Friday, September 21, 2012

Bharat Bandh gets uneven response, reveals opposition faultlines Political antipodes -- BJP, CPI-M -- come together for photo-op in Delhi

New Delhi: The BJP-led NDA call for Bharat Bandh combined with a nationwide strike call by the Left Front parties with Samajwadi Party and the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) joining the strike along with the Left against the UPA government's Coalgate shame and the unopular decisions of hiking diesel price, limitation on LPG cylinders, FDI in multi-brand retail has shown the political configuration of the anti-UPA and anti-Congress parties in the country, which would change and crystallise further through 2013 and until the 2014 Lok Sabha election.

The Thursday strike against the Manmohan Singh government's decision to allow FDI in multi-brand retail, the raise in price of diesel by Rs 5 per litre and the capping of cooking gas cylinders avaiable on subsidised prices had an uneven response in the country. The Coalgate issue had taken a backseat with the buzz now centring on the other three issues. The Bharat Bandh was quite successful in the BJP-ruled states, and it was a middling success in other places.
Not all the parties which are opposed to the UPA's decisions on FDI, on hike in diesel price and cap on LPG cylinders participated in the nationwide strike. Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress which had walked out of the UPA government and reduced it to a minority did not take part in the strike in West Bengal. Similarly, Bahujan Samaj Party in Uttar Pradsesh and the All India Anna DMK (AIADMK) in Tamil Nadu kept away and even opposed the idea of the bandh.

Banerjee, in spite of her fierce opposition to UPA, did not want to participate in a bandh where she would have had to rub shoulders with her arch-rivals in the state, the Left. As a matter of fact, Banerjee castigated the bandh idea and said that it is the culture of bandhs that destroyed West Bengal.

BSP supremo Mayawati did not want the party to be part of a bandh in which her arch-rival in UP politics, the SP, was participating. Tamil Nadu chief minister J.Jayalalithaa kept away from the strike though she is no friend of the UPA, because her bete noire, the DMK, was participating in the bandh.

The surprising feature of the day was the coming together of political antipodes – BJP president Nitin Gadkari and Sitaram Yechuri, leader of CPI-M in parliament – which was a perfect photo opportunity in Delhi of opposition unity. The BJP has always been keen to be seen in the company of the Left, but the Left parties have fought shy of sharing poltiical space with the right-wing BJP.

In contrast to the high of left-right unity against Congress in Delhi, Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar's declaration that he would support any party at the centre which would give a special status to Bihar was bursting with ambiguity, and the BJP had to assure itself and the others that there was no BJP-JD(U) divide and that the NDA is united.

The Congress and the UPA government can take comfort from the partial success of the bandh and the fissures and fault-lines in the non-Congress and anti-Congress parties that were to be seen clearly on those who participated and who did not in the bandh. The political arithmetic which is crucial if there is a trust vote in Lok Sabha also looks unclear and it is more in favour of the government.

Though senior BJP leader called for a special session of parliament and demanded a trust vote now that the UPA government is in a minority, the party is harping in the wrods of spoeksman Prakash Jawadekar that this is not an issue of “minority or majority but of morality.” This is a view shared by the communist parties as well. CPI leader D.Raja said that the UPA government has lost all credibility.

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