Tuesday, February 19, 2013

JPC on chopper deal granted…..but BJP’s real objective is to block Parliament

The government has offered a JPC as well as a full discussion in Parliament to prove it has nothing to hide on the chopper deal. Earlier, it had ordered a CBI inquiry and dispatched a team off to Italy to get any evidence possible. It has also decided more or less to cancel the deal. Every action that Antony and the Government has taken in the last few days indicates its determination to clear the air. If anything, the actions of the government show a confidence that there is nothing to hide. But the BJP is not “satisfied” (as if the job of the ruling party is to satisfy the main opposition party). It is moving towards it’s well thought through plan of blocking Parliament.

It’s now become a habit of the principal opposition party to do so. It did it earlier when the 2G matter came up; that time it didn’t allow Parliament to function for a whole session. Then it did so over what it saw as Chidambaram’s involvement in 2G. He was later cleared by the courts of any involvement. Then yet again on his comments on saffron terror. They have now threatened to boycott Shinde for the same thing. And now, when the BJP says that it will take up the issue of the chopper deal “strongly” in Parliament, it basically means that it will block Parliament again.

The BJP appears determined to create a political ruckus on the chopper deal, come what may. Nothing the government does can satisfy it. They complained about the CBI inquiry, because that’s great politics by itself. With one shot, they can kill two birds – juice the chopper scam itself and also attack the CBI. Then they demanded that “truth” and an explanation on why so much corruption happened on its watch. The government agreed to a discussion in Parliament. It also put out a fact sheet. Then the party demanded “Parliamentary scrutiny”. Now the government has yielded on setting up a JPC, even though JPCs are just a way for jobless MPs of all parties to get the comforts of office. The BJP is now stuck on another demand – a Special Investigation Team (SIT) monitored by the SC. Is that what Parliamentary scrutiny mean? Guess the government will sanction that too….but the BJP will again shift the goal post.

The BJP has been shifting the goal post on another subject – its attack strategy. It first alleged that there was a direct linkage between Tyagi and the Defence Minister and (if they were lucky) the PM as well. But nothing even remotely close has surfaced. In fact, their attacks on Antony are boomeranging. He is emerging stronger by the day. It appears he cares nothing about anything now; except on proving his honesty. He appears hell bent on canceling the order, even ready to ignore the views of his cabinet colleagues. Then the BJP drew up a comical connection with “Italy”, hinting that Sonia Gandhi was somehow involved. The attack has come a cropper. Then it called it “Bofors 2”, but when it emerged that the tech specs were in fact changed under Vajpayee’s term, it ran the risk of being dubbed “Coffin gate 2” instead. And now, the BJP has zeroed in on another attack plan: “Which is the family named in the Italian report???”, alluding (and praying) that the family was the Gandhi family. Arun Jaitley has already given the benefit of doubt to former ACM Tyagi, saying “the Tyagis were never so big as to be called the family”. Well from all that I am reading, the family (which definitely indicates “several” members) clearly means the Tyagis (ACM Tyagi, and his three cousins). But it could also be Vajpayee’s extended family that includes Ranjan Bhattacharya, his foster son-in-law.

This confusion in the BJP’s attack plan is giving the Congress the confidence to take on the BJP. It probably realizes that the BJP is digging its own grave by pushing the matter. Maybe, the BJP will end up with soot on its face. Politics works on hope and this could well be the Congress’s hope, just as much as something (anything!) sticking to the Gandhis is the BJP’s.

The real reason for the BJP to stop Parliament is however different. It wants to stop the Congress from implementing its legislative agenda. It wants to block the passage of the Lokpal, and since it has run out of options to do so, blocking Parliament on some other pretext seems the only route possible. It wants to halt the government’s reforms agenda, hence it wants to block Parliament. It wants to stop the passage of the politically valuable Food Security Act, hence it wants to block Parliament. It wants policy paralysis to recur, so that the economy suffers even more, and it benefits at the hustings, so it wants to block Parliament. The BJP’s agenda is clear. It has to somehow block Parliament. Somehow obstruct the working of the government. And reap political dividends from it, the country be damned.

The biggest fear for the BJP is that the government has started to move. Chidambaram is on a mission to reign in the fiscal deficit, and he will soon get a grip on the current account deficit as well. He has managed to tame inflation, at least the WPI, and has managed to get the RBI to lower rates. He has taken price hikes across sectors. He has also got consensus on GST. Chidambaram is on a roll. There is an economic revival visible on the horizon. The BJP must be really worried, for just a few months back, they were boycotting him in Parliament. Chidambaram must somehow be stopped. And Shinde is also becoming a problem. He hanged Guru and Kasab, depriving the BJP of a baton on that subject. And he now seems set to hang a few others who are on the death row. And then the government also acted so fast on the rapes issue. The BJP was caught by surprise when it brought out the ordinance. All this is making the BJP jittery.

The only way the BJP can halt the Congress now is by keeping on accusing it of corruption. It has to somehow make Choppergate look like a Congress scam. Tyagi or others are not important. The truth is not important. And it has to make the issue drag on as long as possible. The sting of 2G is already gone with nobody being able to prove anything beyond the Rs 200 crore allegation against Raja. The sting of the coal scam also is going away with equal cases coming up against Congress and BJP netas. And the “Rs 70000 crores” CWG scam has become a Rs 100 crore odd charge (of which Kalmadi and co would have made 10-20% at most). The BJP can be expected to nudge “its ally”, the CAG, for a favorable report on the chopper deal. The battle for 2014 has started in right earnest!

The real truth is that the BJP is desperate to halt Parliament, and the Chopper issue is just a good excuse. It would have found something else – maybe the rape law, maybe the “flawed” Lokpal – if this had not surfaced…..

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