Having come to the conclusion that its core constituency found its “nationalist” debate endearing, the BJP-led government is all set to step up attacks to corner the Congress on the issue. This, along with attacks on frontline Congress leaders, particularly former ministers for their alleged role in scandals or questionable decisions, will be central to the government strategy to counter the Congress, inside and outside Parliament.
In the Lok Sabha Wednesday, the government let regional parties, especially the AIADMK and BJD, raise and debate the Aircel-Maxis case which they linked to former Finance Minister P Chidambaram and his son Karti. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley declared that the government was committed to “absolute probity” and any person found guilty in any scam would not be spared. “We have no holy cows who will be spared,” he said.
BJP sources said the party has decided to “focus on exposing” Congress leaders in the first half of the Budget session which ends March 17. At the same time, the party, sources said, has to “highlight the pro-poor, pro-farmer face of the government, which has emerged through the Budget… this will be done through the party machinery and our MPs outside Parliament.” The party and the government, sources said, are “more or less convinced” that the Opposition will not let them push the legislative agenda.
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At a meeting of its spokespersons Wednesday, the BJP, which has been attacked by the Opposition on the JNU row and the Rohith Vemula suicide, decided to attack the Congress also over new disclosures on the Ishrat Jahan case.
Sensing the mood of the treasury benches, the Opposition tried to put up a united front in the Lok Sabha where the Congress, Left and Trinamool Congress forced Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to let them speak on their notice for a privilege motion against HRD Minister Smriti Irani who, they alleged, “misused the floor of the House to mislead” the nation. Agitated over not being allowed to raise the matter when the House met in the morning, Congress MPs even raised slogans against the Speaker. Mahajan express anguish, saying “you raised slogans against the Speaker… Whatever you have done today is not good”. TMC’s Sudip Bandyopadhyay told the Speaker: “Let them raise the matter… that’s how democracy functions.”
K C Venuogpal of the Congress said the HRD Minister made “false” statements in the House when she said that no doctor was allowed near Rohith Vemula after his suicide. “The doctor herself has denied it,” he said.
According to TMC’s Saugata Roy the ministers have always been responsible, but Irani was not. In Irani’s absence, BJP’s Arjun Ram Meghwal defended her saying she had quoted a police report to make her point.
When Mallikarjun Kharge tried to raise the inflammatory speech in Agra by Minister Ram Shankar Katheria, he was interrupted by Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu who reminded the Speaker that the slogans against the chair should not go on record. The Speaker disallowed him and the protests forced the Speaker to adjourn the House for 20 minutes.
When the House met again at 12.30 pm, the Speaker said she had received a notice from BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab for a discussion on the Aircel-Maxis matter and it was being allowed. The Opposition protested, some saying “there was a match fixing” between the government and the BJD-AIADMK.