The real issues lay unattended while the BJP and opposition talked about others
You reap what you sow. The Opposition in Maharashtra did exactly the same in the budget session of the state legislature which will end early this week. When it came to grilling the government on issues of governance such as mitigation of unprecedented drought, the opposition went ahead with raising emotional issues that gave the BJP ample bandwidth to get even with the Congress and Nationalist Congress Party.
At the end, the real issues remained largely unattended both by the ruling coalition and the opposition. The BJP escaped unhurt and successfully created impression that the Opposition didn’t have teeth of steel. The BJP used all its brilliance to surcharge the atmosphere with a nationalistic rhetoric that left self-proclaimed secular forces exposed in the matters of legislative business and minority politics. Bulk of credit for turning the tables on opposition should go to Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis, who said he was willing to ‘sacrifice’ his office for the sake of ‘Bharat Mata’. He punctuated his replies to debates with a high emotional quotient that the opposition tried to balance unsuccessfully.
The match that began on a faulty note, thanks to absence of coordination between opposition leaders who have egos larger than big size water reservoirs they had promised to build when they were in power, reached a strategic stage when an AIMIM legislator from Byculla, Advocate Waris Pathan was suspended. Pathan had refused to chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’. The poser to Pathan had come from a BJP legislator during a debate on the governor’s speech. All parties including, the Congress and NCP ganged up with the BJP and Sena asking for action against Pathan, who was ultimately suspended for the session. The Congress led from the front, unmindful of a message its gesture would carry to the Muslim community which is fast becoming AIMIM’s trusted vote bank. Till recently, the Congress had been claiming ‘ownership’ of Muslim votes.
The Congress, in particular, realised too late a trap that the BJP had laid and executed with ease. As expected, the Congress high command did not approve of state leaders who promptly joined hands with the BJP for punishing an ‘anti-national’. The seniors demanded a damage control exercise in the state. Local leaders swung into action after Fadnavis made a statement that the people who do not chant ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ should not stay in India. The Congress asked for the CM’s apology in the house. They wondered whether Fadnavis represented the CM’s office or the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh while making such a damning statement.
While Congress ranted against the BJP and CM for attempts of making ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ slogan a parameter for measuring one’s love for the country, it failed in elaborating on its posturing in Pathan’s suspension.
Does the Congress imply that Pathan and his party do not represent a Muslim majority? If the Congress says that the BJP had toed RSS ideology in punishing Pathan, should it not tell Muslims as to where it derived willingness for demanding Pathan’s suspension? Will the Congress answer or simply admit to the BJP’s trap?
Having done with what the BJP said was an attempt to appease minorities in the ‘Bharat Mata’ episode, the Congress and NCP later targeted the Shiv Sena over conducting a ritual for purifying the waters of a historic lake in Mahad where Dr BR Ambedkar had led ‘banned’ Dalits to draw water from. This allegation too smacked of communal politics that would fan sentiments of Ambedkar’s followers. The debate ended up wasting valuable legislative time. A ruckus over an incident in Pune’s Ferguson College did not yield much for the Congress-NCP combine.
The BJP sat comfortably through allegations and repeated stallings of the houses. What more should any government want when the people want it to deliver in issues of public interest under pressure from the opposition?
Dharmendra Jore is political editor, mid-day. He tweets @dharmendrajore. Send your feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org