The protracted flare-up in Manipur, the police’s brazen favour to Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh in the cases of sexually abusing the women wrestlers, the central investigating agencies ignoring two mega scams in Madhya Pradesh while cracking down on the BJP’s political opponents, the ruling establishment defiling history and NCERT textbooks —these unseemly episodes’ spectre looms large on the oppositions’ meet scheduled for June 23 at Patna.
Seldom before was the country gripped by anarchy of such an enormous scale. What is familiar across the mind-boggling happenings is the BJP’s unabated pursuit to fuel social division to reap a political harvest. The Hindutva party is replacing the genuine heroes of the freedom struggle with Hedgewars and Savarkars in the textbooks and erasing the Mughals from history.
The Christian Kukis and Nagas, and Hindu Meitis are up in arms against each other in Manipur because of the BJP allegedly pitting one ethnic group against another. On the other hand, the international medal-winning women wrestlers have been agitating for months for the arrest of the Wrestling Federation of India president and BJP MP from Kaiserganj in Uttar Pradesh.
Despite the international bodies of athletes condemning it, almost all the anti-BJP parties, 500 civil societies groups, Khap Panchayat of farmers from western Uttar Pradesh and Haryana, and a plethora of sportspersons joining the cause of the women wrestlers, the police have blatantly favoured Brij Bhushan Singh. The police have exonerated him from the charge of sexually harassing a minor wrestler instead of booking him under the POCSO Act.
Olympic medallist Sakshi Malik, who has been at the forefront of the wrestlers’ stir, alleged that the minor wrestler and her relatives changed their original statement because they were “threatened” by Brij Bhushan Singh. Had the police arrested Singh, he would not have been able to influence the investigation, she said.
The Enforcement Directorate arrested a Tamil Nadu minister and DMK leader V Senthil Balaji, former Delhi ministers Manish Sisodia and Satendra Jain, and framed Rashtriya Janata Dal leaders Lalu Prasad Yadav and his son and Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Tejashwi Yadav in a ‘land for job scam’. However, it has looked the other way in the mega ration and Vyapam scams in MP.
The Comptroller and Auditors General’s (CAG’s) report shows how the number plates of motorcycles and scooters were used against trucks to transport ration for free distribution among the poor women and children. Based on a similar report by the CAG in the 1990s, the CBI had charge-sheeted Lalu, who had to quit as the CM and was eventually convicted. But no agency has knocked on Chouhan’s door.
Assam CM Himant Biswa Sarma and Union Minister Narayan Rane faced corruption charges before joining the BJP. But they have been freed from the charges after joining the BJP. The Centre has rejected academics cum activists Yogendra Yadav and Suhas Palshikar’s demand to drop their names from the advisory panel of the NCERT, which has degraded the textbooks without consulting them.
“Don’t provoke us. Don’t provoke the DMK and its cadres. This is not a threat but a warning,” said Tamil Nadu CM M K Stalin while questioning the need to arrest his colleague (Balaji) in a complaint made ten years ago.
Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal has repeatedly described the BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the “most corrupt” in the 75 years of post-Independence history. Congress leader Rahul Gandhi has flagged corruption in the Modi government and Modi’s ‘nexus’ with crony capitalists. Bihar CM Nitish Kumar who, otherwise is reticent about commenting on the investigating agencies, has repeatedly said that they are targeting Lalu and Tejashwi because the Janata Dal (United) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal have joined hands.
Corruption became a major issue behind the BJP’s debacle in Karnataka elections. It is all set to become an equally strong issue in Madhya Pradesh. Congress leader Priyanka Gandhi has enumerated the scams while launching her party’s campaign in the central state.
In a way, the opposition parties, which were disorganised and drifting in different directions in the 2019 general elections, look focused and combative in the run-up to the 2024 polls, thanks to Nitish Kumar’s meticulous coordination. He travelled to Delhi and other states to coordinate with political leaders. Several parties—Trinamool Congress, Samajwadi Party, Aam Aadmi Party among others—which had hostility against the Congress, will be sharing a common platform with the grand old party on June 23.
The likely attendees at the Opposition’s conclave include Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, party leader Rahul Gandhi, the Chief Ministers of Delhi, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, and Jharkhand, respectively. Besides the heads of the CPI, CPM and CPI-ML-Liberation – D. Raja, Sitaram Yehchury and Dipankar Bhattacharya, respectively, Nationalist Congress Party president Sharad Pawar and Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray will also be there.
These parties are most likely to formulate a common strategy to carry out a sustained agitation against the BJP in the run-up to the 2024 elections. “More than deliberating on seats, we will fine-tune the strategy to expose the PM’s lies and his failure on the issues of unemployment, price rise and corruption. People are in the grip of anarchy all around,” the RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav told this author, adding, “The people are largely fed up with the Narendra Modi government. They will show him the door in 2024”.
In April, when Nitish met Mamata in Kolkata, the latter suggested Patna for the opposition’s meeting. Observers interpreted Mamata’s suggestion as a ‘move’ to deny primacy to the Congress, but Patna is aptly suited for such a conclave.
Ever since 1977, when Bihar was the epicentre of the Jayprakash Narayan-led Total Revolution that culminated in the first ouster of the Congress government from the Centre, the state had played a pivotal role in changing regimes.
Bihar became the centre of Vishwanath Pratap Singh’s activities in the 1980s. Singh replaced Rajiv Gandhi as the Prime Minister in the 1989 polls. The state, with Lalu Prasad Yadav as the Chief Minister, became a centre of the Mandal versus Kamandal politics in the 1990s.
Again in 2004, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led BJP did reasonably well in other parts of the country but fared poorly in Bihar. Lalu’s RJD won 32 Lok Sabha seats paving the way for Manmohan Singh to replace Vajpayee.
Moreover, Bihar is the one north Indian state, in which the BJP’s Hindutva card has failed to take off despite repeated efforts. Lalu and Nitish are the bigger leaders for the backward classes, dalits, and minorities than Modi, in the state.
Thus, Bihar is relatively more salubrious for the opposition’s meeting.