Much has been said and written about the logjam and functioning of the Indian parliament. There are views and counterviews with both sides trying to justify their stands. The responsibility for running the parliament is that of the government in power, in present case it is the NDA government led by BJP and Mr Narendra Modi. Have they done enough to break the deadlock that has been created? Frankly they have done very little to solve the problem. It is not to say that all they need is to agree to the demands of the opposition and resolve the matter. That would be too simplistic a solution for a rather complex problem. No government of the day wants to lose face and more so a government led by BJP. It does appear that the BJP high command would rather behave like an ostrich rather than admit that two of their senior colleagues have made mistakes. This stance is neither good for the party nor for the nation.
Is Ms Sushma Swaraj guilty of impropriety? It would indeed need a new definition for the word ‘impropriety’ in case one answers this question in the negative. So is the case with Vasundhare Raje in Rajasthan. Both acted in personal capacities to come to the aid of Mr Lalit Modi who was well known to them and their families. In the case of Sushma Swaraj it is clear that she misused her official position, to bail out someone who was a proclaimed offender as notified by the government of India. It would be naive to believe that she, as foreign minister, was unaware of the charges against Mr Lalit Modi. Her actions become even more questionable because of the fact that she did not act through any laid down government channels. Her claim that it was done as part of humanitarian aid holds no water since a man of Mr Lalit Modi’s stature and capabilities is possibly the last person who would require any humanitarian aid. One fails to understand what his wife was doing in Portugal of all the places when she could have had the best treatment in UK itself where Lalit Modi was residing. Add to it the fact that within days of being granted travel papers, Lalit Modi was seen partying with known socialites of the world in various exotic locations in different parts of the world. Surely all this throws the humanitarian claims to the dustbin. On the other hand Ms Raje’s support in the form of an affidavit to aid Mr Modi’s immigration papers was made when she was a leader of the opposition (LOP) in the Rajasthan assembly. One could argue that it was done purely as an individual and not in any official position but unfortunately LOP is a notified government position. However in her case the clincher was the fact that she added a statement that her support should not be disclosed to Indian authorities and that Mr Lalit Modi’s problems were mainly due to a political vendetta launched by the Congress Party. These statements from a seasoned politician holding the position of LOP in the state assembly do show her in poor light and smack of a conspiratorial approach. Therefore both Ms Sushma Swaraj and Ms Raje are undoubtedly guilty of public impropriety as both are public figures of repute and senior politicians of the ruling party. Other issues involving links of Mr Modi to Ms Swaraj’s husband and his business dealings with Ms Raje’s son are at the best fillers used by opposition to add weight to their case. If there is any monetary irregularity involved or a quid pro quid situation, then that has to seen separately by concerned authorities since presently it can only be termed as speculation.
The Vyapam scam problem in Madhya Pradesh is of a different nature. That is a premeditated deliberate scam across the organisation at different levels and not limited to an individual. The scam has deep roots and no one individual is responsible for the same. It can be argued that the investigation could have been done in a more effective manner, but now that the case has been referred to CBI and the Supreme Court too is involved, it may be prudent for all concerned to wait for the initial report from CBI before any aspersions can be cast on the incumbent Chief Minister or others. If opposition seeks resignation of Chief Minister on moral grounds because of the unearthing of the scam, then as things stand in Indian political environment, possibly all Chief Ministers would need to offer their resignation, party affiliations notwithstanding. In view of this the opposition’s demand for resignation of the Chief Minister does not seem to be justified. The BJP high command will do well to support their Chief Minister at least for the time being and take future decisions as the case unfolds based on the CBI investigations.
The question that the government and Mr Narendra Modi need to answer is whether any individual is bigger than the nation or the political party to which he or she belongs. The government and the party will still function if both Ms Sushma Swaraj and Ms Raje resign for the time being; however by not resigning they seem to be playing into the hands of the opposition and allowing their party and government to be stonewalled at the cost of great harm to the nation. If the concerned ministers do not have the moral courage to do what is good for the party and the nation, then there is a case for the Prime Minister and Party President to make sure that both are removed from their positions. Supporting ones colleagues in the hour of their need is fine, but if they are guilty it is equally important to send the right message across the party and the nation. This becomes even more important in view of the high moral ground that the BJP invariably tends to operate from, at least for public consumption. If the BJP is worried that this may set precedence and more BJP leaders may have to follow suit in future, then all one can say is that such fears do not auger well for a party that wears nationalism and patriotism on its sleeves all the time. The top leaders have to believe in themselves and their organisation in their quest to do what is right for the nation.
In nutshell it may be prudent for BJP to ask Ms Swaraj and Ms Raje to resign from their positions. This will take away most of the steam out of the campaign mounted by the opposition led by Congress. It will also give the government more leeway in seeking support of many other parties like AIDMK, AITC, SP and BJD among others. If it can manage such support, chances are that the parliament will function to the advantage of the government in both houses. The added benefit of such a scenario will be the marginalisation of the Congress Party. Politics is always a game of give and take supported by one-upmanship. What you give today you may take back in the future since nothing is given away permanently. This approach does not bar the party from rehabilitating Ms Swaraj and Ms Raje in future at a more opportune time. The Prime Minister and his team have to realise that they have only three and a half years left to make an impact on the nation to ensure a second term for the BJP led government. Its performance in the first year has not cut much ice with the common man so far since he is no better off today than he was about a year and a half ago. The government needs to get going on most of its macro tasks at the earliest since the real impact of these will be felt only in the years to come. Any time lost will surely impact the macro picture adversely to the detriment of the government’s performance chart and thereby its chances of seeking a second tenure at the hustings.
The Congress party has nothing to lose today by not allowing the parliament to work. It can only gain from such machinations. If the parliament does not work, important legislation will not be passed and that will put many BJP plans on a limbo. If BJP government is seen as a non performer, the Congress stock will surely gain. That is exactly what Ms Sonia Gandhi wants since her life’s ambition of making Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister of India hinges on BJP’s non performance. She will then hope to reverse the fortunes of her party in the next elections in 2019 and achieve her dream of making Rahul Gandhi the Prime Minister of the nation. That possibly will be her last chance to turn her dream into a reality. Therefore BJP, not only for their own sake, but also for the sake of the nation have to perform so that they can secure a second term and prevent the nation from suffering the indignity of having Rahul Gandhi as its Prime Minister. If this calls for the heads of Ms Sushma Swaraj and Ms Raje, then so be it. It will be a small price to pay to keep Rahul at bay.
Saroj Chadha, an engineering professional, is a successful entrepreneur. Having retired from the Indian Army after having served for over 23 years, he has also been a consultant for leading Indian and Multinational electrical companies. He lives in New Delhi.