After Congress, BJP loses plot
Those who watched the live proceedings of the Lok Sabha debate on the lokpal bill on Tuesday were in for a rude shock over the manner in which the Bharatiya Janata Party, the principal opposition in Parliament conducted itself. The Anna movement had earlier put the Congress on the back foot but the Lok Sabha debate showed that the BJP was over keen in bailing out the government. The perception that has emerged from this crucial discussion in the lower house is that there seemed to be some sort of secret understanding between the two major parties and this was evident from the fact that the BJP during the voting stage did not make any attempt to push the treasury benches on the back foot. In the process, what has happened is that many people have started believing that the BJP is not willing to take advantage of the government’s vulnerability due to reasons best known to its leaders.
I am sure that BJP leaders will try to make amends in Rajya Sabha on Thursday but the damage has been done. The Congress has managed to keep its head afloat while the BJP, which should have been right on top, has started sinking in deep waters. This is actually not the first time that the BJP has bailed the government out. On three previous occasions this year the government has been the beneficiary of BJP’s generosity. The first time, during the budget session, the BJP let the government off the hook on the Pensions Bill. During the Monsoon session, the cordiality with which the discussion on price rise was held left people wondering if the BJP was actually on the government’s side. Similar impression was created when the adjournment motion on Black money was taken up in the winter session.
Tuesday’s debate and the BJP’s poor performance strengthened this perception even further. Many veteran politicians are of the opinion that if the government continues to keep going, it is essentially on the strength of latent support of the Saffron brigade. I do not know how the BJP will correct this impression.
The dilemma before the BJP was that it is worried that its middle class vote bank that had shifted towards the Congress due to Manmohan Singh in 2009 has now drifted towards Anna Hazare instead of returning to the Saffron party. Its attempts to bring it back under its fold have not succeeded. On Tuesday, these efforts received a further setback.
For the Congress too, the Lok Pal debate did not go as well as its leaders would have wanted it to go. Rahul Gandhi’s idea of giving the lokpal a constitutional status did not succeed. On top of that about a dozen party MPs did not vote despite the whip, as they were not present. The numbers too showed that the government was vulnerable and it was on account of BJP’s generous attitude that the government was not feeling threatened. In the end, the Lok Sabha debate had no winners but only losers.