Shadow boxers, come out
As cheerleaders of democracy, we follow the political utterances made by the two main parties on both sides of the government-Opposition fence. Of late, the UPA’s Big Brother, the Congress, has been making most of the noise — with rather convoluted consequences. If the India-US nuclear deal, such a big deal once in the government’s curriculum vitae, is now almost invisible, the matter of inflation and the untenable battering of oil companies courtesy subsidies and rising oil prices are becoming difficult to suppress in a genteel manner. Thus, the anguished statement by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday about the “subsidy” situation not being tenable “forever”. Mr Singh even stated — almost in a resigned manner — the need for a “wider political consensus to adopt more rational economic policies”.
Which makes us come to an important constituent of the “wider political consensus” — the main Opposition party, the BJP. On the same day that the Prime Minister made his appeal, BJP senior leader and prime ministerial candidate LK Advani, at his party’s national conclave, spoke about the government suffering from a “paralysis” and being unable to deal with “serious problems like rising prices”. Coming as it does with other senior BJP leaders identifying the four main issues that will probably influence voters when they go to the general elections soon — price-rise, national security, farmers’ woes and vote-bank politics — we are relieved to know that BJP President Rajnath Singh calling for a debate on ‘secularism’ was an old flash in a very old pan. The BJP has, one hopes after Mr Advani’s utterances about reaching out to “everyone”, moved on from its stale ‘internal debates’ about ‘To be Hindutva or Not To Be Hindutva’ — notwithstanding Rajnath Singh’s attempt to stand up and be counted.
All that is very well coming from the main Opposition party. But what do the worthies — injected with an earlier missing pluck after the Assembly victory in Karnataka — have to offer in terms of a BJP policy to ‘save’ the nation? Party workers gathered during the two-day BJP conclave may not have felt the need to know it, but the nation would really like to know what the Shadow Prime Minister has in mind in terms of a Shadow Policy. It is one thing to rail against a government for fumbling at the rails from the cover of Opposition benches; it’s quite another to come up with Plan B — or Plan BJP, if you will — to ensure that if Mr Advani does become PM, he is not as frustrated as Prime Minister Singh.