Just look at the scenario from the BJP’s perspective. It has fought a long and hard battle to put the UPA – more specifically the Congress – in the dock. It has relied on all means, fair and foul, to call the Congress corrupt. When it failed to put the blame for 2G on the Congress, it worked very hard to try and make Coal stick to it. After demanding the resignation of the PM some 30 times in the last three years, it made a demand yet again on coal. In this journey, it has had to struggle – fending off competition from Anna and Ramdev, allies initially who suddenly developed ideas of their own. But after all this effort, the BJP was beginning to succeed. The India Today and NDTV polls showed that the NDA would go ahead of the UPA if polls were held now. Things were starting to look good. Things were going as per plan. Anti-BJP (anti-communal) sentiments for once looked weaker than anti-Congress sentiments. Everything was hunky dory.
And then….all of a sudden, the Congress decided to wake up. To fight back. Whatever the reason – the BJP would like to tease the PM that it was the Washington Post article that did it – the PM suddenly appeared to be a Virat Kohli in super form. The “weak” PM started taking decisions like there was no tomorrow. And his partner-in-crime, Chidambaram – whom the BJP had desperately tried to involve in the 2G matter – was going ahead with reforms, completely ignoring the fault lines of his coalition government. This was a nightmarish situation for the BJP. All its work of the last three years was going to be waylaid by this new found gusto. Something had to be done. Someone had to stop the Congress. Who that someone would be….we all know!
The BJP’s worries were justified. Just read the stories that have emerged since the announcements of Friday last week:
Every single newspaper has praised the actions taken by the government; and the fact that the Congress finally bit the bullet and took bold decisions. None of the papers has criticized any of the decisions; if anything, some have said that the government should have gone further. That it was too little and too late. That it should do much more. The newspapers devoted pages and pages to explaining how Manmohan got his mojo back (ET, Sunday) and how this was his “nuclear deal” moment for him (most publications, tv channels). This nuclear deal moment comment was particularly hurtful to the BJP (remember how they had played opportunistic politics back then, misreading the public sentiment) and the Left (which was reduced to its lowest seats tally after opposing it).
The coal scam (imaginary mostly) was suddenly relegated to the inside pages. Even the extent of coverage diminished. Most of the coverage was on the work being done by the Inter Ministerial Group (IMG) which was looking into the 58 coal blocks audited by the CAG. The government was emboldened enough to cock a snook at the BJP’s demands – resignation of the PM, cancellation of coal blocks en masse. In fact, the IMG recommended only 7 blocks to be canceled – of which three were from the NDA period. A few other players had some minor financial loss as Bank Guarantees were encashed. This was a disaster for the BJP. It’s carefully crafted coal strategy was coming un-stuck. In fact, the bigger worry was that people were beginning to understand how the CAG had erred between policy choice and corruption. The CBI showed that actual cases of corruption were far fewer – and even on this front, the BJP’s Gadkari-Sancheti link was too glaring. Now documents were being produced which showed BJP CMs pitching for their chosen corporates and writing to the PM not to go ahead with auctions. Had the BJP badly miscalculated on coal? Not so in its mind. It believed all this was happening only because of the Friday announcements. Something had to be done to undo the Friday announcements.
The RBI too was playing along. Ignoring the inflation, it cut CRR by a further 25 basis points. And threatened to cut its bank rate in by Oct-end. For his part, Chidambaram stated that he would make his fiscal correction announcements shortly. The RBI governor was acting funny even on 2G. Apparently as per him, there was no loss in 2G – that it was a government choice and policy to give spectrum cheap. Now this was too much. The RBI was becoming a problem. If fiscal corrections were done, and the RBI lowered rates, the sentiment would life. Industry would bounce back. And so would the Congress. This had to be prevented at any cost.
As if on cue, the SBI announced yesterday that it had cut its base lending rates by 25 basis points. So the economy was indeed going to revive. In any case, corporate India was urging the Congress to stay the course. They were urging the BJP not to play spoilsport. If the Congress did indeed revive itself in the next two years, all the efforts of the first three years were going to go waste. This would end up like a T-20 match where some player suddenly started hitting in the last five overs to win the match! This couldn’t be allowed.
And then the stock market. It shot up as if to salute the PM. It looks like its going to cross 21K soon. This was crazy. And the rupee? It was making a comeback too. This was all very very bad news for the BJP.
What gave a ray of hope was that the ratings agencies all said that they were worried about “execution risk” and “roll backs”. They would wait to see what happened before commenting on their future plans. Now the BJP understood what was to be done! The Friday announcements had to be rolled back. The BJP knew it could not do anything on its own. In the past, it had deployed Anna and Ramdev to do its doing. Now it had to hope that Mamata played her “maa maati maanush” melody – cacophony to the Congress. And then the government would surely go back to being paralysed!
And true to form, Mamata did just that. The BJP heaved a sigh of relief. For while Mamata is generally predictable, sometimes she can be unreliable. The BJP was still hurting after she finally agreed to vote for Pranab Mukherjee. This time fortunately, there were no googlies from her. It was ok that she didn’t want to join the NDA. So what? At least she would help get rid of the UPA. The BJP reached out to Mamata. They nearly called her the biggest freedom fighter after Subhash Chandra Bose! Several phone calls and pujas later (remember it was the pujas of the BJP that got India some rains in September!), the BJP had what it wanted. She was withdrawing support, not just her ministers! Wow! The BJP could still win the game!
But problems still loom on the horizon. The leader of that blasted MNS in Maharashtra, Raj Thackeray, has said he supported FDI in multi-brand retail and the increase in diesel prices. Sonia Gandhi has instructed her CMs to give 3 more gas cylinders at subsidized rates – now the BJP CMs would have no option but to follow suit. All the extra taxes they were hoping to pocket from the diesel price increase would have to be squandered away. Further, the government was looking aggressive – refusing to bow down. In fact, the Ministry of Petroleum put out an ad which showed embarrassingly how the state governments were making Rs 1.3 lac crores a year on fuel taxes without any matching subsidy liability, while the central government was out of pocket by Rs 50000 crores. This was shocking. Such confidential figures should not be put out in the public domain! And then, that Nitish Kumar, the NDA’s Mamata Banerjee….what’s wrong with him. Why can’t he accept Modi as PM? What is all this “whoever supports Bihar’s special state status will get my support” nonsense? This is unacceptable. He has to fall in line. Just like the Akali Dal fell in line after the BJP reminded it that it’s state government depended on its support. Otherwise, the SAD was going to be crooning praises about FDI in multi-brand retail!
And then the permanent other problems; the corrupt, casteist and opportunistic Mulayam and Mayawati. They are the permanent bugbear for the BJP. Without any provocation, they start raising the communal card against the BJP. What is all this? Is this how UP parties behave? Oooffff!
The real truth dear reader is that the BJP is jammed. And it’s losing face big time. It’s clear that its opposition to the FDI proposals is opportunistic (in fact, it wanted 100% FDI in multi-brand retail during its time). It was clear that it was actively trying to destroy the UPA by wooing Mamata. The coal blocks matter was boomeranging. It’s Bihar ally was acting cocky. And Congress was stitching Andhra back into itself. It was all unraveling. Now you know why the BJP has been frantic in trying to pull the UPA down. Why there is the desperation in curbing the new found enthusiasm of the PM….