11 embarrassments for the BJP in one month
All is well with the Bharatiya Janata Party. It leads the National Democratic Alliance, running the show at the Centre, and popularity ratings for its jet-setting Prime Minister is ever-ascending. Along with its allies, the party is in power in more than a dozen states and, going by its claim, it is headed to sweep the upcoming Bihar elections.
Yet all is not well. The BJP seems to have developed a penchant for courting embarrassment. Take a look at these incidents over the past month or so:
First the Modi government introduced a draft to modify India's policy on encryption. It sought a key to all encrypted data on the Net and required us all to save our passwords in plain text. A day of uproar later, it said the common citizen need not be worried. A few hours later Communications and Technology Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said the draft was withdrawn.
If you criticise your MLA that's against the State. At least that's what the Devendra Fadnavis government seems to believe. His home department issued a circular to the Maharashtra Police equating criticism of people's representatives with sedition.There were vociferous protests from rival political parties, activists and the media. Eventually, the Bombay High Court stayed the guidelines. That too on a day Fadnavis defended the circular in a caustic 'open letter' to a senior journalist.
The BJP controls the Election Commission, said Joy Banerjee, a once-upon-a-time actor who is now a party leader in West Bengal. Soon enough his super boss Amit Shah got a letter from the EC, saying Banerjee's remark was "denigrating the integrity" of the commission and can "distort public perception about the neutrality, autonomy and independence" of EC. Banerjee ended up apologising.
Reservations has not been implemented the way the makers of our Constitution thought they would and its time for a relook, said Mohan Bhagwat, who heads the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, BJP's ideological fountainhead.By the time the party could distance itself from the remarks, the damage was done: While the Congress alleged a conspiracy to abolish quotas, Bihar Chief Minister too didn't pass the chance to take a potshot. His ally and RJD chief Lalu Prasad dared the saffron camp to withdraw reservations. Even BJP's own Dalit MP, Udit Raj, read a "wrong signal".
Why do you think unemployment is on the rise? Simple, because more women are snatching away the jobs of men: says a textbook published by the BJP-ruled state.A young teacher petitioned the Chhattisgarh women's commission against the bunkum. The ensuing controversy forced Raman Singh's regime to scrap the chapter.
One lakh new auto rickshaw permits would be given only to those who speak fluent Marathi, said Shiva Sena leader and Maharashtra Transport Minister Divakar Raote. The same would hold true for 1.5 lakh permits to be renewed.The retort to the "Tughlaqi" order can be summed up by Lalu Prasad's hit-back: If BJP won't allow Hindi-speaking Biharis drive in Maharashtra, will Biharis let two Gujaratis run the government in Bihar?
This time the PDP-BJP government in Jammu and Kashmir was hit by a beef ban enforced by the high court there. The ban triggered a wave of protests in the volatile state.
The state sacked Additional Advocate General Vishal Sharma and his deputy Parimoksh Seth for "failing to articulate" its position. Seth, in fact, was the one who in the first place had petitioned the court in July 2014 against the sale and consumption of beef. He refused to withdraw the plea or his name from it even after being appointed a deputy advocate general. By the way, his father, Onkar Seth, is a senior BJP leader in the state.
At least four BJP-ruled states - Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh - banned the sale of meat during the Jain festival of Paryushan. The BJP-controlled Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation took the cake with an eight-day prohibition.
Mumbai's meat traders filed a petition and political parties condemned the ban. Even ally Shiv Sena raised its pitch. Finally, the high court stayed the ban for at least a day.
For a long time Modi sarkaar did not ask President Pranab Mukherjee to prorogue the Monsoon Session of Parliament. It was hoping to get the GST Bill passed.
"I will not reveal the strategy, but I would clearly say we are determined and it would be our endeavour to roll out GST from April 1, 2016," said Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.
But a breakthrough was not to come and eventually Lok Sabha had to be prorogued, ending the possibility of a special session soon.
Nepal may not have handled the transition to a new Constitution in the best possible manner. At the same time, India seems to have bungled its relation with the friendly neighbour.
In an open rebuff, Maoist leader and former Nepalese Prime Minister Prachanda proclaimed Nepal was not India's "yes man". Baburam Bhattarai, another former PM, said India was important but "we make our own decisions."
To top it all, KP Oli, the potential premier, reportedly told the Indian ambassador to mind his own business.
The land acquisition Ordinance was the NDA's biggest loss of face since coming to power. Ever since it first brought the controversial ordinance last December, the BJP had to fight a bitter battle with the opposition parties.
Farmers' groups and activists also took out massive public protests. Opponents to the Bill included BJP's sister organisations such as the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and former RSS ideologue K N Govindacharya.
Party MPs on the panel also opposed the changes, eventually forcing Modi to surrender on air, during his monthly 'Mann ki Baat' radio broadcast.