If the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
presumed that threatening to move a privilege motion against Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh on the WikiLeaks revelations and forcing him
to clarify his position in parliament would push the scam-tainted
Congress further into a corner, it must be having second thoughts.
While the debate in parliament confirmed that the government would
stick to its stand that the disclosure of confidential embassy
documents could not be taken seriously, the renewed focus on the
"sting" operation carried out at the time of the no-confidence
motion on the India-US nuclear deal in July 2008 proved to be an
embarrassment for the BJP.
The party's role in an attempt to "trap" those involved in the
votes-for-cash scam on hidden cameras did not show it in a
favourable light. If the "sting" operation was carried out by a
television channel, as is usually the case, it might have been
applauded for exposing a murky deal. But the political colour given
to the endeavour by a party's involvement robbed the undercover
operation of any legitimacy despite BJP leader Sushma Swaraj's
belated attempts to justify it.
In any case, it is difficult to understand how the BJP as well as
the Left expected to gain political mileage from the WikiLeaks
exposures. The revelations of secret diplomatic cables can be a
source of amusement and speculation. But, by their very nature, they
are unverifiable, as the government has been insisting. Neither the
senders nor the receivers of the messages will ever acknowledge
their presence, let alone their veracity.
It wasn't very wise of the BJP and the Left, therefore, to base
their political campaign on such unsubstantiated material. Their
argument that the Wikileaks confirmed the suspicions voiced during
the parliamentary debate in 2008 about the government bribing some
of the MPs was not very convincing because the allegations were
never proved. The parliamentary committee, which probed the charges,
did not find any credence in the evidence provided by those who
conducted the "sting" operation. One of them has since dissociated
himself from the BJP.
However, what hasn't shown the government in a good light is the
fact that precious little was done to implement the committee's
suggestion for further investigations. Not surprisingly, when the
latest rumpus in parliament re-focused attention on the events of
2008, the government promised to expedite the inquiries.
At the same time, the BJP was embarrassed not only by its links with
the "sting" operation but also by the WikiLeaks disclosure that the
party's bigwigs had assured American diplomats that their opposition
to the nuclear deal was nothing more than "posturing" for the sake
of domestic compulsions. If the BJP's claim that the WikiLeaks
cables on the cash-for-votes episode provided corroborative
evidence, the reference to the party's play-acting on the deal also
substantiated the common public perception about political cynicism.
In the ultimate analysis, therefore, the Congress can be said to
have survived the opposition's latest offensive while the BJP's
dependence on the WikiLeaks has shown the bankruptcy of its
political ideas. Yet, given the financial and other scams which the
Congress is facing, including the dubious appointment of the former
central vigilance commissioner, which has been struck down by the
Supreme Court, the BJP had no real need to bank on the WikiLeaks.
If the party, as well as the Left, nevertheless turned to these
disclosures with great alacrity, the reason perhaps was the
continuing weakness of their own political positions. While the
communists face uncertain prospects in the forthcoming elections in
their strongholds of West Bengal and Kerala, the BJP is beset by
leadership tussles at the national level and a tarnished image
caused by the corruption charges against its Karnataka government.
Moreover, it cannot look forward with much confidence to next year's
assembly elections in Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra. It may
have won in the Janata Dal-United's (JD-U) company in Bihar last
year, but the kudos for that victory went almost entirely to the
JD-U Chief Minister Nitish Kumar.
It is apparently the realisation that it does not have the
wherewithal to deal with the post-Atal Behari Vajpayee-L.K. Advani
scene that leads the BJP to hurriedly take on any issue which, it
believes, can be of some help. The WikiLeaks was one of them. But
even as it was prematurely gloating over what the leaks said about
the votes-for-cash episode, there were also other revelations, which
once again showed how unrepentant the party's strong man, Narendra
Modi, was about the Gujarat riots of 2002.
By describing the outbreak, which claimed more than 1,200 lives, as
an "internal" matter of the state to US diplomats, Modi showed that
he hadn't changed at all from the time when he casually labelled the
riots as "stray incidents" and heartlessly referred to the refugee
camps for Muslims as "child-producing centres".
The Wikileaks reports, therefore, have not been favourable either to
the Congress or the BJP.
is a political analyst. He can be reached at email@example.com)