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Opposition in a disarray



The winter session of parliament has started not with a bang, as many had expected. True, there were disruptions and adjournments, but the higgledy-piggledy manner in which the opposition conducted its business shows that it is pretty much on a sticky wicket.

West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief Mamata Banerjee provided the mood music for the proceedings with her attempt to bring a no-confidence motion having failed miserably due to the lack of even the required 50 or so numbers. If she was a politician worth her salt she should have taken on board the BJP and other opposition parties before attempting a no-trust motion. She could have saved her face even in the last minute by junking her move to bring the UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government down. After all, her party had only 19 members in the Lok Sabha, far less than the minimum number required for the Speaker to agree to a no-trust motion. If the Congress enjoys a frisson of schadenfreude it can hardly be faulted. Mamata's humiliation was complete when her supplication for support was nixed by her arch rival, the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M).

The BJP and the NDA, on the other hand, seemed a tad smarter. They sensed rightly that a no-confidence motion against the government at this juncture when the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) remained latched on to the UPA, albeit not limpet-like, would only go belly up. If the no-confidence motion on the issue of foreign investment in multibrand retail failed, the government would get an automatic green signal of parliament, indirect though, to go ahead with its reform plans.

The BJP has thus narrowly escaped having to put up with a hangdog air around it. However, the saffron party is bent on a debate on FDI on multibrand retail under a rule that entails voting, in the fond hope that the DMK, a UPA ally, and outside supporters of the government like the SP and the BSP, which are against the government move, would vote against it; and if they did so, the government would be hard-pressed to proceed with its reform agenda.

That said, it does not mean that all is hunky-dory with the saffron party. In actuality, it is in the throes of a welter of crises that threaten to torpedo its hopes to come to power post-2014 elections. Take for instance, the storm that is sweeping across the party over its president who is alleged to be in the sump of corruption. Many BJP stalwarts have demanded his resignation from the post.  They find it quite embarrassing to accuse the government of corruption when their own house is nothing but a hotbed of corruption. They know full well that the voters are not so na├»ve to stomach whatever the party tells them.

The party does not seem keen on getting rid of its president, Nitin Gadkari, at the moment because that would amount to admitting that it had indeed been wallowing in graft, even as it had been baying for the UPA government's blood on the same issue.

Contrarily, the party has decided to suspend and maverick party leader Ram Jethmalini who had been vociferous in demanding Gadkari's resignation. Though the reason for his suspension is ostensibly his criticism of the party for rubbishing the appointment of new CBI chief, Ranjit Sinha, analysts say the Gadkari issue could be the real reason.

The CBI director's appointment has become yet another issue that has exposed the party. In his approval of the CBI posting, Jethmalini is being backed by party stalwarts like former finance minister Yeshwant Sinha and actor-turned politician Shatrughan Sinha.

Even newspapers sympathetic to the BJP have said that the BJP's strident criticism of the appointment of the CBI director is off-beam.  In fact, with his appointment at the right time, the UPA government, which had been accused of "policy paralysis" for the large part of its second innings, has proved that it means business. BJP spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain says Jethmalini's remarks were meant to help the Congress. Though the remarks were not aimed at boosting the Congress, the end result is no different. It is high time the party came to terms with the fact that it has never been a "party with a difference" and that all things undesirable in society can be detected in the party as well. It would be better for the party to focus on core issues and lead the debates in parliament rather than find ways to disrupt the proceedings. 


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