| Advani: Volte face
New Delhi, Dec. 23: The BJP’s strident stand against the expulsion of the tainted MPs has puzzled even its insiders and underscored the growing distance between the party and ally Janata Dal (United).
After suspending its six accused MPs the day the cash-for-queries scandal broke, the BJP had promised a tough stand against them if the charges are proved.
Today, while the Dal (U) joined the ruling alliance in voting to expel the offending members, the BJP chose to walk out of the House. The Dal (U) later seemed to assert a new independence by sharing the dais with the Left at a rally.
BJP chief L.K. Advani told the Lok Sabha the MPs had been guilty of mere “stupidity” and expulsion was too harsh a punishment for them. “The punishment is not commensurate with their crime.”
The party leadership seemed rather confused, with the deputy leader in the Lok Sabha, V.K. Malhotra, insisting that the BJP was all for expulsion, his only grouse being that the MPs never got a chance to defend themselves.
“We are opposing the manner in which the MPs were expelled. Proper procedure has to be followed,” Malhotra said.
The only plausible explanation being offered is “arithmetic”. The BJP is the principal loser in both the bribery-on-camera scams that have recently rocked Parliament.
With today’s expulsions, the BJP’s tally in the Lok Sabha has gone down by five. If the House also expels the accused in the bribes-for-projects scam, the party’s tally would fall by a further two.
Dal (U) leaders aren’t passing up the opportunity to scoff at a once-powerful ally to which they had played second fiddle through the six years of National Democratic Alliance rule.
“They are scared of the by-elections. They want to generate sympathy for the expelled MPs so that they can retain the seats,” a Dal (U) leader said. “They have no idea of the popular mood. The BJP is losing its allies on crucial issues.”
In a show of defiance, Dal (U) leaders Sharad Yadav and Nitish Kumar later shared a platform with V.P. Singh, the Left and Rashtriya Lok Dal ' an ally of the Samajwadi Party in Uttar Pradesh ' at a farmers’ rally in Delhi.
Inside Parliament, Yadav, Prabhunath Singh and Rajiv Ranjan Singh “Lallan” came down strongly on the tainted MPs.
If Yadav advised his BJP colleagues not to split hairs on points of procedure, Singh reminded the ally how K. Natwar Singh and George Fernandes had been “forced” to resign before the Volcker and Tehelka charges were established. “Their faces were not even on camera,” he said.
Nitish met the Lok Sabha Speaker and parliamentary affairs minister Priya Ranjan Das Munshi, with the latter insisting they had only discussed Bihar’s development. Dal (U) sources, however, said Nitish’s presence in Delhi was meant to ensure that Fernandes ' seen as closer to the BJP ' would not try and “dilute” the party’s stand.
Earlier, despite Fernandes’s efforts, the Dal (U) had refused to toe the BJP’s line on SC/ST quotas in unaided educational institutions, and voted for the bill.