The second part of the budget session in Parliament is witnessing a game of political squabbling and one-upmanship between the ruling BJP and the opposition Congress. However at the last tally, it appears that the Congress has managed to level the playing field.
Before the start of the session, the party planned to corner the BJP-led NDA government on issues such as President’s rule in Uttarakhand, drought and farmers’ suicides. But an Italian court’s verdict on the AgustaWestland bribery case – which named party president Sonia Gandhi among others in documents annexed to it – dealt a severe blow to the party.
The VVIP chopper deal turned the tables on the Congress, which immediately changed from offensive to defensive. Party members were left fending for the party and its leadership. Allegations and counter allegations flew thick and fast over the past fortnight.
The Congress, however, realised the chopper scam was overshadowing the Uttarakhand issue. The party changed strategy and organised the ‘Save Democracy’ march in the national capital on Friday. The march protested the NDA government’s “assault” on democratically-elected opposition-ruled states, universities, students and parliamentary institutions.
If the charged atmosphere at the rally-cum-march from Jantar Mantar to Parliament House was any indication, the Congress seems to have wrest the advantage from the BJP to a certain extent. The party targeted the NDA over its “failures” on drought and the agrarian crisis that has led to a spate of farmer suicides and affected 40 crore people in 10 states.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi led the charge with her stinging attack on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government. Her tone and tenor appeared to galvanise party cadres who were demoralised by the 2014 Lok Sabha elections debacle.
The BJP did attempt to hog some of the attention during the march with their own dharna inside the Parliament House. But the Congress got the better of the day as Sonia, party vice-president Rahul Gandhi and the former prime minister Manmohan Singh were disallowed from proceeding to the Parliament House and courted arrest at the Parliament Street police station.
Sonia has been leading from the front as she earlier did over the land acquisition bill; last year on March 17, she led a march of opposition leaders to Rashtrapati Bhawan to protest the proposed bill, dubbed as “anti-farmer and pro-corporate”. This was followed by a rally at Ram Lila grounds on April 19.
The aggressive stand forced the government to withdraw the controversial ordinance and shelve the idea of bringing a new land acquisition bill.
Perhaps the party will gain new momentum now and turn things around once again.