Politics

NDA and the Art of Political Mismanagement

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Credit : PTI

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Congress president Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Credit: PTI

The well-known columnist Pratap Bhanu Mehta recently characterised some of the actions of the ruling NDA as coming from “small minds, constricted souls and resentful hearts”. Arun Shourie, former minister in the Vajpayee-led NDA described the same tendency with some visual flourish. “You can’t govern this country if you get up every morning and have a boxing match with someone or the other,” he said. Shourie essentially implied that you can’t run a government at the Centre by threatening Chief Ministers every other day. The manner in which the CBI raided the Delhi CM’s secretariat proves the point made by Shourie so effectively.

 If one reads Mehta and Shourie together, one may begin to understand why the BJP is unable to smoothly run Parliament at all. The BJP leadership’s attempt to blame the Congress alone for Parliament’s dysfunction will not cut much ice. Prime Minister Modi and his coterie must seriously introspect why the government is unable to make Parliament function. How is it that the budget session of 2015 went off so smoothly, without a glitch and trouble started only in the monsoon session in July?

It may be useful to recall that on the very second or third day of the monsoon session a senior BJP minister held a press conference asserting that investigating agencies had evidence of corruption against almost all Congress Chief Ministers, starting with Virbhadra Singh of Himachal Pradesh, Harish Rawat of Uttarakhand, Tarun Gogoi of Assam and Oomen Chandy of Kerala. Of course, this was done in response to the opposition demand for action against BJP CMs in Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan on account of  Vyapam scandal and Lalitgate respectively.

 The monsoon session was predictably washed out because of the sheer arrogance of the PM himself who refused to make a statement in the house on controversies surrounding either Sushma Swaraj or Lalit Modi. The PM absented himself on the day the Lok Sabha agreed to discuss the matter.

Hopes were raised in the winter session as PM Modi, apparently chastened by the drubbing his party received in  the assembly election in Bihar, showed signs of reaching out to the opposition by inviting the Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Dr Manmohan Singh for tea. But yet again the prospects of a thaw were belied with a rather strange order from a High Court judge suggesting possible criminality against the Congress leadership in the National Herald matter. The order was unusual because the judge was not mandated to go into the merits of the case and was simply asked to pronounce on whether Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi could be exempted from personally appearing at the trial court where the case is being heard.

It is being intensely speculated whether the judge making all manner of gratuitous remarks on the merits of the case was a pure coincidence. For it led to another uproar as the Congress party cried foul. Now Sonia and Rahul Gandhi have decided to fight this battle politically and have even suggested they are willing to go to jail.

Using the CBI

Meanwhile Parliament is not functioning as most regional parties have rallied behind CM Arvind Kejriwal. Matters have clearly  gone beyond the CBI raid on the CM’s secretariat and there is a general sense that the Modi government is not all that innocent when it comes to selectively using the investigative agencies to browbeat the opposition. Questions are being raised as to why CBI chose not to appeal against Amit Shah’s discharge by a Special Court even before a trial could commence in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter killing case. The CBI’s own charge sheet describes Amit Shah as a lynchpin in the larger conspiracy. How is the same “independent” CBI doing such a U-turn on its own charge sheet?

Overall, as Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Arun Shourie have described, there is a lot of petty combativeness on display. For instance, the CBI planting stories in newspapers about bottles of liquor discovered at the Delhi Principal Secretary’s residence clearly comes from “small minds and constricted souls”. How about getting some more substantive evidence, Mr.Anil Sinha? Such pettiness was also evident when the CBI formally declared activist Teesta Setalvad a “national security threat”. Or when the CBI chose to raid the Himachal CM’s residence on the day of his daughter’s marriage. Such small-mindedness can only come from a feeling of political vendetta.

Sharad Pawar, whom Modi is trying to woo to counter BJP’s unhappy ally Shiv Sena in Maharashtra, made a very telling remark in an interview to NDTV. He said healthy political rivalry is fine but it should not degenerate into enmity. In this context, Pawar said, what has happened with Kejriwal or in Arunachal Pradesh is not right.

