New Delhi, Sept. 28: The BJP thinks it’s retribution time for the Congress.
A day after Rahul Gandhi ripped apart an ordinance reportedly conceived by the Congress’s core committee and midwifed by the Manmohan Singh-headed cabinet, the BJP believes it is “only fair” it laps up the ruling party’s “power conflicts” for a while.
For months, the BJP has been offering apologies for and quasi-defences against the Congress’s almost daily jibes on its factional quarrels.
All eyes and ears are now on the speech Narendra Modi is expected to make in Delhi tomorrow morning. The Gujarat chief minister, quick to react to political convulsions outside his state, has said nothing on Rahul’s outburst, not even by way of a tweet.
Sources said that in the days before he was anointed the BJP’s Prime Minister candidate, Modi would have made instant cutting comments on the episode. They claimed if he has decided to morph into a “statesman”, it is unlikely he would say anything more than Rahul’s criticism being an “affront” to Singh’s authority.
Modi has already recorded his reservations about Singh’s talks tomorrow with Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif against the backdrop of the recent killing of soldiers and civilians in Jammu. In a tweet, he wondered if there was any point in “rushing” into talks.
Today, BJP’s Rajya Sabha deputy leader Ravi Shankar Prasad was deployed to sustain the party’s critique of the Congress and specifically of Rahul and Singh. He said the Prime Minister should quit as soon as he lands from the US.
“Of course, the Prime Minister alone knows what he will and what he should do. But if he has to salvage what remains of his conscience, he should go straight to Rashtrapati Bhavan on landing and resign,” said Prasad.
Recalling how A.P. Venkateswaran had quit as foreign secretary in 1987 hours after Rajiv Gandhi announced in a news conference that India would soon have a new one, Prasad asked: “If a self-respecting foreign secretary could heed the call of his conscience so swiftly, then why not a Prime Minister?”
Prasad also recalled a sharp exchange on corruption between Singh and BJP leader Arun Jaitley in the last Parliament session and the Prime Minister’s charge that the BJP maligned him frequently.
Prasad said: “We never cross the limits of civility while attacking you. My first question to the Prime Minister, therefore, is we have never called you and your actions as nonsense, we never said your bills and ordinances should be torn to shreds.
“Manmohan Singh invariably speaks his mind out 40 or 50,000 feet above mean sea level. The last time he said he was ready to work under Rahul Gandhi (on his way back from a G20 summit). In spite of the Prime Minister’s wish, Rahul Gandhi has the temerity to call his cabinet decision as nonsense. So Manmohan Singh, where do you stand?”
The BJP spokesperson harked back to the defence of the ordinance put up by Union ministers P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal and Manish Tewari and asked if they would eat their words now.
Sibal had said reportedly that the ordinance had done what the apex court wanted. Prasad’s riposte was: “How did he even know and understand what was in the Supreme Court’s mind?”
Chidambaram had claimed there was “consensus” over the bill. “So are you now surprised, Mr Chidambaram?” Prasad asked.
Tewari had urged the BJP to pipe down its criticism as “unsolicited advice is neither appreciated nor taken seriously”. Prasad asked Tewari whether he construed Rahul’s comments as “serious” or “unsolicited advice”.