What can one say about Sushma Swaraj’s remark that the blasts in Bangalore and Ahmedabad were to divert attention from the cash for votes scandal, and that it was a ploy to raise a bogey about the BJP to woo back the Muslims whom the Congress had alienated because of the nuclear deal. Bilge, as a friend, Sunil Varma, describes it. When, in 2004, she threatened to shave her head and sleep on the floor if Sonia Gandhi became Prime Minister, it was just very funny (not the least because she became the butt of ribald jokes by journalists even as they were waiting for the BJP briefing to start at the party headquarters). But this is not funny. It is disgusting. It is sickening.
What it brings to mind is the United States immediately after the 9/11 attacks and former President Bill Clinton immediately declaring all support for incumbent President George Bush. No finger pointing, no blame game. Dignified support. Bush’s post-9/11 policies may be attacked by the Democrats but at the time of crisis, there was no name-calling.
What’s surprising is how the BJP is not distancing itself from her remarks, with its top leaders preferring to keep quiet. Are we to believe, then, that the party endorses her views?
But why blame Swaraj alone? She has only taken to an extreme and disgusting degree what all our politicians are adept at – blame the other party, especially the ruling party, for everything that goes wrong. So what if when your party was in power you did exactly what the present one is doing. We are all reacting now because of the words she used, but after every blast in any state, there is an immediate cry from the opposition in that state that the government has failed in its duty and should resign. So every time there is a blast the BJP will accuse the Congress of going soft on terror (forgetting what it did in the Kandahar hijack case) and every time there is a communal riot when the NDA is ruling, the Congress will blame the BJP for it. This cuts across politicians and parties. What can you do with a bunch of politicians who politicise even the Nithari killings and the Aarushi-Hemraj murder case?
Look at economic policy. Economic policy has a strongly political angle to it, but how can stands change depending on where a party is sitting –the ruling or the opposition benches? But that is precisely what happens. The NDA is now saying it will not support the pending economic reform legislation in Parliament. This is absolutely ridiculous, especially since the BJP-led NDA had done the groundwork for many of the legislations.
There are so many examples of opportunistic flip flops. The BJP opposed the opening up of the insurance sector when it was in the opposition. When it came to power, it passed the required legislation. Yashwant Sinha, as NDA finance minister, worked really hard to get the VAT system in place. He couldn’t complete it for various reasons. But minute the NDA loses the elections, he starts opposing the implementation of VAT. When the NDA makes a success of the privatisation programme, Manmohan Singh, as an opposition member, questions the ideological basis of a policy that he himself initiated when he was finance minister. As opposition leader in Punjab Amarinder Singh lambasted the Akali Dal’s freebies, especially free power to farmers. A few years after becoming chief minister, he himself did the same. One could go on and on with similar examples.
There’s another curious phenomenon – don’t take the same view as your opponent, even if the view is something you believe in. Take the dilemma of the Left in the run up to the trust vote. They were worried at being seen as voting with the BJP. If you strongly believe in something, does it matter that your arch enemy also believes in it and will you stop fighting for it just because of that? So the issue on which you withdrew support to the government suddenly became less important than being seen to be on the same side as a party you hate?
That is the only problem I had Omar Abdullah’s otherwise stupendous speech, especially his statement - `they (the left) want me to side with the BJP and bring down this government’. Does that mean that tomorrow if the BJP does something which is right in his opinion, he will keep quiet about it or oppose it just because the BJP is also on that side?