Monday’s debate on the Narendra Modi government’s decision to repeal Article 370 that gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir had interesting dimensions to it. The most significant was Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party’s (BSP) decision to extend unequivocal support to the move. For a party that fought a bitter electoral battle against the BJP in which the latter virtually swept the board, the BSP’s abstention on the triple talaq bill and now its support to the Kashmir move makes one feel that the party is perhaps turning soft towards the ruling dispensation in New Delhi and Lucknow.
It is arguably also a manifestation of the growing feeling that with the Congress party having thrown in the towel (as reflected in Rahul Gandhi’s resignation) and the entire Opposition in disarray, Mayawati thought it was prudent to distance herself from rabid opposition to the BJP especially at a time when tax authorities are breathing down her neck. Evidently, the earlier break in the alliance with the Samajwadi Party just after the Lok Sabha elections had something to do with the undercurrent of softening towards the BJP.
By the same token, the support to the Modi government on Kashmir by the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) was also an olive branch extended to the BJP by a bitter critic that opposed it with no-holds-barred in the run-up to the polls. With elections to the Delhi Assembly less than two years away, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal is forced to look at the BJP with some degree of indulgence.
At the other end of the spectrum is the Janata Dal (United) which left the ragtag Opposition in the hope of being rewarded by the BJP but quickly got disillusioned with its new ally when it failed to get a representation in the council of ministers on its own terms. The JD(U) was on the wrong side of the BJP on the triple talaq bill when it manifested it by staying away from voting and then again decided not to go with the move to repeal Article 370 which the BJP and the NDA were committed to from the word ‘go’. Whether Nitish Kumar’s JD(U) will stay in the NDA until the next Bihar assembly elections are fought seems very uncertain but clearly it finds itself tied in knots, having already burnt bridges with the Opposition alliance when it made peace with the BJP. It remains to be seen whether strategist Prashant Kishor will find some way out for it to retain Nitish Kumar’s clout before the polls in Bihar.
Doubtlessly, the Opposition’s state of disarray had a lot to do with the condition in which the Congress party is in with Rahul Gandhi quitting and no successor as Congress president having been appointed. That has come as a boon for the powers-that-be which was expecting more fireworks on the Kashmir ront. The Chief Whip of the party in the Rajya Sabha, Bhubaneswar Kalita, has differed with the party line on repeal of Article 370 and quit the post. There are other discordant voices in the party with senior lawyer-MP Manu Singhvi praising the political sagacity of the move but averring that it is legally not tenable. By not appointing a successor to Rahul in the party president’s chair, the Congress party has shot itself in the foot. The UPA is indeed groping and this has demoralised the Opposition no end. A lot depends on who eventually succeeds Rahul but if it is a leader foisted by the Sonia-Rahul duo, ther party could go further downhill much to the BJP’s delight.
Significantly, the Opposition’s ranks have suffered by the continued refusal of Jagan Mohan Reddy’s YSR Congress, Chandrashekhar Reddy’s Telangana Rashtra Samithi and Naveen Patnaik’s Biju Janata Dal to make common cause with them. This time around, one of Narendra Modi’s bitterest critics in recent times Chandrababu Naidu of Telugu Desam Party has also sided with the BJP in a puzzling change of heart. The AIADMK seems to have no option but to support the BJP. All said and done, the Modi government is on a strong wicket on the Kashmir changes.
Apart from the Congress, the only parties that opposed the changes were the Trinamool Congress, the DMK, NCP, RJD, SP, MDMK and Left parties signifying the sorry state of the Opposition.
- S Sadanand