Tuesday May 22, 2018
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Congress’ tactical mistakes: Lalitgate

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By Amulya Ganguli

By allowing parliament to function on the penultimate day of the monsoon session and participating for a while in a debate on the Lalit Modi affair, the Congress’ mother-and-son leadership has shown it is something of a novice where tactics are concerned.

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Had the leaders allowed a debate immediately after the “improprieties” of Sushma Swaraj came to light, they might have been able to score more political points than what they did last Wednesday.

A debate on the external affairs minister’s procedural lapses soon after the news broke would have caught the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) off guard, especially because it would have had to find convincing explanations for Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje’s apparent favouritism towards the former Indian Premium League (IPL) supremo.

But by refusing to let parliament function till Sushma Swaraj and Raje resigned along with the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the Congress let the BJP have enough time to gather its wits and formulate the strategy of a counter-attack.

As much was evident from the external affairs minister’s belligerent speech in the house which matched Rahul Gandhi’s aggressiveness. The result was a draw, with a clear victory eluding both sides.

While Rahul Gandhi was unable to substantiate his charge that the minister had committed an act of criminality by secretly helping a fugitive who, according to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, was not legally a fugitive at all, Sushma Swaraj had to go back to the Bofors scam (1987) and the Bhopal disaster (1984) to hold her ground.

If anything, the slanging match showed the Congress that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones at others.

It is possible, of course, that the BJP would have raked up the past even if the debate was held on the first day of the session.

But the Congress would not have earned the reputation in the meantime of being anti-development by holding parliament to ransom, which has led to an unprecedented appeal by the corporate sector to the political class to let parliament function.

Even if India Inc’s intervention has been criticized by the opposition parties, they cannot be unaware that the concerns of the “haves” are shared by a wide section of the “have-nots”, who are not amused by the slogan-shouting and placard-waving.

Congress leader Anand Sharma’s assertion that the BJP as an opposition party had also derailed legislative business cannot be an adequate justification for the Grand Old Party’s disruptive tactics.

However, one beneficial fallout from this sad episode can be that the politicians in future may refrain from indulging in such tit-for-tat theatrics which further tarnish their image.

There is little doubt that the Congress decision to let Sushma Swaraj speak notwithstanding the din created by Sonia Gandhi’s and Rahul Gandhi’s storm-troopers was the result of a growing belief in the party, which was first voiced by Shashi Tharoor, that the Congress was painting itself into a corner as the reluctance of several opposition parties to support its rowdy conduct showed.

It is this dissatisfaction which has led to the first signs of a rival group which is distancing itself from the Congress and the Left. As much was evident from the attendance at a meeting convened by Nationalist Congress Party (NAC) leader Sharad Pawar, of bigwigs like the Samajwadi Party’s Mulayam Singh Yadav, the Janata Dal-United’s Sharad Yadav, the National Conference’s Farooq Abdullah and Trinamool Congress’ Mamata Banerjee.

If the BJP succeeds in securing their support for the passage of at least the Goods and Services Bill, if not the amended land law, during a special session, the Congress will find itself isolated with only its ally of the 2004-08 period, the Left, giving it company.

It is obvious that by taking an extreme position on the ministerial resignations, the Congress has left itself no escape route.

A possible reason for this tactical error is that the party’s present leadership has never faced a serious challenge till now. As a result it is at a loss as to how to deal with one except by creating a ruckus.

Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi rode to power with their band of courtiers in 2004 because, as Atal Bihari Vajpayee believed, the BJP lost because of the revulsion caused by the 2002 riots.

Then, for the next 10 years, the Congress had an easy run as the BJP became something of a ‘kati patang’ or a drifting kite, as a fellow-traveller, Arun Shourie, said.

However, the abrupt end last year of the Congress’ reign seemingly puzzled and angered the party, and especially its first family, which is probably afraid that its grip on the organization may slacken in the absence of a fighting spirit since it is feudal loyalty which holds the outfit together rather than any clear ideology other than a vague socialism.

