Does Swaraj hint at a more politically sharp future for the BJP?
India’s main opposition party, the right-wing Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have had much to crow about in recent months.
From the minute that the much vaunted Commonwealth Games began to – literally – crumble despite the hundreds of millions of rupees spent by the central government, a seemingly endless run of corruption scams linked to the ruling Congress party has seen much chest-beating and finger pointing from across the parliamentary aisles.
Riding high on damning headlines, and egged on by a lacklustre defence from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the BJP have trained both barrels on Congress, with party leaders Arun Jaitley, L.K. Advani and Nitin Gadkari missing no opportunity to squeeze government and corruption into each and every soundbite.
But the BJP, as any Indian political analyst worth their salt will point out, also have a cupboard filled with graft skeletons, at both a state and federal government level.
Thus, such drum-beating by opposition leaders risks reaching a decibel level that could backfire, with an across-the-board corruption purge likely to tar each and every Indian politico with the same dishonest brush.
As such, the reaction from Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition in India’s lower house of parliament, to Prime Minister Singh’s admittance of responsibility in an embarrassing affair involving the appointment of an accused criminal to the highest anti-graft office in the country, was strikingly against the grain.
Swaraj, who had previously joined her fellow BJP leaders in attacking Congress for its failure to tackle corruption, took an instantly conciliatory position after Singh’s statement.
“I appreciate the statement of the Prime Minister owning responsibility for the appointment of CVC which has been quashed by Supreme Court… I think this is enough. Let matters rest at this and we move forward,” she posted on her Twitter page.
It appeared at odds with the continued attacking rhetoric that other leaders issued following the statement, and newspapers on Saturday sought to play up the apparent rift between the party’s leaders. Swaraj later denied this.
Split or not, Swaraj’s reaction shows a politically canny side to the leader that could hold the party in good stead with state elections approaching, and a sense among the public that a parliament stalled by protests and a government wracked by corruption is not a satisfactory state of affairs.
The long, drawn-out process behind last week’s formation of a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the estimated $39 billion telecoms scam – the pinnacle of a season of scandals – suggested similar political sensitivity.
The BJP, having milked Congress’ refusal to form a JPC for months, settled for less than the three-pronged remit that they had demanded to ensure only Singh’s ruling party would be in the investigative firing line.
With more Swaraj-like clever politics, and less of the bulldozer approach, the BJP could start to become more than just a thorn in the side of Congress.