Time for the BJP to get over its Manmohan fixation

India’s main opposition party the Bharatiya Janata Party [BJP] which until a few weeks back was going hammer and tongs against the United Progressive Alliance [UPA] regime, demanding the resignation of the prime minister, for its involvement in the coalgate scam has now revised its strategy, and decided that it may be more handy to question the UPA regime’s decision to allow 51 per cent foreign direct investment [FDI] in multi-brand retail. The principal opposition party however has a few questions to answer.

Firstly, Walmart has already made an entry into certain National Democratic Alliance [NDA] ruled states such as Madhya Pradesh [BJP] and Punjab [Shiromani Akali Dal] currently being governed by the Shiromani Akali Dal [SAD]. The US retail giant has tied up with Bharati and is helping the latter with back end operations for running the Easy Day Retail Chain. How does it explain this?

Second, the current SAD regime in Punjab has been in favour of FDI, since it will be beneficial to farmers, but had to change its stand on the 11th hour due to pressure from the BJP. In fact, it should be mentioned here that in November 2011, Deputy chief minister of the state, Sukhbir Singh Badal had written a letter to commerce minister, Anand Sharma, in favour of the policy. Recently, however the party had to change its stand with Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal making an unequivocal statement that it would back the stand of the NDA of which it is an important constituent.

This is incidentally the second time that the Akalis have changed their stand due to pressure from the BJP, earlier on the Indo-US nuclear deal vote in 2008, they buckled under the pressure of the BJP. This after assuring the UPA government that they would vote in favor of the Nuclear Deal in Parliament, even if it meant going against the NDA.

While the BJP-led NDA can surely rely on virtually unconditional Akali support for the reason that SAD can never ally with the Congress and that the leadership of the party lacks a backbone, it would do well to realise that anti-Congressism does not mean that all parties opposed to the Congress will jump into the BJP bandwagon. The growth of regional parties means stronger leaders whose first priority is the interests their own state, this includes not only Mamata Banerjee who pulled out recently from the UPA government, but others too such as Naveen Patnaik, Nitish Kumar and Jayalalitha.

Secondly, the Gujarat CM has repeatedly been saying that the PM is acting under the behest of the US and that he is only a ‘Singham’ for foreigners.

His own party was the first to push the Indo-US relationship and former National Security Advisor, Brajesh Mishra who passed away criticised the BJP when it did not support the Indo-US nuclear deal. The BJP also claims that the PM is sensitive to criticism from the foreign media. It should not forget that has used these very stories in the foreign media to bolster it’s onslaughts on the PM.

The BJP surely has lots of questions to answer and needs to make some tough choices..hile its economic stance of late is akin to the left, one also fails to comprehend its stand on foreign policy issues especially India’s relations with the US and its recent utterances reflect a very inward looking mindset. By creating a fear of US it is underestimating India’s own strength and also the fact that the current generation no longer gets swayed by the Swadeshi rhetoric very easily.

The party also needs to understand that allies from regional parties may not be on the same page on a number of issues. If it fails to do so, NDA will not convert into NDA + as desired by leader Advani.

Mere diatribes against the government or the PM and the boycott of parliament will certainly not help the BJP, it is time that the party began to clarify its stand on economic and strategic issues.

Tridivesh Singh Maini is a New Delhi-based columnist and independent foreign policy analyst.
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