Lok Sabha brawl: how Congress shot itself in the foot
- Congress filed an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha on the Lalit Modi issue on 12 August
- In the debate that followed, Sushma Swaraj launched a spirited defence
- She even shocked the Congress by making personal attacks against the first family
- Clearly the Congress made a mistake by pushing for a debate. It couldn\'t match the BJP\'s firepower
- Sushma Swaraj has managed to preserve her image, despite the Lalit Modi controversy
- The Congress will have to face the music from other Opposition parties
Till last week, the Congress had the government on the mat. With just 44 MPs in the Lok Sabha, it had managed to pack quite a punch. The suspension of 25 Congress MPs gave the party the moral high-ground and other Opposition parties rallied around it.
However, it's decision to file an adjournment motion on 12 August backfired badly. The discussion on the adjournment motion saw many ups and downs. Here's the lowdown of what happened.
What was at stake?
- The adjournment motion was filed by Congress leader in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge on the Lalit Modi controversy. External affairs minister Sushma Swaraj led her own defence.
- Given the NDA's superior strength in the House, the outcome was known from the beginning. But the Congress hoped to win a moral victory through it.
- The Congress was also facing flak for its disruption of the House, particularly from the captains of industry who were upset at the delay in the government's reform oriented legislations
- It seems that the party wanted a way out of the standoff in Parliament as it didn't want to invite criticism of being anti-development.
What went wrong?
- The Congress made the mistake of changing its demand from "no resignation, no discussion" to "discussion and resignation".
- The party leadership was divided. Sources say that the move was the initiative of leaders close to Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
- Party vice-president Rahul Gandhi was apparently not in favour of a discussion in the House. He has been advocating a zero-tolerance strategy.
- The discussion was a clear victory for her. She launched an aggressive defence with a slew of counter-allegations against the Congress and the Gandhi family.
- In the process she managed to avoid being pinned down in the House. In fact, she deflected the attacks back to the Congress and other Opposition leaders. Even the single MP of the RSP NK Premachandran was responded to with a counter-allegation by Swaraj.
- The finance minister was being accused of not standing up for Swaraj, seen by many as a rival. But he put up a strong defence for her.
- The prime minister stamped his supremacy in the Lower House even without being present. Though his absence did invite a number of jibes.
- It was Kharge who moved the adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha. The government agreed. The Congress MP from Gulbarga just could not match the BJP's firepower, particularly with Swaraj at her combative best.
- Not just oratory, Kharge also failed in terms of floor management. He was unable to take other Opposition parties along.
- The Congress president played a critical role in forcing the government to backtrack on the Land Acquisition Bill. The work seems to have been undone by the Wednesday's debate.
- Instead of going for a debate, it would probably have been a better strategy to continue with the disruption of Parliament.
- Swaraj dragged Rajiv Gandhi into the debate by citing how he had allegedly sought a presidential pardon in the US for a Gandhi family friend's son. She also attacked Sonia by mentioning Ottavio Quattrochi.
What happens next
For the Congress
- Despite Arun Jaitley calling him "an expert without knowledge" and Swaraj targetting him personally, the debate hasn't harmed Rahul Gandhi all that much.
- He is said to have been against agreeing for a debate in the House. The Congress would have been better off following the advice.
- The weakening of the old guard, who favoured a debate, might end up strengthening Rahul and the younger brigade.
For the BJP
- Despite a largely unproductive monsoon session, the party can draw solace from the fact that it is ending on a high
- It will try its best to push a few legislations on the last day of the session
- The real test for it would be in the Bihar elections
For the others
- The non-Congress Opposition parties have realised the need for better coordination among themselves.
- On Wednesday evening the leaders of these parties met at a dinner hosted by Sharad Pawar. Apparently, many Opposition leaders criticised the Congress strategy at the dinner.
- While they feel that the Opposition must not be hijacked by one party, they also recognise the need for better coordination with the Congress.