As the monsoon session was washed away into history on Thursday, the warring sides were left to reflect on three weeks littered with strategic errors.
Congress climbed a tree it couldn’t alight from; its take-no-prisoners approach was more suited to an Opposition party in the government’s final year in office, not in its second.
The party had a point in demanding accountability for alleged acts of impropriety and corruption against a Union minister and two chief ministers but it took the tactic of disruption to unsustainable lengths.
When the BJP enthusiastically adopted the disruption route in the last Lok Sabha, the Congress-led government was on its last legs, badly tarnished by corruption scandals, waiting for its own demise. It’s nobody’s case that the NDA government is moribund; indeed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi continues to catch the imagination of the nation even if there are questions about delivery on key promises.
This meant that the Congress’ tactic carried the risk of not resonating with the public. Indeed, an HT-MaRS survey published on August 5 showed that a majority of people (56%) justified the suspension of 25 Congress MPs and 46% blamed Congress and other opposition parties (versus 39% blaming the BJP) for the impasse in Parliament. A combative Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi did energise the party, but beyond a point the Congress seemed to tie itself in knots with its inflexible “resign first, then debate” stance.
The ruling NDA would, however, be mistaken if it saw a victory in making the Congress agree to an adjournment motion. All exultations over Sushma Swaraj’s self-defence were misplaced as the controversy over the so-called Lalitgate and Vyapam scam gave a hollow ring to the ruling party’s claims of clean governance.
Congress may have misjudged its attack, but the BJP’s error was in continuing to behave like an Opposition party. Some brownie and debating points were scored, but the fact remains that the BJP had more to lose from the imbroglio.
The government’s reforms agenda is in jeopardy and if the constitutional amendment bill to roll out the goods and services tax is in peril, the ruling party’s leaders made little effort to reach out to the other side.
There was a time when parliamentary affairs ministers such as Pramod Mahajan and Priyaranjan Dasmunshi would be seen sitting on the Opposition benches and cracking jokes. Today, one hardly sees a ruling party leader walking over to the Opposition benches. The government blames the Congress for killing India’s growth story; four years on, when it faces the hustings, it will not be able to deflect the blame if it does not keep its promises.
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