Monsoon Session: BJP’s Divide & Rule Policy Will Hurt Opposition
A resurgent BJP buoyed by presidential polls will play spoilsport for the opposition during the monsoon session.
The Quint DAILY
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The upcoming monsoon session of Parliament will be a litmus test for the durability and viability of a united opposition front to take on Modi’s BJP in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha election.
The BJP has already drawn blood with JD(U)’s Nitish Kumar breaking away from the fledgling 18-party opposition front to support the NDA candidate for president Ram Nath Kovind. And the government shrewdly scripted poor optics for the opposition from the very beginning of the session by rescheduling the opening day from 12 July to 17 July, the day of the presidential election when the JD(U) will cross the floor to vote with the BJP.
Opposition vs Resurgent BJP
- While Cong and RJD have struck conciliatory tone over Nitish’s decision to back Kovind,
unity of 18 opposition parties seems to be in danger.
wants Nitish to take a united stand on vice presidential candidate.
- After CBI
raids, questions are being raised over Nitish’s silence – he has neither called
Lalu nor issued a statement.
- Pressure is
mounting on other leaders from the opposition as they are being targeted by
- BJP is in resurgent mode after victory in UP assembly polls with presidential election expected
to give an additional boost.
Challenge for the Opposition
Although the opposition has an armoury full of issues to corner the government with and has filed notices for adjournment motions and discussions on all of them, its spirits are somewhat low as it grapples with the enormity of the challenges ahead.
For four weeks, it will have to be on its toes to keep its flanks together as a resurgent BJP uses every trick in the book to drive a wedge wherever it spots a chink.
The next big tussle is over the vice presidential election, which will also take place during the monsoon session, on 5 August. Once again, the man in the middle is Nitish Kumar who is being wooed by both the BJP and the opposition.
After a sharp and bitter exchange of words with Nitish Kumar over his decision to back Kovind instead of the opposition nominee Meira Kumar, the Congress and RJD have struck a conciliatory tone. They want Nitish back in the opposition fold for the vice presidential poll and Sonia Gandhi has deputed her most trusted troubleshooter Ahmed Patel for the job.
Nitish’s Maun Vrat
From the other side, the BJP is putting relentless pressure on Nitish to break the grand alliance in Bihar and dump Lalu. A series of CBI raids on Lalu and his family and registration of cases against the RJD boss, his son Tejashwi who is Nitish’s deputy chief minister and his daughter Misa who is a Rajya Sabha MP are making things hot for the Bihar CM who prides himself on his Mr Clean image.
Nitish is silent but his silence says a lot. While opposition leaders like Sonia Gandhi and Mamata Banerjee have telephoned Lalu to show solidarity, Nitish has neither called, nor issued a statement. Nor has he indicated which side he will support in the vice presidential contest.
There are plenty of misgivings among opposition leaders about Nitish’s loyalty and commitment to a united opposition front to take on Modi. Ironically, it was Nitish who had first mooted the idea of an anti-Modi front.
But Nitish is not the only weak link in the fledgling 18-party opposition front. Several smaller regional players are also susceptible to pressure from the ruling dispensation and it will be quite a task to keep them within the opposition fold as issues come up for discussion in Parliament.
For instance, there are differing views on GST. Significantly, even the Congress is divided internally on this tax reform with a section wanting to oppose it along with Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress while others feel that a more measured stand is necessary since GST was a UPA proposal.
The BJP has crafted an unholy strategy of divide and rule. Strong-arm tactics are reserved for the Congress, Lalu and Mamata. All three are genetically wired to oppose saffron. Consequently, the pressure on them is the most intense, both political and investigative through agencies like the CBI.
With the others, the BJP is blowing hot and cold. Cases are hanging over the heads of BSP’s Mayawati and SP’s Akhilesh Yadav like the proverbial Damocles sword but are not being pursued with any intensity for the moment.
The CBI is going after AIADMK’s Sasikala and her family with a vengeance while other party leaders perceived as soft on the BJP, like O Paneerselvam, are being handled with kid gloves. Anti-corruption investigations are on against DMK leaders like the Maran brothers and Karunanidhi’s daughter Kanimozhi but they wane and wax depending on the BJP’s political needs.
BJP in Resurgent Mode
Parliament is the apex theatre for national politics. This is where parties take positions and draw battlelines. The monsoon session will sound the bugle for the next general election which is less than two years away. The BJP is undoubtedly in resurgent mode after its stupendous victory in the UP assembly polls. And the presidential election on the opening day of Parliament will give it an additional boost.
But paradoxically, this resurgence is driving opposition parties into a frightened huddle as they contemplate the possibility of not just a Congress-mukt Bharat but an Opposition-mukt Bharat. This is the only reason bitter rivals like the BSP and SP have recently been seen on the same forum.
Nitish’s desertion for the presidential polls has frayed the Opposition’s bid for unity in a desperate attempt to survive the onslaught from the BJP. The monsoon session will indicate whether the damage is beyond repair.
(The writer is a Delhi-based senior journalist. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)
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