Coal your Anna-giri, BJP, go back to Parliament

Why would a street-smart party like the BJP expend its hard won collateral as the only political outfit that could emerge as an alternative to the beleagured Congress at the centre, with these pointless antics in parliament?

Is Lal Krishna Advani, once again, tilting at the proverbial prime ministerial windmill, hoping that come 2014, he would be in with a chance as the head of what could probably be the single largest party at the centre? Power, the ultimate aphrodisiac.

But before that he has to see off a certain rival and Advani has just the strategy in place, to thwart the emergence of Narendra Modi. The Gujarat strongman, who is Nitin Gadkari’s choice to lead the BJP over the ageing and often querulous patriarch, has made no bones about his intention to wrap up Gujarat for a third time, and use that as a springboard to launch himself at the centre.

Far-fetched? Not to be discounted completely, folks. Particularly the second theory doing the rounds that could be even more pie in the sky. That has Advani, hell-bent on getting all 117 BJP MPs to quit every single joint parliamentary committee there is, and if that doesn’t force an embarrassed prime minister into tendering his own resignation, then he would lead the BJP parliamentarians into quitting their parliamentary seats held by the party.

This would be the ultimate tyaag — Advani playing Pied Piper, the inner voice, to the saffron lemmings, appealing to their conscience, pulling the levers that would force an early election.

In other words, ready to sacrifice the party at the centre, rather than have Narendra Modi emerge as the man who would lead the BJP to victory in 2014. Gadkari or no Gadkari, Advani wants to make sure that Narendrabhai waits his turn.

A little extreme? Advani insiders say it is. They believe that Advani, known for his caution wouldn’t want the party to commit hara-kiri for his sake. And, despite the obtuse but positive pre-poll surveys, ( still 18 months away) that see the BJP winning hands down if elections are held today, there are no guarantees that the people of India, would not punish the party that removed the one man who could have brought the country, reeling from an economic downturn, back from the brink, But can the BJP ensure that all 117 MPs are re-elected if the nation is forced to make a choice?

Could the current, sustained anti-corruption campaign — and if you notice, it’s almost like the BJP central spokespersons are reading from a prepared script — get results, and ultimately diminish the Congress presence in parliament? And with the BJP unable to tap into the people’s sentiments thus far, what tools would they use to reel in the so far apathetic anti-Congress vote? While you do wonder if it’s not the usual Delhi conspiracy theories doing the rounds, (a disease that besets most capitals) it’s not every day that you see astute legal eagles like Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad begin a shouting match that is obvious (at least to me, if not to you) will not precipitate the prime minister’s resignation. The louder they shout, the more the Congress digs its heels in.

That’s why a third theory could possibly be the real thing, and truer to the real BJP game-plan. Advani would be the last man to let the BJP MPs fall on their own sword. He’s no Mark Antony. But if there’s one thing, the country’s main opposition leader has learnt, it is this — when the Anna Hazares and the Baba Ramdevs of this world emerged from their respective rural obscure backwater and sought to claim a spot on the national space, by luring a section of that audience with threatened fasts unto death — and yoga lessons — the BJP realised that the anti-corruption mantle, one that they should have capitalised on as the scams mounted, was being rapidly co-opted by relative unknowns. These were men with no previous record in politics, no political parties to speak of, no grass-roots organisations, no ideology. Phantoms, boosted by byte-hungry electronic media that fed into the frenzy of hate that permeates anti-establishment politics, the unklnowns fade as as quickly as public interest wanes, and as as fast fades out.

The BJP realised their grievous error - they had ceded valuable space by not being pro-active enough on the many skeletons that tumbled out of assorted closets.

Clearly, this, the inexplicable stalling of parliament, was the BJP’s pitch to grab the anti-corruption vote, edge out the Annas and the Ramdevs, and prepare the ground for their own comeback in 2014. It makes perfect sense. Even if it meant they had to hitch their bandwagon to Subramaniam Swamy’s patently obvious ‘Get-Chidambaram’ campaign.

How long the party can live with the tag of obstructionists, as the party that will not let parliament function is another matter. They could buckle and troop back in, eat crow and let parliament convene while they themselves stay away, as their face-saver this week? As for the coal scam itself, if the story is exactly as the BJP says it is, then the coal minister — in this case, the prime minister — should be held to account. In Parliament. And if crony capitalism is rampant — it is, it is — then the government of the day must be taken to task. In Parliament. And another thing — if the BJP chief ministers of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh recommended coal allocations instead of coal auctions, then let them be brought into the ambit of a probe. Under Parliament.

Most of us have had enough of the fat cats in the private sector — and the babus who tell them how to skim the profits — getting any fatter than they are already. But if there is no proof of wrong-doing beyond the mathematical wizardry of a certain comptroller, this is where the BJP must allow it to end. Until they can find another poll winning stick to beat the government with. How many of us buy the coal story?

India’s greatest asset is its democracy. Raucous. Imperfect, Loud. Warts and all. It allows the wrong-doer — as well as the wronged, sadly — to be put on the mat. If any lessons are to be learned this week amid all this din, it must be about accountability, and the manner in which the greater India — beyond its political faultlines— has heaved to the defense of the north-easterners, be they Bodo or Muslim, (interestingly, minorities both) to ensure the blowback from anti-national elements attempting to polarise our nation, is doused at source.

If the BJP must rally to a cause that will win them back Raisina Hill, let it be the integration of the north into the mainstream. Let them not succumb to the need to play cynical vote-bank politics that it accuses the rival Congress of perpetuating. Equating Kashmir with Assam!

The state’s home minister Ashok is in Guwahati to instil confidence in the people who fled in fear and panic, that Karnataka will ensure the safety of all of its residents, native Kannadigas as well as thousands from other parts of this country who live and work here.

Fact is, its easy to poison the atmosphere. Far more difficult to clear the air. Easy to consolidate your vote banks and pit one nervous minority against another than to heal the rifts. The Shettar government’s appeal to the north-easterners to return shows his heart is in the right place. That he will not be another Modi and allow any one caste or community to wreak mayhem.

Coal, not enough to tar and feather everyone and everything.

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