JNU controversy to blunt the opposition’s plan to project recent cases of campus unrest as signs of the ruling alliance’s dipping popularity among the youth.
Having kept the JNU pot boiling through several party programmes, the ruling party is now looking at the budget session to draw the opposition into a debate on the February 9 incident when anti-India slogans were allegedly shouted at the premier institute.
Party leaders believe that such a debate will take the steam out of the opposition’s possible strategy of castigating the government for alleged interference by the RSS in the functioning of institutes of higher education.
The opposition is attempting to club the suicide by Dalit scholar Rohith Vemulla at Hyderbabad, police action at JNU, anti-Narendra Modi slogans at the Ambedkar University, Lucknow and some other incidents on campuses to build its case against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Its leaders insist Modi’s popularity among youths, who propelled the BJP to power in 2014, may have taken a hit with such incidents.
The BJP’s counter-strategy will be to de-link the JNU incident with any incident in other campuses and hammer on the point that “nationalism” was in danger.
“There is no need for the government to be defensive on the JNU controversy. The party fully backs the government in actions it took in the matter,” BJP secretary Shrikant Sharma said.
A group of students from Hyderabad university will take out a march in the national capital on Tuesday, the first day of the budget session. They are expected to receive support from opposition parties, who were sharpening their knives for the budget session. The Congress observed Monday as ‘Sanghwad Mukti Diwas’ to embarrass the ruling coalition.
The opposition believes that this constituency is now disappointed and, hence, there is a chance to wean away some of them from the right-wing party.
With election lined up in five states, the opposition is in no mood to let this opportunity go.
The BJP is equally cautious. It has realised that the Dalit scholar’s suicide did no good to the party’s image.
It went into a damage control exercise by announcing a probe panel. The party also plans a Dalit outreach initiative. On Monday, PM Modi went to the Ravidas temple at Varanasi. On Wednesday, BJP chief Amit Shah will unveil the statue of Raja Suheldev – a Dalit figure – at Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh.
Still, the party does not want to shift its focus away from the JNU row. Every opposition onslaught about campus unrest will be countered by arguments around the JNU controversy, sources said. It has already gone into an overdrive to build public opinion around this subject.
BJP units across the country observed Jan Swabhiman Abhiyan – mass campaign for self-respect – between February 18 and 20 to play to the nationalist gallery. On Sunday, a group of retired soldiers took out ‘March for Unity’ in the heart of the city, waiving tricolours and shouting slogans.