But the mistake which Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi have made is not trying to unite the opposition parties on issues on which there can be a wide measure of agreement.

The land law is one such subject, but the mother-and-son duo took the wrong turn when they insisted on demanding the resignations of the alleged wrong-doers first and holding discussions later.

(IANS)

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Karnataka Polls: BJP On The Way to Win, Congress May Get Hard Defeat

Any party or grouping will need 113 of the total 224 seats to secure a majority in the Assembly. Polling did not take place in two constituencies on Saturday.

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A state of 60 million people, Karnataka is home to the Information Technology hub of Benguluru and was ruled by the BJP once before.
Congress may have to taste defeat in Karnataka, VOA

The BJP was on Tuesday set to return to power in its southern bastion Karnataka as its candidates crossed the half-way mark in vote count, stunning and ousting the ruling Congress and leaving the JD-S at the third spot.

Noisy celebrations broke out in party offices in Bengaluru, New Delhi and across Karnataka as Bharatiya Janata Party nominees were on the victory lap in 118 of the 222 constituencies which voted on Saturday.

This was a dramatic jump from the 40 seats the BJP won five years ago.

The Congress, desperate to retain power in the state amid shrinking appeal nationally, suffered major blows and was ahead only in 62 seats, with Chief Minister Siddaramaiah trailing in both the constituencies he contested: Badami and Chamundeshwari.

The Congress leader was way behind G.T Deve Gowda of the Janata Dal-Secular in Chamundeshwari, Election Commission officials said. And after leading initially, Siddaramaiah fell behind B.R. Sriramulu of the BJP in Badami.

In contrast, the BJP’s Chief Ministerial face B.S. Yeddyurappa was ahead of his Congress rival by more than 11,000 votes in Shikaripura.

Energy Minister and Congress leader D.K. Shivakumar said that the numbers indicated that his party was on the way out after five years in power.

Any party or grouping will need 113 of the total 224 seats to secure a majority in the Assembly. Polling did not take place in two constituencies on Saturday.

The BJP was overjoyed. “We are in a jubilant mood because we have crossed the half-way mark. We are confident of winning,” spokesman S. Shantharam told IANS.

BJP activists and leaders celebrated noisily in both Bengaluru and New Delhi, waving party flags and shouting slogans hailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi, their main vote-getter, and party President Amit Shah.

There were also celebrations outside the residence of Yeddyurappa, who has been Chief Minister earlier too.

Of the 2,654 candidates in the fray for the May 12 Karnataka Assembly elections, at least 883 are crorepatis and 645 have criminal cases against them, said two watchdogs after analysing their affidavits filed with the Election Commission (EC).
Karnataka Polls counting suggests big win for BJP, wikimedia commons

The Janata Dal-Secular of former Prime Minister H.D. Dewe Gowda, which has been expected to play the role of a kingmaker in the event of a hung Assembly, was leading in 40 seats — the same number it won five years ago.

As the vote count progressed, BJP leaders became assertive, saying they were confident of taking power again in Karnataka while Congress leaders began to speak about the possibility of an alliance with the JD-S.

BJP leader and Union Minister Sadanand Gowda said that there was no question of any alliance.
Union minister Prakash Javadekar, who is in charge of Karnataka, met BJP President Amit Shah in New Delhi.

Analysts said the BJP was leading in Lingayat dominated seats and the JD-S in Vokkaliga dominated areas.

Expectations of a BJP victory in Karnataka lifted the key Indian equity indices during the mid-morning trade session on Tuesday.

Modi’s Performance: Survey Reports That Significant Number of People Rate Performance of Modi Government as Below Expectations

According to market observers, broadly subdued Asian indices and disappointing macro-economic inflation data points released on Monday capped some gains.

Sector-wise, healthy buying was witnessed in banking, capital goods, metals, consumer durables and automobile stocks.

The Sensex has so far touched a high of 35,993.53 points and a low of 35,498.83 points during the intra-day trade. (IANS)