BJP's dependence on Wikileaks shows political bankruptcy


While the debate in parliament confirmed that the government would stick to its stand that the disclosure of confidential embassy documents could not be taken seriously, the renewed focus on the "sting" operation carried out at the time of the no-confidence motion on the India-US nuclear deal in July 2008 proved to be an embarrassment for the BJP.

The party's role in an attempt to "trap" those involved in the votes-for-cash scam on   hidden cameras did not show it in a favourable light. If the "sting" operation was carried out by a television channel, as is usually the case, it might have been applauded for exposing a murky deal. But the political colour given to the endeavour by a party's involvement robbed the undercover operation of any legitimacy despite BJP leader Sushma Swaraj's belated attempts to justify it.

In any case, it is difficult to understand how the BJP as well as the Left expected to gain political mileage from the WikiLeaks exposures. The revelations of secret diplomatic cables can be a source of amusement and speculation. But, by their very nature, they are  unverifiable, as the government has been insisting. Neither the senders nor the receivers of the messages will ever acknowledge their presence, let alone their veracity.

It wasn't very wise of the BJP and the Left, therefore, to base their political campaign on such unsubstantiated material. Their argument that the Wikileaks confirmed  the suspicions voiced during the parliamentary debate in 2008 about the government bribing some of the MPs was not very convincing because the allegations were never proved. The parliamentary committee, which probed the charges, did not find any credence in the evidence provided by those who conducted the "sting" operation. One of them has since dissociated himself from the BJP.

However, what hasn't shown the government in a good light is the fact that precious little was done to implement the committee's suggestion for further investigations. Not surprisingly, when the latest rumpus in parliament re-focused attention on the events of 2008, the government promised to expedite the inquiries.

At the same time, the BJP was embarrassed not only by its links with the "sting" operation but also by the WikiLeaks disclosure that the party's bigwigs had assured  American diplomats that their opposition to the nuclear deal was nothing more than "posturing" for the sake of domestic compulsions. If the BJP's claim that the WikiLeaks cables on the cash-for-votes episode provided corroborative evidence, the reference to the party's play-acting on the deal also substantiated the common public perception about political cynicism.

In the ultimate analysis, therefore, the Congress can be said to have survived the opposition's latest offensive while the BJP's dependence on the WikiLeaks has shown the bankruptcy of its political ideas. Yet, given the financial and other scams which the Congress is facing, including the dubious appointment of the former central vigilance commissioner, which has been struck down by the Supreme Court, the BJP had no real need to bank on the WikiLeaks.

If the party, as well as the Left, nevertheless turned to these disclosures with great alacrity, the reason perhaps was the continuing weakness of their own political positions. While the communists face uncertain prospects in the forthcoming elections in their strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala, the BJP is beset by leadership tussles at the national level and a tarnished image caused by the corruption charges against its Karnataka government.

Moreover, it cannot look forward with much confidence to next year's assembly elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. It may have won in the Janata Dal-United's (JD-U) company in Bihar last year, but the kudos for that victory went almost entirely to the JD-U Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.

It is apparently the realisation that it does not have the wherewithal to deal with the post-Atal Behari Vajpayee-L.K. Advani scene that leads the BJP to hurriedly take on any issue which, it believes, can be of some help. The WikiLeaks was one of them. But even as it was prematurely gloating over what the leaks said about the votes-for-cash episode, there were also other revelations, which once again showed how unrepentant the party's strong man, Narendra Modi, was about the Gujarat riots of 2002.

By describing the outbreak, which claimed more than 1,200 lives, as an "internal" matter of the state to US diplomats, Modi showed that he hadn't changed at all from the time when he casually labelled the riots as "stray incidents" and heartlessly referred to the refugee camps for Muslims as "child-producing centres".
The Wikileaks reports, therefore, have not been favourable either to the Congress or the BJP.

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