A few weeks ago, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) looked like it was finally emerging as a meaningful opposition party, seeking to forge an alliance with the Left on “secular” and national issues of concern to the common man like inflation and national security. Today the party is scrambling for cover on its biggest planks, corruption and terror. Just one television channel broadcasting news of the involvement of Hindu groups in terror attacks got RSS goons to vandalise the television station, making it clear that the Sangh Parivar remains as closed to any form of scrutiny on the issue of Hindu groups being involved in such terror — and the issues of encounter killings and the Best Bakery in Gujarat are waiting to erupt. As for corruption, the party had to face the ignominy of the Lokayukta, Justice Santosh Hegde, resigning due to the Karnataka government’s refusal to act on his report last year on the mining scandal that continues to rock the state. While L K Advani’s personal intervention ensured that Justice Hegde took back his resignation, the party is determined not to allow a CBI inquiry into the allegations of illegal mining by companies owned by two ministers in the BJP’s Karnataka government. While the Congress party may rejoice that a senior BJP leader like Sushma Swaraj is likely to be embarrassed by the revelations about Karnataka’s “Reddy Brothers”, the latter have, in turn, named Congressmen as being involved in similar scams. When it attacks the state’s governor H R Bhardwaj for bringing up the issue and says he is acting in an unconstitutional manner, the BJP doesn’t really have a leg to stand on. While accusing the Congress party of similar misdemeanours does not absolve the BJP, it certainly has weakened its own case.
For one, while it has refused to allow a CBI enquiry on the grounds that the Lokayukta is already doing this, it is not even ready to release Justice Hegde’s report. The Lokayukta has, in turn, said that he had not received an Action Taken Report but an Action To Be Taken Report! Second, while the government denies the Reddys are guilty, it confirms that illegal mining has reached rampant proportions. It has been reported that while the Indian Bureau of Mines had given the Reddy flaghip, the Obulapuram Mining Company, permission to extract 6.5 million tonnes of iron ore between 2004-05 and 2008-09, it had extracted 11.9 million tonnes. Karnataka Chief Minister B S Yeddyurappa refuses to comment on this but is on record saying around 10 million tonnes of iron ore had been exported illegally in the last two years — it is for this reason that he has asked the prime minister to ban iron ore exports. In other words, what the chief minister seems to be doing is to ask the central government to bail him out against the vested interests in his party. The Centre appears to be in no hurry to do so, preferring instead to let the BJP stew in its own juice. While political parties may hurl charges at each other, doing nothing about them only fosters public cynicism.