The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress crossed swords on the floor of Parliament on Wednesday, but behind closed doors the parliamentary wings of the parties had to face their own problems — and of leaders publicly airing views contrary to the respective party lines.
At the BJP parliamentary party meeting, party president Amit Shah told his colleagues that they need not take their cue from the media that had targeted its top leaders, currently embroiled in cases relating to acts of impropriety and corruption. The party had not come to power, courtesy the media, he said.
The reference was to veteran BJP leader Shanta Kumar’s letter, saying that scandals had dented the government’s image. It was a letter that did not just leave the BJP red-faced, but also reportedly struck a chord with some troubled members.
Almost simultaneously, the Congress parliamentary party meeting saw Shashi Tharoor, MP, being ticked off by an irate party president, Sonia Gandhi, after comments he had made at an earlier meeting went public. Tharoor had reportedly said on Monday that he was not in favor of the Congress disrupting Parliament to press the Modi government to seek the resignations of three top BJP leaders.
“You always do this, it’s become a habit with you,” Gandhi told. Tharoor, party sources said.
Stunned Congress leaders looked on, as party vice-president Rahul Gandhi added his bit — that if everything that was discussed was to come out in public, perhaps, party meetings should be discontinued.
If the BJP top brass is working hard to convince its own members that none of its top leaders has done anything wrong, the Congress leadership, devastated by last year’s election results, is still grappling with differences in its own ranks on how best to tackle the BJP.
At the BJP meeting, Prime Minister Narendra Modi sat quietly, party sources told The Hindu, leaving it to Shah, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to do the talking.
Shah has asked party members to consult spokespersons before saying anything in public.
The centrepiece of the meeting was External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj defending her own action in writing to the British government to give scam-tainted IPL commissioner Lalit Modi travel documents — if the law permitted — to enable him to travel to Portugal to be with his wife who was undergoing treatment for cancer.
After that, it was left to her again to speak out in defence of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan currently embroiled in the Vyapam scam, as she is an MP from the State.
Curiously, she also referred to a TV channel, without naming it, that had led the attack on her and mentioned that in the past, its owner, though facing FEMA charges, had been allowed to go abroad for medical treatment, thus pointing out its similarity to the Lalit Modi case. This remark is being read in BJP circles as a veiled attack on a senior party colleague who is believed to be close to the TV channel. She ended by thanking Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for having defended her.
At the Congress parliamentary party meeting, party president Sonia Gandhi’s outburst against Shashi Tharoor, MP, on Wednesday comes a few days after she had taken another senior party MP to task for questioning the party line on taking an aggressive line in Parliament on the scams that the BJP is involved in.
At that meeting, party sources told The Hindu, she had said that the Congress was now an Opposition party, and it, therefore, needed to adopt a tough line. (The Hindu)