For BJP, offence is the best defence in battleground Parliament
The BJP plans to counter an aggressive Congress in Parliament through a select group of MPs who will raise scams of states ruled by its rival, such as bribery allegations against the Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand chief ministers.
The ruling party has selected 28 of its MPs — 16 from the Lok Sabha and 12 from the Rajya Sabha — to give notices in both Houses of Parliament this monsoon session for raising alleged scams in Congress-ruled states.
The party’s strategy stemmed from the Congress’s persistent demand for resignation of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje over the Lalit Modi controversy and that of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan for the multi-crore Vyapam scandal.
“If they raise Shivraj and Raje, we will raise the scandals and failures of Congress-ruled states,” a minister told Hindustan Times.
The party on Thursday took its campaign against “tainted” Congress chief ministers to Himachal’s Virbhadra Singh as telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad alleged that he had received bribes from a private firm for reviving a cancelled project.
Prasad said the firm routed the bribe money to a company owned by Singh’s son and daughter to buy a farmhouse of Rs 6.61 crore. “Rahul Gandhiji, Sonia Gandhiji please explain, is it quid pro quo or not? It is a clear case of bribery. Will you ask Singh to resign?” he asked.
The BJP leader also accused Singh of evading income tax by routing his money into the account of an LIC agent.
In Shimla, Singh said it was inappropriate to comment on the issue when the case was pending before the Delhi high court, income tax department and IT tribunal. “Congress leaders were being targeted by BJP leaders with a political motive to divert public attention from their own wrongdoings,” he said.
Most of the accusations against Singh were rehashed stuff from the 2013 assembly election campaign.
A BJP source said it was part of the party’s strategy to stop Congress leaders from speaking about Swaraj until they agreed to debate the matter in full and allow those in the government to speak.
“They want to speak on why a debate is necessary and then would not allow us to explain. We did this when we were in the opposition. Let them agree to a full debate,” the source said.
The alleged Congress scandals include solar and bar bribery scams in Kerala, allegations of kickbacks in water projects of Goa and Assam, irregularities in flood relief work in Uttarakhand and accusations of tax evasion and bribery against the Himachal chief minister.
The BJP leadership has asked its MPs to take up other matters such as farmer suicides in Karnataka. It also pinned hopes on differences within the opposition over the Congress’s threat of a Parliament washout this session.
“Trinamool has already distanced itself. The Samajwadi Party is not keen either. The Left always prefers a structured debate to any logjam. Things would be different in the coming week,” an NDA minister said.
Sources said the government's counter-attack may see BJP MPs raising the issue of the "escape" of Warren Anderson, the chairperson and CEO of Union Carbide Corporation at the time of the Bhopal gas tragedy. The issue of Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi, who is considered to be close to the Gandhi family and escaped punishment in the Bofors scandal, could also be raised.
"If they raise Lalit Modi, then issues of Quattrochi, Anderson and Dawood (Ibrahim) will also be discussed. The choice is theirs," the BJP leader said.
(with agency inputs)