The short and simple answer: it hasn’t earned it and therefore doesn’t deserve it. The slightly longer answer: with a paltry 44 MPs, it doesn’t have the 10% strength required to become the Leader of Opposition.
There’s an even longer answer.
It begins with Sonia Gandhi who until very recently decorated the power-women lists of various international magazines, has now been reduced to haplessly cadging for the status of LoP before the same man she ruthlessly badgered for a decade using mostly foul tactics. Cadging yes but given her party and her dynasty’s elongated record of arrogation, the cadging is coated with a sense of self-righteous entitlement.
Let’s consider an alternate scenario. Instead of the mammoth 282 seats, had the Narendra-Modi powered BJP touched the vicinity of say, 220 seats and the Congress had garnered 100+, what would unfold? Based on the experience of the ‘90s, the Congress would let Modi form the Government. But it would, almost from day one, begin its games of sabotage. Again, a throwback to the highly unstable ‘90s where the Congress pulled down non-Congress coalitions within or after a year.
And so, it appears that the electorate-enforced denial of such an opportunity has infuriated the Congress to a ridiculous standard: nothing else explains its eminences who want to go to court with a plea that the Congress be given the LoP status!
The latest development on this front is this: with both the BJP and even the Congress’ own secular friends paying little heed to its tantrums, Sonia Gandhi has switched gears and is trying to play the victim card. That too, won’t get her very far. She should’ve realized what the 44 washout actually meant: on May 16 2014, India decisively chose to vote for a post-Congress, post-Nehru, post-pseudosecularist, era.
And in such an era, it makes no sense for the BJP to bestow undeserved charity of granting it the LoP status. So far, here’s the record of the Congress: when it is in power, it destroys institutions, encourages cronyism, and impoverishes the country. When it is in Opposition, it doesn’t allow even the most well-intentioned Government to function. Karnataka is the most recent example. When the BJP was in power from 2008-13, it heckled and harassed Yeddyurappa on almost a minute-by-minute basis and didn’t rest till he stepped down. And now that it is in power, Siddaramaiah is ensuring that he goes down in eternal infamy as the economy-wrecking and the most communal Chief Minister this state has ever had.
Of course, this is entirely consistent with the practiced Congress “culture” of democracy beginning with Jawaharlal Nehru whose legendary intolerance is a story that is only being recently told. But there’s something more fundamental than this. One important historical fact that everybody is wilfully blind to is this: Jawaharlal Nehru was the first ever appointed Prime Minister of India, not Manmohan Singh. He did not enjoy popular mandate but was thrust upon the nation by Gandhi.
A supposedly great democrat and statesman, why did Nehru rule for 17 long years? Why didn’t he groom younger talent and step down to make way for fresh thought and leadership? And why did he set the precedent for later destructions of democratic institutions by dismissing the first non-Congress Government in Kerala? Indeed, it would be a revealing and instructive academic research project to study all the speeches etc Nehru made in Parliament and all his press statements etc ever since he became Prime Minister.
Yet another other myth that stood good by the Dynasty is the “Nehru was the inheritor of Gandhi’s legacy.” The question to ask is: inheritor of what exact legacy? Why didn’t Nehru choose to “inherit” Gandhi’s dictum of winding up the Congress after India attained freedom? That apart, there’s something incredible about the phenomenon of how two people who were so completely opposite to each other in almost every respect ever forged such a close bond.
Perhaps the only thing that Nehru inherited from Gandhi was his warped way of looking at poverty. It is debatable whether Gandhi was a friend of the poor or a friend of poverty. And this Gandhian “inheritance” coupled with Nehru’s incurable fondness for Communism sowed the seeds of India’s five-decade-long brutal saga of state-enforced impoverishment. And it was what was revived and fast-tracked by Sonia Gandhi’s unholy club of Communists known as the NAC.
A key campaign message of Narendra Modi that resonated so well with the voters was this: poverty is not sexy. It was the exact opposite of the Congress’ high art of looting the votes as well as the money of the poor in the name of poverty. Tavleen Singh’s Durbar obliquely describes the torrid impact of Nehruvian socialism. The book recounts how socialism destroyed physical beauty: of tasteless Government buildings and guesthouses, of how the gardens built by the Maharajas and the British were encompassed by squalor, and of how city and town planning became wretched, physical expressions of vote bank politics.
And the less said about Indira and Rajiv Gandhi’s continuation of the same legacy, the better. And Sonia Gandhi’s decade-long trail of destruction is still fresh in memory.
This among other things is just a small fraction of the monumental damage the Congress has done to India over five-plus decades. In other words: the ruling Congress party.
Equally, the Congress party’s record of granting its political opponents the LoP is also not too bright. The Lok Sabha had no recognised LoP until 1969. The LoP post was also vacant between 1980 and 1989. All of these during Congress rule. And now it is clamouring for the post even when it hasn’t made the cut.
There’s also the other argument that LoP is required because it needs to have a voice on important appointments like the Chief Vigilance Commissioner, the Director of Central Bureau of Investigation and members of the Lokpal. In case of the Congress, it is clear as daylight that every single time it was in power, it comprehensively pulverized these very important institutions. If the Supreme Court can dub the CBI as a “caged parrot” you know the exact extent to which the Congress has destroyed these institutions. Should Narendra Modi still give the Congress the status of LoP? That would be like trusting the proverbial cat to manage the hencoop.
Perhaps the most clinching argument against granting Leader of Opposition status to the Congress comes from Firstpost editor R. Jagannathan:
The Congress party’s hypocritical belligerence over the inflationary legacy it has left behind and its sense of entitlement over the post of leader of opposition (LoP) should serve as a warning sign of things to come for Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He is going to get more opposition, not less, even if he were to give the Congress the position it did not earn… The Gandhi family believes it is born to rule and its hubris will prevent decent behaviour in parliament or outside… The Gandhi family’s attitude has thus been: “If we can’t rule, we will ensure someone else can’t either.”
Sandeep Balakrishna is a columnist and author of Tipu Sultan: the Tyrant of Mysore. He has translated S.L. Bhyrappa’s “Aavarana: the Veil” from Kannada to English.