New Delhi, Aug. 23: The Congress’s strategy of using “hearsay” emanating from a certain BJP quarter to spread the word that its Lok Sabha MPs were set to resign en masse and force mid-term polls has put the Opposition party on the defensive.
Sushma Swaraj, the leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, has convened a meeting of non-Congress parties on Monday morning to “get a sense” of what they “really” think of the BJP’s approach to the CAG report on coal block allocations.
The BJP has refused to discuss the issue in Parliament, insisting that nothing less than the Prime Minister’s resignation would do.
Sushma approached the Left parties and Lalu Prasad’s RJD through Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
“I will go and place my point of view,” said Mulayam, adding that “corruption” was an issue the non-Congress groups could not “ignore” even if they were on the same page as the Congress on “secularism”.
But he disagreed with the BJP on the demand for the Prime Minister’s head, favouring a debate followed by a statement by Manmohan Singh.
“If we are not satisfied with the PM’s statement, then we can think of ways of taking the issue forward. But the PM should be heard out,” Mulayam said.
On Wednesday, after Parliament was paralysed for the second day as the BJP insisted on the Prime Minister’s resignation and later walked out of a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) meeting on 2G, word that the BJP was planning to pull out its MPs from parliamentary panels and then get the resignations of all 114 went viral.
The Congress put a spin to the speculation that instead of dissolving Parliament and calling a mid-term poll, the Election Commission could hold bypolls in the 114 vacant seats.
If the anti-incumbency factor were to work, the BJP would lose “at least” half the seats, it said. “That would create a ‘maahol’ (ambience) in our favour. We would face the 2014 battle much more confidently,” a source said.
BJP sources admitted that the Congress’s argument was “not entirely baseless”.
Emboldened by in-house surveys and the “findings” of “objective” pollsters that said the Congress would be down to an all-time low if an election were held by next year, L.K. Advani decided this was the best time to go for the “kill”. His present confidants, Sushma Swaraj and Yashwant Sinha, agreed, a source said.
But when Sinha sounded out some MPs, they protested that this Lok Sabha has a life up to mid-2014 and there was “no urgency” to fight an election and face possible defeat. The “idea exchange” happened in Parliament’s Central Hall, with the Congress savouring every tid-bit of information trickling out of the BJP.
A senior UPA leader said this was discussed and “dissected” in the co-ordination committee meeting last night.
At a news conference today, Sinha debunked as “speculation of the purest variety” the suggestion that all BJP MPs were set to resign.
Murli Manohar Joshi, an MP from Varanasi, looked amused and asked: “Why don’t our Rajya Sabha MPs resign for a change?”
The BJP also put off its proposal to quit the 2G JPC. Sinha said their next move would depend on the response of panel chairperson P.C. Chacko of the Congress.
The political sub-text for Advani’s keenness on an early poll lies in the BJP’s changing equations. Advani, like colleagues Joshi, Sinha and Sushma, is uncomfortable with the thought of party president Nitin Gadkari getting a second term.
The possible emergence of Narendra Modi on the national stage after the Gujarat election is another prospect that fazed this line-up. An early election, sources said, might put paid to the RSS’s gameplan of nurturing Gadkari and Modi.