PM Modi's Stormtroopers: SSS in Parliament
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi has three new stormtroopers in the Rajya Sabha of which one is already off the mark. Predictably lawyer Subramanian Swamy is ahead of cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu and columnist Swapan Dasgupta in forcing adjournments for two consecutive days in the Rajya Sabha by baiting the Congress with name of party president Sonia Gandhi in mention of the Agustawestland defence deal, and talking of the Italian Constitution in mention of the Aligarh Muslim University.
A known Nehru-Gandhi family baiter, Swamy even had the Rajya Sabha deputy chairman repeatedly warning him against “deliberately provoking” the members. His remark today “You only know of the Italian Constitution” had the Congress MPs reacting strongly, with the remarks being expunged and the House adjourned. As Congress MP Ghulam Nabi Azad said, “In two days you have expunged his remarks twice and there are 365 days and how many times you are going to expunge his words? This man has aged but does not know the difference between street words and Parliament words." "He does not allow his hair to turn gray so he hasn't learned or matured," he added.
Swamy, 76, has been brought into the Rajya Sabha for precisely this purpose. He has made a mission of his opposition to the Nehru-Gandhi family with the Congress MPs now briefed to keep him in check. The Upper House, seen as a opposition bastion, has been a source of grief for the government that has been running up against a stone wall on many an occasion here. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley was in sole charge, but clearly his defence of the government has not been found to be adequate with PM Modi sending in three stormtroopers, of whom at least two are known to be anti-Jaitley as well.
Swamy has been holding centre stage for two days, with his motor-mouth comments. Sidhu, who had been sulking and threatened to join the Aam Aadmi party in Punjab, has been accommodated as well and BJP leaders expect him to add to Swamy’s fire power. Incidentally, Sidhu too is not particularly fond of Jaitley with a section of the BJP seeing these nominations as a double whammy intended to keep the Congress as well as Jaitley on tenterhooks. Swamy fronted the BJP offensive on the controversial defence deal as soon as he took the oath, with Jaitley conceding ground. As Opposition MPs told The Citizen, till now it was always Jaitley who led from the front, clearly he is now feeling the heat of competition.
A lawyer who has never passed up an opportunity to take on the Nehru-Gandhi family, Swamy will be following PM Modi who has zeroed in on the family in his various election campaigns since 2014. The Congress is perceived by the BJP as its main national opposition, more so as in states where there is no regional party---Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra to some extent, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Rajasthan---the contest between the two is direct.In some of these states the Congress has improved upon its position in the local polls, leading to some worry in the BJP state units. While in terms of numbers, the Congress remains ineffective in the Lok Sabha, in the Upper House it has been leading opposition floor strategy against the treasury benches.
The Prime Minister is clearly optimistic that Swamy, Sidhu and Swapan ---the SSS---will be able to take on the opposition MPs, more so as at least two of them will not be particularly concerned with parliamentary arguments in the strict sense of the term.
Swapan Dasgupta is the only one of the three who has been close to Jaitley, but his equations with PM Modi are now stronger according to insiders. He was ahead of others in promoting the Prime Minister even before the last general elections, and has remained consistent since. He is also not expected to hold his punches, and is seen in the BJP as a “good debater.” He is vocal on television, as is Swamy and is expected to bring the cutting edge to the debate for the hitherto lifeless BJP in the Rajya Sabha. And so far as loyalty goes, if there is a choice between PM Modi and Jaitley at any point in time, this journalist is clear that the former remains the “answer” to the nation’s problems.
The Congress has clearly come prepared for the worst, and the MPs are not allowing Swamy to get away without being challenged in the well of the House as it were. Loud protests have led to adjournments, with the rest of the Opposition, however, keeping a distance from both parties. It has turned into a BJP vs Congress show for the moment at least, with both parties trading charges over corruption and accusing the other of favouring Agustawestland. Jaitley has claimed that the investigation is at an advanced stage. The Congress has asked why the parent company was a participant in the Prime Ministers Make in India. Both have refuted the claims of the other, with again the opposition parties maintaining a distance from the ‘your corruption, my corruption’ debate that is clearly leading nowhere.