The NDA has made a royal mess of managing political relations both inside and outside Parliament. The posture of injured innocence that BJP leaders like Arun Jaitley and Venkaiah Naidu project will not wash anymore.

  • NARENDRA M APTE

    (1) When BJP was in opposition it claimed that
    it was responsibility of then government in power and of UPA, the ruling
    alliance, to ensure that both houses functioned normally, without disruptions. When
    UPA was in power we have seen how the Parliament was disrupted for weeks. Now
    it is the turn of the NDA government and BJP to be blamed for the disorder in
    Parliament. I believe it is responsibility of all Members of Parliament,
    irrespective of party with which they are affiliated to ensure that our
    Parliament fictions normally and all bills which are placed before it ( either
    in Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha or both
    houses) are taken up for consideration and then passed in reasonable time. (2) How
    long disruptions of Parliament will go on is unclear. It is also to be
    mentioned here that BJP has no moral
    authority to blame the Congress or others as Mr. Arun Jaitley had justified
    disruptions of Parliament as a legitimate strategy of opposition parties. Unfortunately we citizens will be losers as economic reforms like
    GST will be deferred even as Congress and BJP make use Parliament to score
    political points.

    • N Motwani

      well said. One solution is to have parliamentary reforms, as suggested by Ramachandra Guha. The Rajya Sabha members should be elected differently so that we have public representatives there. Currently, the Congress was booted out by the public yet sits in the Rajya Sabha as a majority, thereby hampering passing of bills. Therefore, the procedure for Rajya Sabha membership should be changed urgently.

      • Harish

        This was the reason why the founding fathers probably laid such a structure. Such that the effects of one election (where one party comes into power with 30 odd percent votes) does not get to change the basic structure of the country.

  • VIVEK

    The top brass of BJP should give NM 6 months more and if things don’t improve, he need to be replaced so that BJP doesn’t suffers further damage.
    Not that the next person is going to be a sure shot hit.

  • N Motwani

    Modi is a vindictive man. His past record shows that anyone who has opposed him has faced his revengeful wrath. He is not gracious in victory, he is petty and he will go to any lengths to punish those who oppose him. That is why he surrounds himself with incapable, unworthy sycophants like Smriti Irani, Prakash Javadekar or Nirmala Sitharaman who do not tire of singing sycophantic praises. Mark my words, he will meet the same fate as Advani – the time will come when his own party members will throw him out.

  • Ranjit Kumar

    The problem with the BJP is Narendra Modi.

    • EightZeroThree

      Ridiculous opinion !

      • Ranjit Kumar

        May be to you, but not to me.

    • Harish

      True, this is what happens if the fringe occupies the centre stage. Earlier fringe leaders such as Vajpayee or Advani were careful to take a middle- role when they became leaders and allowed others to carry on the fringe agenda. Now Modi is afraid of letting this happen as he is scared that this might allow guys like Shah or Giriraj Singh etc to gain more power than him in the party.

  • rohit g chandavarker

    The bias is clearly evident in the article. However, one might add that irrespective of the supposed blunders committed by the Government, there is a sense of being browbeaten by the opposition among the BJP ranks. How far this is valid is anyone’s guess. The constant changing of reasons to stall Parliament is a clear attempt by the Congress to stall proceedings, come what may. Is this not unfair & petty????
    There seems a concerted effort to beat the Government without raising a single point against the opposition’s behaviour, attitude & language. The Government may be feeling a sense of hurt & victimised by the sheer scale, depth & tenor of the media bashing. The term used against media, ‘presstitutes’ seem apt for many in the fifth estate.
    How fair & even handed has the media reportage been, sir?????
    One is entitled to criticise & rightfully so, over certain Government’s decisions. But to paint them as villains personified is stretching the issue too far.

  • Ranjit Kumar

    There is extreme paucity of talent in the BJP- no bench strength. The Hindutva ideology (or any other extremist ideology) cannot attract people who are talented and experts in their chosen fields, as these ideologies do not allow diversion from its narrow retrograde narratives. The mind is not allowed to be free.