Op-Ed: BJP and Congress: Birds Of The Same Feather
On the surface, the BJP and Congress are at loggerheads at the national level. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has repeatedly called for a ‘Congress mukt Bharat’. On its part, the Congress is working to forge unity among Opposition parties for a ‘Modi mukt’ and ‘BJP mukt’ India in 2019 without actually positing it as such. But scratch the surface and you will find that both of them follow more or less the same policies and programmes and protect each other even as they pretend to fight each other.
Nothing illustrates this commonality of interests between the two seemingly warring sides than the amendment, one of 21 in the Finance Bill, 2018, passed by the Lok Sabha on Monday without any discussion that seeks to legalise all foreign contributions received by political parties with retrospective effect from 1976. The amendment will save both the BJP and the Congress from the Delhi High Court verdict of 2014 that held both the parties guilty of violation of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), first passed in 1976 and amended in 2010, that bars political parties from receiving foreign contributions.
There are numerous other instances of the two parties acting in each other’s interest. The verdict in the much talked about 2G scam was certainly one such case where the government of the day made sure that the prosecution is sufficiently weakened to let all those accused of perpetrating the scam go scot-free despite all the evidence available to nail them. While on the scam, let it be said that the infamous Radia Tapes were in the possession of every BJP leader worth his saffron cap at least for a year and half before it hit the headlines in 2010, but none of them did anything about it. It was left to the likes of Prashant Bhushan, Subramaniam Swamy (who was not in the BJP at the time) and others to approach the Supreme Court and secure a court monitored CBI investigation.
If Mukesh Ambani described the Congress as ‘apni dukan’ in the tapes, he has treated the BJP exactly the same way – as ‘apni dukan’ – since the party came to power in 2014. Both the Congress and the BJP are promoters – and beneficiaries – of crony capitalism. The difference is essentially of degree. Gautam Adani’s business empire might have grown faster during the Modi regime, but he was not exactly being hounded during the previous UPA government as recent revelations about the move to waive the Rs. 200 crore fine imposed on the company for damage to the environment in setting up its mega port in Mundhra – and the SEZ to go with it – in Gujarat having been initiated by the Congress led regime in 2011 (and taken to its logical conclusion by the BJP government recently) prove. Both parties follow the same pro-reforms, pro-big business, anti-labour economic policy, the only difference being while the Congress, as a party in power for much longer, has perfected the art of camouflaging its pro-business proclivities with some cleverly worded pro-poor rhetoric while the BJP has failed to do so and as a result is seen as a party for big business, of big business and for big business.
The Congress may have been reduced to 44 seats in Lok Sabha in 2014 primarily because of the series of scams during its 10-year rule. But in their attitude to big ticket corruption, there is hardly a difference between the two. The BJP came to power in 2014 by going hammer and tongs against Robert Vadra for his allegedly illegal deals in Haryana and Rajasthan in the run up to the election and even vowing to put Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law in jail. But four years down the line, Vadra, far from being in jail, is merrily spending his time building his muscles in the gym! The NDA government went to town about the fact that it formed an SIT on black money at the very first cabinet meeting after coming to power. But four years after that, no one knows how much of black money stashed in foreign shores has been brought back – and how many Indian citizens have had Rs 15 lakh deposited in their bank accounts, one may add. By the time the term of the Modi government ends, it too would end up with an ‘impressive’ list of corruption scandals: Rafale, benefits to Ambani and Adani, Vijay Mallya, Lalit Modi and Nirav Modi, PNB ghotala and so on.
For both the Congress and the BJP, ‘ideology’ is just a prop, a matter of convenience to be invoked or jettisoned as per the requirements of the time. Thus, the BJP, has absolutely no problems jettisoning its supposedly core ideological plank of Hindutva in its desire to expand its footprint in the country. It has vigilantes intercepting – and at times lynching – cattle traders and beef eaters in UP, Rajasthan and other states where it rules, but has absolutely no qualms about openly declaring that it has no problems with beef eating in the northeast. On its part, the Congress claims its stands for free speech but has banned more books and films than any other party.
While publicly professing an abiding commitment to the Constitution, both parties have done everything possible when in power to weaken every single constitutional and statutory body: the Parliament, the Election Commission, RBI and even the judiciary.
In public perception, the Congress is a ‘secular’ party while the BJP is a ‘communal’ party. But neither party has any hesitation in using religion to win votes. Though accused of ‘minority appeasement’ for long, the Congress has now embarked on a soft Hindtuva course with a temple hopping Rahul Gandhi openly declaring that he is a ‘Shiv Bhakt’ when it is election time in Gujarat, Karnataka and other places.
One could go on and on to prove that there is no fundamental difference between the BJP and the Congress. What a pity it is for the average citizen of the country who has nothing better on offer than a choice between the devil and the deep sea!
(DISCLAIMER: This is an opinion piece. The views expressed are author’s own and have nothing to do with OTV’s charter or views. OTV does not assume any responsibility or liability for the same.)