| A relative of a victim of the 1984 anti-Sikh riots in tears at a protest in Delhi. (Reuters)
New Delhi, Aug. 9: Yesterday, the BJP looked lost when the Nanavati Commission’s report on the 1984 anti-Sikh violence and the government’s action taken report were tabled in Parliament.
The party, which normally would have stalled the House on the issue as the riots are a big weapon in its arsenal against the Congress, did not even force a short adjournment.
Asked why the party was so defensive, a veteran MP said: “If we disrupt the House, people accuse us of being destructive. If we stay put, we are criticised for being passive. What are we to do'”
Twenty-four hours later, the BJP woke up from its slumber. Sources admitted that the wake-up call came from the “adverse” media perception.
However, it remains to be seen how far the BJP will go in its protests as it is defensive over the Gujarat riots.
Both Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani got into combat gear today. Addressing MPs in a meeting this morning, Advani, according to parliamentary party spokesman V.K. Malhotra, described the two reports as “black blots on our democracy and humanist tradition” and urged them to raise it in Parliament.
The deputy leader of the BJP in the Rajya Sabha, Sushma Swaraj, accused the Congress of “selective minority appeasement”. At a rally, she said that since Independence, the Congress’s policy has been to “appease” only Muslims and “ignore” the other minorities.
Sources said an added catalyst was the Akali Dal, whose MPs were reportedly miffed with the BJP for “caving in tamely” yesterday. BJP sources said Akali “sentiments” could not be ignored because the party was their second oldest ally after the Shiv Sena.
The BJP has decided to focus on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and play on the perception that as a “Sardar” he could do nothing on the action taken report of the government, which has virtually exonerated the Congress leaders named in the probe panel’s report.
Vajpayee gave the cue when he said: “Those who have been named by the commission and those who have been accused by it should resign from the council of ministers.”
Asked if Singh should step down, he said: “He is also responsible for the ATR.”
Malhotra, who demanded Singh’s resignation, did not mince words. “Did he pass the ATR under Sonia Gandhi’s pressure'” he asked. “The late Rajiv Gandhi justified the violence saying if a big tree comes down, the earth will shake.”
The spokesman also blasted the Left and the other UPA constituents for “backing” the government. “All these parties which had cried themselves hoarse (in 1984) are in the cabinet. Why did they endorse the ATR' The Left is either silent or helping the government indirectly. They have to answer the people,” he said.
The BJP and NDA partners have issued whips directing their MPs to be present when the adjournment motion is discussed tomorrow.