The Opposition parties, notably the Congress, the BJP’s key ideological challenger, appear to be in disarray after their Lok Sabha poll defeat. This is hurting the very idea of political choice in a democracy at a difficult juncture.
The nation seems on the brink of economic collapse, and suffers from multiple self-inflicted wounds — among them Kashmir and the sorry NRC saga in Assam, which has raised moral, not just judicial, questions about the notion of citizenship in a democracy.
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) unleashed by the Union home ministry against Madhya Pradesh CM Kamal Nath on Monday, to reopen a 35-year old case, could conceivably lead to his arrest if the BJP is purposeful.
Can that fire a spark in the Congress? If recent events, such as the arrests of former Union minister P. Chidambaram and Karnataka's D.K. Shivakumar is any guide, the possible arrest of the Madhya Pradesh CM might also produce no more than token resistance.
If Mr Nath were arrested, the Congress government in MP, which is a hair’s breadth away from a majority, can easily fall, and that would also be the BJP’s calculus. The party is riven by turbulent factionalism, as recent developments involving Jyotiraditya Scindia, an aspirant for a modicum of power after his defeat in the Parliament election, and former CM Digvijay Singh, seeking to re-establish himself as a power centre, suggest.
Mr Nath was, after Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s assassination, under suspicion for participating in one case of street lynching and the death of a couple of Sikh men near Parliament House. But he was exonerated by the Nanavati Commission, and did not find mention in the FIR in that case, or even subsequently made an accused. Therefore, what animates the government’s decision to reopen the case is unclear — and politics comes to mind as a first guess.
After the BJP’s return to power with a bigger mandate, no Opposition entity, especially the Congress, has functioned as a party with a structure, and one with an imagination of its present, to say nothing of memories of its past, or hopes for its future. The party’s leadership seems unable to rally its forces.
After Congress president Rahul Gandhi’s resignation as party chief, the organisation has declined further, although Mrs Sonia Gandhi has stepped in as interim president. On key policy questions, the party has been practically silent. On Kashmir, some of its prominent figures have backed the government. Mrs Gandhi has done some organisational firefighting in Haryana. But there are no signs of life in the Congress in Maharashtra and Jharkhand, where Assembly polls are due in a few weeks.
If the Congress can’t get its act together, the sequence of arrests may not stop at just the Madhya Pradesh CM. The government’s real aim may be targets perched higher.