Triple blow for BJP

Triple blow for BJP

Rajeev Sharma
Nothing seems to be going right for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which will next week complete 26 months of its 60-month tenure. In the past few days the Modi government has been struck by a triple blow — and it is not easy to pinpoint which blow is more powerful than the others.
Two of the three blows pertain to Arunachal Pradesh, a peaceful state in the northeastern India which borders China, while the third one comes from the feisty high-profile celebrity Navjot Singh Sidhu who appears to be on his way out of the BJP to join the ranks of arch-rival Aam Aadmi Party, probably as AAP’s chief ministerial candidate in the poll-bound Punjab.
This above-mentioned triple blow to the BJP is over and above the ongoing incendiary situation in the sensitive North Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, which is on the boil since July 8 when Hizbul Mujahideen commander Burhan Wani was killed by the security forces.
The Modi government suffered a bloody nose over the chess moves in this border state, not once but twice and that too within the space of a few days. First came the landmark judgment of the Supreme Court on July 13, which jolted the Modi government. The apex court verdict effectively reinstated the dismissed Congress government led by chief minister Nabam Tuki, the first time ever when the Indian Supreme Court reinstated a dismissed government.
The apex court not only reiterated the sanctity of the floor test but also bluntly told the Modi government that the state governor cannot dictate terms to the state executive and legislature. The Modi government squirmed and smarted under the enormous weight of the apex court’s verdict, which was nothing less than a tight slap in its face.
But this was nothing. More humiliation was in store for the central government. The BJP-supported Congress rebel Kulikho Pul, who had been the state’s chief minister since the Congress government was toppled months ago, paraded 40 legislators in the 60-member assembly before the media in an effort to prove his majority.
However, the majority is to be tested in the assembly and the governor directed the reinstated Chief Minister Tuki to prove his strength in a floor test within 48 hours. Everyone thought that the Congress victory was momentary and a mere flash in the pan.
But the grand old party played a masterstroke and the floor test was rendered completely unnecessary. Overnight, the Congress won over its rebel legislator Pul and changed its chief ministerial candidate. Prema Khandu was projected as the compromise chief minister and Pul was won over. Khandu was soon sworn in as the ninth chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh, his name proposed by the outgoing chief minister Nabam Tuki who had been reinstated by the Supreme Court.
Thus in a matter of few days the Congress won the battle against the BJP twice, this time politically.
The cricketer-turned-politician heaped another round of embarrassment on the BJP when on July 18 he resigned from the Rajya Sabha membership the BJP had given him three months ago to accommodate the irrepressible sardar. This was a nasty and unexpected blow to the BJP not only because the celebrity was a substantial loss to the party but even more so because he is slated to cross over to AAP.
Obviously a loss becomes all the more significant and painful if it means a major gain to a rival party. This is precisely what happened in case of the BJP. Sidhu as a chief ministerial candidate of AAP in Punjab, due for elections in just about seven months, would pose a formidable challenge not only to the BJP but also to the Congress. In any case, the BJP is a much junior partner in the ruling coalition with Shiromani Akali Dal and the BJP doesn’t have much traction in Punjab on its own steam.
In the backdrop of this triple blow the ruling BJP looks like a headless chicken running around without any direction. Coupled with this triple blow is the tense situation in Jammu and Kashmir, another state where the BJP is running a coalition government with a senior partner — here in this case with chief minister Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
The political discomfort of the BJP gets all the more accentuated as from here the biggest political battle on the cards is the Uttar Pradesh assembly elections due in less than seven months. If this continues to be the state of affairs of a party that rules India it will be very difficult for the BJP to pose a formidable challenge in the UP polls.
All this poses a Yeatsian question to the BJP: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”
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