The Bharaitya Janata Party (BJP) and Biju Janata Dal (BJD) formed an alliance in the state of Odisha in 1998 and fought the Lok Sabha elections under the leadership of Naveen Patnaik. However, Patnaik broke the decade long alliance because of rumours surrounding the Sangh Parivar’s involvement in the 2008 Kandhamal communal riots. Despite this split, BJP continued to get majority seats in the state. Thus, it comes as no surprise that Congress considers them to be the main competition in Odisha.
When Congress President Rahul Gandhi recently visited Odisha, he accused the two parties of still sharing a mutually beneficial partnership. Mr. Gandhi has been in the news many times for his scathing remarks about the BJP, and especially about the Prime Minister. This was the same approach he used against Patnaik’s government, claiming that Patnaik is being ‘remote-controlled’ by Modi and is leading a corruption-laden government. Business Standard reported “…When chowkidar presses the button, Naveen Patnaik wakes up and then he goes into sleep mode. When Modi to pass a Bill (in Parliament), he presses the button again.” Continuing this attack against the two leaders, he said that they both run their parties by accumulating wealth from industrialists, and ensure that the government is run by bureaucrats. Tightening the noose around the BJD government, he blamed the government for the state of Odisha’s economy and claims that the state has untapped potential that the present government is overlooking for their benefit.
There have been countless debates about whether the ruling party is focusing on a certain Hindutva narrative in the country. Rahul Gandhi went as far as to say that the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) thinks that it is the lone party in the country, and even drew parallels between RSS and the Sunni Islamist party in Egypt– as the major opposition in the country, the Congress president has taken up the role of an opposition force really well.
With Union Minister M. Abbas Naqvi calling Rahul Gandhi a “pirated laptop”, tensions for the upcoming elections seem to be rising every day. With this context, many people question the recent apprehension of Gandhi’s brother-in-law, Robert Vadra for cases of money laundering. The BJP recently accused Vadra of the same when news of Priyanka Gandhi entering politics started to surface. A very simple question arises– were these charges made to help the public or the ruling party? Even though the BJP did allegedly expose cases of corruption, the accused’s connection to the opposition can’t just be a mere coincidence. Robert Vadra was apparently questioned by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) for nine hours. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra tweeted a picture of a poster outside Congress headquarters which shows Rahul, Priyanka, and Vadra with the title “kattar soch nahi, yuva josh.” Patra accused Congress of ‘adoring the medallion of corruption’ under the tag of ‘yuva josh’.
Another piece of this puzzle is the controversial Rafale deal. Congress accused BJP of dropping the need for a licensed manufacturer just to help Reliance Defence Limited get the contract with Dassault to buy the fighter jets for the country. Modi retaliated to these allegations by blaming Congress for being insensitive towards the defence forces, and accused the party of causing problems even though an honest defence deal was being signed, referring to the Rafale jet deal. To the constant jabs from Rahul Gandhi about BJP supporting bureaucrats and corruption, Modi questioned his legitimacy to question the Rafale deal, claiming that Congress had never carried out an honest defence deal, and was the poster-party for nepotism.
BJP and the Congress still remain the top contenders for the seat of the ruling party for India. Both parties have tried to bring each other down, be it as a direct offensive or as retaliation. BJP is still under scrutiny for the alleged Rafale scam while Vadra is being questioned for the money laundering charges against him. The political game that both parties are playing has reached a principle of exclusion. They have almost completely stopped trying to prove that the public should vote for them as they can do good for the country, and are instead focusing on how other party is not trustworthy. The need for promises and manifestos has taken a backseat in this vicious circle of exposing the opposition’s faults. In a way, the public does benefit from this since more questions are being asked; the workings of the government have become more transparent, since the opposition led by Rahul Gandhi is constantly questioning their every move.
The 2019 elections are approaching and the public is conflicted– give BJP a second chance or fall back to the Congress’s safety net?
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