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Who said the BJP is faring bad? - The Free Press Journal

M. V. Kamath ()
November 19, 1998

Title: Who said the BJP is faring bad?
Author: M. V. Kamath
Publication: The Free Press Journal
Date: November 19, 1998

The fight between the opposition Congress and the ruling
Bharatiya Janata Party never mind their supporters in other
parties - is now on and it promises to be bitter. In February/
March earlier this year the Congress was effectively disowned by
the nation and for very good reasons. The Congress Party had
become synonymous with wholesale corruption and it justly got the
order of the boot. Having lost its mandate to rule, the Congress
has been licking its chops and waiting for a chance to topple the
government. One of its most dubious supporters is the CPM, as
destructive a party as ever existed in India. And the CPM has
persuaded the CPI to help the Congress return to power. With
friends such as these, the Congress would need no enemies. At
the same time, J. Jayalalitha, once described by Ramakrishna
Hegde as the 'queen of corruption' is making eyes at the
Congress, even as she is facing the courts. It would be hilarious
if the Congress accepts the lady in its fold. Apart from
becoming the height of impropriety, the event would seal the fate
of the Congress in Tamil Nadu.

But the immediate fight is in the four States of Rajasthan,
Delhi, Madhya Pradesh and Mizoram, but effectively the fight is
in the first three. Some erroneously have named the elections as
a referendum on the BJP rule at the centre. That is far from the
truth. It is nothing of the kind. State legislators are voted in
on issues pertaining to and relevant to the states. To say so is
not to be apologetic to BJP rule at the centre. The BJP has no
reason to be apologetic as some would like to make out. Atal
Behari Vajpayee is certainly not 'Mr Flop" as Outlook magazine
has tried to make out in a cover story. On the contrary he has
scored a major victory over the United States, the only Super
Power and its "running dogs' Canada, Britain. Japan and China,
not to mention minor countries like Australia. Consider what has
happened. The United States demands arrogantly that India sign
the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) immediately, or face the
consequences. Delhi ignores the warning and goes its way.
Britain, Canada, Japan and China make loud noises. India ignores
them. The United States applies sanctions, against India and
Japan follows suit. India does not mind. Five months have passed.
Japan is trying to back-pedal, saying its first reaction to
Pokhran II was a result of domestic compulsions and can't India
and Japan be friends again? What does China say? The, Chinese
Ambassador in New Delhi has called for opening "a new chapter" in
Sino-Indian relations. New Delhi and Beijing, the Ambassador
told the Indian Association of International Relations should
also jointly play a larger role to promote global peace and
development. Beijing has forgotten the angry words it said about
Pokhran II. Britain, too, is making friendly noises. And the
United States has quietly lifted a number of sanctions. It is
expected that more will be lifted in due course. And after the
first round of Indo-French strategic dialogue held in Delhi on
October 29, it became clear that France is ready to accept
nuclear India. And all this at a time when Congress President
Sonia Gandhi was taking swipes at the BJP government on the
nuclear issue, a shameless exercise in subservience to the United
States and the, West. What the Congress and the United Front
governments could not do in thirty-six years, the BJP government
dared to affect in 36 hours of coming to power. Who, then, is 'Mr

For over a hundred and fifty years there had been a dispute over
the Cauvery waters. That dispute was effectively settled by the
BJP government, considering that Tamil Nadu is ruled by the DMK,
Karnataka by the Janata Dal and Kerala by a left-oriented
coalition. Vajpayee is a flop? What flop?

On two major issues, one domestic and another international the
BJP has come out limbs up. For all that it has been accused of
many sins. They merit discussion.

