Our scam, your scam
Editorial: March 2011
BJP is sensing blood. Although badly routed in the 2009 parliamentary elections, the principal opposition party at the Centre has suddenly got some spring in its feet. Some of its geriatric leaders, who had lost their voice and credibility, and settled to a life of unhappy retirement and eventual fadeout, are now moving around with great purpose, because a rash of corruption scandals, accompanied by high inflation, has put the UPA government on the defensive. Before the CAG report brought the 2G scam and its mind-boggling financial implications into the public domain, BJP had been on the back foot, finding it difficult to explain the malfeasance of its Karnataka chief minister, the cash-rich mining mafia patronised by a top BJP lady in Delhi, and the vicious infighting within the legislative party. Besides, the party has been dithering over how to deal with the serious charges of Hindutva terror. After the CBI investigations found fanatic Hindutva/RSS footprints in the murderous blasts in Samjhauta Express, Malegaon, Modasa and Hyderabad's Mecca Masjid, the BJP and RSS have been desperately strategising on how to wriggle out of terror charges.
Corruption at the Centre gave BJP an opportunity to mount the moral high horse and pontificate on how UPA should conduct itself. LK Advani, its demoralised and defeated prime ministerial candidate, was paint-brushed and wheeled in to lead this campaign. Advani has done this rather well in the past and helped his beleaguered party climb from two parliamentary seats in 1984 to 182 in the 1998 and 1999 general elections. His advancing years and tendency to make statements contrary to the RSS worldview was ignored, and he was joined by Arun Jaitley and S Gurumurthy to sharpen the anti-Congress campaign. The old firm that had successfully run a campaign against corruption in high places - remember the Bofors scam in the 1980s - was back in business. This time it was not just the 2G deal, but also the appointment of a controversial CVC, and black money stashed in Swiss banks and tax havens.
Running an anti-corrution campaign came easy for BJP in the 1980s when they were in the opposition, but post their coming to power in 1998, it was evident that their ministers and MPs, too, were no different from their corrupt predecessors. Once in power, they did little to fight corruption, and on issues like Ayodhya, Gujarat carnage or saffronisation of education, the hand of BJP and RSS was found in the way the government conducted itself. Politicians like the late Pramod Mahajan fine-tuned shadowy ways to raise funds. There were whispers about how some key ministers were making money, but BJP remained free from a corruption scandal due to its tight control of the media.
Since then, in Karnataka, BJP came to power by using the money and muscle-power of the infamous Bellary Reddys, who later extracted their pound of flesh by controlling iron-ore mines as well as the government itself. A party that took pride in discipline was challenged by elements with fat wallets and dirty money - they ensured that Yeddyurappa remained chief minister despite the national leadership's best efforts to remove him.
Hence, ratcheting up the corruption issue at the Centre has given them an opportunity to cover up their own scams and communal/terror links. Congress has helped them by opposing a joint parliamentary committee probe into the 2G scam and giving a transparent impression of guilt. The winter session was lost to the scandal, allowing BJP to claim moral ascendancy. By leading this campaign against the ruling party, an unconvincing and uncertain Advani could take credit for this, but would his party, desperate for change at the top, and especially the ambitious second rung, reconcile with any such suggestion?