Brittle unity

The opposition’s performance in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, when it was expected to pose the most serious challenge to the UPA government since its coming to power last year, shows that it is willing to strike but is afraid to wound. If the government had lost the trial of strength on the cut motions moved by the Left and the BJP it would have collapsed. But it was the opposition unity seen in the last few weeks that collapsed, with the BSP coming to the aid of the government directly and the fair-weather friends SP and RJD indirectly helping it through non-participation in voting. It became clear that none of the parties wanted the fall of the government and the prospect of fresh elections. It is doubtful if even the Left and the BJP, which led the assault, wanted to defeat the government.

The UPA managers had also done enough spade work to keep the flock together and enlist support from the opposition by striking deals wherever necessary. Mayawati’s BSP had a price tag for its support and it was obvious that the government was ready to pay it when the CBI told the supreme court last week that it was ready to consider her request to close the investigation into the disproportionate assets case. The government was also willing to accommodate Lalu Prasad and Mulayam Singh in their problems with the income tax department relating to disproportionate assets. Political support was bought with personal favours, at the expense of principles and the state exchequer, and still the Congress has the gumption to say that the CBI is an independent body. The support that the BSP extended to the government is not lasting too, as the party and the Congress are rivals in UP. The reluctance to join hands with the BJP, which the parties have given as the reason for bailing out the government, is an excuse. What counted was self-interest, and that too personal interests of leaders. That is not new because much politics has revolved around personal interests in the past also.

However, the government has in the process emerged stronger and the claims of opposition unity have suffered a knock. The non-BJP, non-Congress platform of 13 parties, led by the Left, has also crumbled. With its position strengthened, what the government should concentrate is to clear the heavy legislative agenda as early as possible.

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