Entry of Subramanian Swamy has changed the narrative in Rajya Sabha, Read how
Like the setting of the proverbial cat among the pigeons, the arrival of Subramanian Swamy in the Rajya Sabha has, at least temporarily,changed the narrative in the Rajya Sabha.
With his devil-may-care attitude and refusal to acknowledge the existence of sacred political cows, Swamy has effectively broken the Omerta code on Sonia Gandhi and the Dynasty. She is no longer above criticism or treated as some kind of exalted figure hovering far above the rough-and-tumble of everyday politics.
You may not like the man, his methods, his choice of words or his kind of aggressive, no-holds-barred political rhetoric, but he has single-handedly established one simple fact: Sonia is a Paper Tigress made to look invincible by excessive political correctness and media circumspection. Her status as someone above the law and criticism has been brought down with a thud.
Swamy did it first by forcing them to face trial in the National Herald asset-grab by Sonia & Son. Now, he is taking the fight to the political plane in Parliament. Suddenly, the Congress is on the defensive, trying to form a ring around the leader to prevent further damage to the image.
Like Abhimanyu scattering the Kaurava Army before being swallowed by it, Swamy has broken through the anti-Modi opposition’s tight grip in the Rajya Sabha by turning the focus away from the government to the disarray in the opposition. Having managed to rile the opposition repeatedly despite getting some of his remarks expunged, Swamy is additionally throwing the rule book at the chair and the opposition, including Ghulam Nabi Azad for an alleged breach of privilege on the Agusta Westland affair.
In a sense, Swamy’s entry to the Rajya Sabha marks the second major democratisation of the political dialogue and the media. The political space for non-Lutyens consensus views has been opened wider. The first breakthrough happened through the social media, which broke the monopoly of the Old Media that was – and is – controlled by a Congress-Left-Secular cabal with a clear antipathy to the BJP and Narendra Modi in particular. The monopoly was challenged first by the Anna Hazare anti-corruption movement which did not hesitate to name names in suspected corruption cases; then it was followed by the rise of Modi all through 2013 and 2014, despite the opposition of the Old Media. But the social media ensured that the Old Media could not brush the coming change in the mainstream narrative under the carpet.
But even as the media was forced to take note of the Modi phenomenon in the run-up to May 2014, the Congress-Left opposition quickly regrouped and used its control of major national institutions, friendly sections in the English language media, and the Rajya Sabha to raise false alarms all over – about non-existent church attacks and “growing intolerance”. The fact that the “award wapsi” groupies came mostly from the anti-BJP camp was evidence of this growing intolerance towards the established central government. It was little more than a brazen attempt to delegitimise an electoral verdict.
While the Parivar’s loudmouths helped the process by making over-the-top comments and raising unnecessary issues over beef and Bharat-mata-ki-jai, it is now clear that the real purpose of all this din was to derail the Modi government and make it impossible for him to govern and deliver on his promises.
The elevation of Subramanian Swamy from the social media to the political platform tells us a few things about changing BJP strategy.
One, it could signal a shift from the old strategy of the government constantly humouring the opposition in order to get some key legislation passed. The idea seems to be to use the good-cop-bad-cop strategy, with Swamy being the battering ram and the government the emolient server.
Two, the government is likely to use Swamy to divide the opposition over support to the Congress, which is battling Trinamool in Bengal with Left support, and the AIADMK, which is battling a determined DMK-Congress combine in Tamil Nadu. After the bruising assembly battle, both Mamata and Jaya could be much diminished and in need of central support. Barring JDU and Lalu Prasad, the rest of the opposition may be willing to play ball in the Rajya Sabha.
Three, by the end of 2016 and early 2017, the NDA’s Rajya Sabha numbers will be improved. So we could see more legislation going through later this year and early next year.
To be sure, not all of this is related to Swamy’s dramatic entry in the Upper House, but his uncompromising attitude to the Sonia-led Congress signal’s the Modi government’s efforts to pile on the pressure on the Congress to cooperate. The boot is now on the other foot and it is Congress’s tolerance threshold of Swamy’s cut-and-thrust that could make a difference.
But it could also be a double-edged sword for the government. Swamy plays his own game, and the government cannot assume he will be batting for it always. Swamy comes with riders attached.
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