When the BJP formed a coalition government it was presumed that
it would have a hard time. Brazen, calculating and worse, some
of the coalition partners, especially AIADMK's Jayalalitha sought
to blackmail the BJP by threatening withdrawal of support if it
did not bow down to the AIADMK's wishes The BJP stood its ground.
The Shiromani Akali Dal similarly threatened withdrawal of
support over the silly issue of a Sikh-majority district being
tagged on to a proposed Uttaranchal State. A Committee chaired by
George Fernandes is looking into the matter. Tempers have cooled
down. Mamata Bannerjee, similarly, has been behaving childishly
over the issue of price rise. No doubt she is trying to safeguard
her own hold in West Bengal. With these distractions how on earth
can any lead party in a coalition govern single-mindedly? For one
thing, right from Day One, the Opposition parties were showing
that they would not allow the BJP government to function. The
first hundred days, in fact, were and could not have been more
frustrating to the BJP. It was being harassed at every step.
Added to that was Prime Minister Vajpayee's dispirited looks. It
was as if he just wasn't there. Many people even suspected him of
suffering from terminal illness. He was obviously reassured in
New York by the doctors there that he was quite well and would
live long because since his New York visit he has begun to perk
up and has become his normal self. That is a good and healthy
sign. But the BJP's worst detractors are the bureaucrats and it
is their lassitude, by and large, that has been responsible for
the current rise in prices of basic consumer items like onions,
potatoes and tomatoes. An alert bureaucracy would have been
quick to realise that because of unseasonal rains and other
factors like commitment to export, there would be a shortage of
onions. This was an issue of crisis management. The bureaucracy
failed the government badly. It just did not act in time, giving
the BJP government a bad name. If a party - any party has to work
through a hostile bureaucracy, its ability to function
effectively will be severely hampered. And that is what happened
in the matter of the onion crisis. One also suspects that the
Congress Department of Dirty Tricks has also been very busy. The
charge has been made that it was the BJP-oriented small trader
and businessmen who is responsible for the onion crisis. That is
a stupid charge to make. Is it seriously proposed that the BJP
will cut its own neck to enable its supporters to make money? And
aren't there small traders in the Congress camp as well? And
can't it just as well be argued that it was the Congress hoarder
who was out to create scarcity conditions just to damn the BJP?
The scare over common salt was equally ludicrous and clearly
shows the hand of the Opposition.

There are opposing views on how the Congress and the BJP will
fare in Madhya Pradesh, Delhi and Rajasthan. Delhi was getting
out of hand and the BJP leadership had to step in and install
Sushma Swaraj into the Chief Minister's gadi to contain the
damage. Delhi has seen enough of power shortage and crime to
justify firm action. BJP may not romp through in Delhi, but it
will still emerge as the majority party. How will it be in
Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh? There have been revolts from
within both the Congress and BJP camps, but the ruling BJP in
Rajasthan claims that it is better placed than its main rival in
the run-up to the coming State elections. The claim is based on
the argument that the BJP could carry out a more balanced
distribution of tickets than the Congress, there being fewer
party rebels in the BJP than in the Congress. As the BJP State
unit president Raghuveer Singh Kaushal is quoted as saying: "We
were confident of a victory. Now we are re-assured". At the same
time the ruling BJP and the Rashtriya Lok Dal (RLD) have reached
an understanding on sharing of seats in Rajasthan - a sensible

Congressmen and Leftists have been making the charge that the
"communalism" of the BJP is showing. The insistence on singing
Saraswati Vandana at an official function in Delhi has been
quoted as an example. The BJP has met this charge by saying that
the recitation of the Vandana has been a common feature even
during the days of the United Front and even under Nehru Raj. In
any event that could only influence that Muslim vote on which the
BJP has never banked anyway. Very likely, the behaviour of the
Congress and the Leftists has angered many Hindus to the point of
persuading more of them to vote for the BJP. An upstart Congress
President and anti-Hindu Left leadership are not going to wean
away Hindu votes from the BJP.

To what extent the price rise which is a fact of life - and the
shocking rise of onion and vegetable prices will affect the voter
it is hard to say. The ordinary rural voter is not likely to be
influenced by nuclear diplomacy, as he would be by the price
rise, but should the BJP fare badly, it would have learn the
first lesson that the way to power lies through the voter's

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