Intro: Answering the question of who the Opposition should be, could have a bearing on the future of BJP.
“Who shall be the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha?” demanded Sonia Gandhi and the 'Shahzada'. Narendra Modi has a different question though: “Who should be the Opposition?”
Up until about 9:30 on the morning of 16 May, 2014, the Bharatiya Janata Party knew exactly who the opposition was, namely the Congress. The senior leadership of the party — notably unlike many in the media – was not distracted by claims that placed Arvind Kejriwal (and his Aam Aadmi Party) at par with Modi and Rahul Gandhi (the faces of their respective parties.)
But the scale of the Congress's debacle took everyone by surprise. I was privy to various private surveys, discreetly conducted both by political parties and by corporate interests. While all of them concluded that the Congress was about to register a historic loss, the lowest number that anyone predicted for the party was 72 Lok Sabha seats. The 44 seats that the voters actually gave Congress were beyond anyone's wildest dreams.
This situation offered a minor challenge to the Prime Minister. I call it a 'minor' challenge because there are dozens of other major situations that he needs to confront. The current occupants of the Treasury benches in Parliament have inherited an empty treasury- thanks to the decade-long reign of Dr. Manmohan Singh.
And if the economy crisis was not enough, there is the bugbear of foreign crises, over which the Government of India has little or no control. In an ideal world, India would love to have decent relations with major powers. But in actuality, New Delhi has to make a choice between Israel and the Arab states, thanks to the ongoing situation in Gaza, while simultaneously manoeuvring between Russia and the United States-cum-Europe over the Ukrainian crisis. (It is important to note that both Russia and Israel are the largest weapon suppliers to India.)
And who knows what might happen if Chinese ambitions run afoul of, say, Japan, or Australia, or the ASEAN group?
Compared to resuscitating the economy while juggling conflicting relations between competing powers, the problem of deciding who should be the Opposition is relatively minor, however, the decision taken will have a bearing on the future of BJP.
Let me explain. The Congress was so arrogant, so venal, and, frankly, so stupid in the past decade that it would be easy to smash the party beyond hope of reconstruction. Questions about Robert Vadra's dealings could not be squelched even in the days of Congress regime. Now, the needle of suspicion is pointing not only at Vadra but at his mother-in-law and his brother-in-law too. Dr. Subramanian Swamy's long pursuit of Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi over the alleged land-grab in the National Herald case never made headlines while the Congress was in power; today, everyone knows about it, and the president and the vice-president of the party have been summoned to court to explain their actions.
On 18 April, while addressing a rally in Akbarpur (near Kanpur) in Uttar Pradesh. Referring to an ongoing investigation by the tax authorities into the affairs of Moin Qureshi-meat exporter and alleged Hawala operator- BJP’s PM candidate asked, “Shouldn't the truth come out?”
Qureshi reportedly had wide-ranging links- he was, among other things, president of the Doon School Old Boys' Society until May. According to reports, the investigators possess over 500 hours of incriminating call recordings, which is enough to implicate some ministers as well as others in the upper reaches of the Congress.
These-the National Herald case and the Moin Qureshi scandal — are said to be the tiniest tip of the proverbial iceberg. The Modi administration has access to so much evidence that it can rip apart the Congress, not just the Nehru-Gandhi’s but almost the entire leadership structure of the party.
For BJP to become a true national party it will have to weaken regional groups, in not immediately, then certainly in times to come. Crushing the Congress today, would mean deferring traditional Congress votes to non-BJP parties. But answering the question of who the Opposition should be could still have major implications on BJP’s future. -TVR Shenoy