"....but what is the BJP's view" is the new latest fashion question to ask. Any contentious issue that comes up on UPA's plate on which the Congress is divided, almost immediately it places the onus on the opposition to decide! An attempt is made to show that there is no "all-party" consensus, and if such a thing exists, then the party has no problem (never mind, that it actually has no views/divided views!) Few examples since 2009 below.
When the census 2011 exercise began, there was a demand by some political parties that a caste census also be done. Primarily parties like RJD, SP, JD(U) demanded that caste be included in this census. To cut a long story short, the Congress party and BJP haven't taken any decision at this point of time. The PM as usual appoints a GoM, which was not able to take a decision given the deep divide withing the Congress party and therefore wanted a written assurance from all parties (putting the onus on BJP and others) about caste census. The BJP then gave a written consent (despite RSS opposing). Guess the only party that didn't give in writing - the Congress. When asked, Pranab Mukherjee said there is no need for the party to give in writing because he represents the party in the GoM. Indian Express reported that a deeply divided congress agreed for the caste census. A decision was taken just because the ruling party had no view, but all other parties had a view on this! The Congress party expected BJP (or any other significant opposition party) to say no, and then pass the blame perhaps!
Nuclear Liability Bill
I am sure most of us would have forgotten about this government's pathetic attempt to bring in a nuclear liability bill by stealth. This article in The Hindu gives a good summary of the events back then. The government made every damn effort to bring in language that was to the advantage of the supplier. Reports in The Hindu created enough awareness and the BJP now came into the picture big time. Without BJP's support the bill would not go through. And this time, the government rhetoric of "this bill is in national interest" did not work either. The BJP ensured that the deal got better and was beneficial to the country rather than the supplier. It was only after "Union government ... took on board most of the suggestions made by the Bharatiya Janata Party" that the bill was passed. Arun Jaitley severly criticised the government for trying to rush through this landmark legislation, but all was forgotten by evening!
Second Gen reforms
It was one of those rare moments when the Prime Minister decided to speak to the press. He invited TV editors and one of them had the common sense to ask him why reforms were not taking place. Guess what his answer was? The BJP was stalling the Goods and Services Tax bill, and therefore the second generation reforms were not taking place! He said that the BJP wants the govt. to go easy on a "Gujarat minister". Some state governments of the BJP have been opposing GST from like 2009. Amit Shah (the Gujarat Minister) was arrested somewhere in 2010. What link does passing of GST have to do with the arrest of a minister? Is GST the only reform that he has envisioned? If so,has he tried to address the state governments concerns about this proposal? If not, what are the other reforms he plans to usher in? What is their status? No - nothing of this sort is discussed later in the day. The onus is all the BJP's to get the reforms (I guess we should not use a plural form here, given that there is only one law that the govt. intends to bring!).
Well, here nothing was specifically asked about BJP. But let's have a quick look at how Sonia Gandhi arrived at her decision. In early December, K. Chandrashekar Rao started a fast unto death demanding a separate Telangana state. On December 7th, Sonia Gandhi ordered the CM of AP to call for an all party meet. In the all party meet, opinions of all the parties were elicited. Guess which party did not give a concrete opinion? Congress! At about 11:45pm on the December 9th, the Home Minister announces that the process of formation of a separate Telangana state will begin! Later ofcourse there was public outcry and he had to withdraw this decision. But even till date, he refers to this all party meeting and says they took a decision only because all the parties agreed to it! Never once did Congress give out a categorical view on this subject.
Each time a terror attack happens, guess what media will be waiting with bated breath? How will BJP react? According to many pundits in the media, BJP is not supposed to criticize the government after terror attacks, no matter how many times various cities in this country are attacked. BJP must be a mature opposition party and exhibit bi-partisan spirit when it comes to dealing with terror. And how exactly should it exhibit "bi-partisanship" - not one pundit will even care to elaborate. No pundit will ever ask the Congress why we are being attacked so many times. No questions are asked on why so many attacks under this Prime Minister; no specific questions to ministers concerned - All they care is about BJP's criticism and therefore the "politicisation" of the attacks. Never has there so much onus on the opposition to not point out the deficiency in the government!
The row about death convicts
Recently, Tamil Nadu assembly passed a resolution recommending to the President to commute the death sentence of 3 convicts in the Rajiv Gandhi +18 others assasination case. This resolution was passed after the President gave the order to hang them. Almost immediately, J&K Chief Minister asks if the reaction would have been so muted if J&K assembly passed a resolution recommending clemency to Afzal Guru. BJP criticizes this statement by Omar. Meanwhile, Shiromani Akali Dal party in Punjab renewed it's demand to grant clemency to Bhullar. And so now our CM from J&K jumps again and asks what is the BJP's view about this. Folks on twitter showed him articles in national newspapers, in which BJP clearly said they do not agree with Akali Dal on this. Not bothered about these facts, he goes on to ask Barkha Dutt the same question, and the diva thinks it is an "good" question. So now you see, it is all about "What is the BJP's views". Not one question on the Congress party's views on these topics (to think of it, they revere Rajiv Gandhi. They should atleast have a view on that right?). No one even bothered to debate what the ruling party of this country thinks about these controversies on death row. The entire debate was centered around BJP and it's stand, despite repeated clarifications. Infact, BJP clarified on NDTV channel that all death convicts must be hanged. And despite that both Omar Abdullah and Barkha Dutt have not yet clarified on BJP's position.
The Jan Lokpal agitation
Events are too recent to recount them all here. A full account of the 11 day fasting by Anna and the massive support he got is here. It all started with the pre-emptive arrest of Anna Hazare. Arun Jaitley gave a spirited speech in Rajya Sabha, detailing how BJP is opposed to some povisions of the Jan Lokpal bill, it supports the right of the citizen to protest and the government killed that right. Everybody praised the speech, said wah wah and some said they'd even vote for the BJP if they can sustain such clarity. Meanwhile, however the Congress is dragging it's feet. the fasting enters into its 4th day, 5th day. Suddenly, again they ask, .."but what is the BJP's view on Lokpal". The BJP has put forth it's views on Lokpal much much earlier, many times (not able to find it, but their website has a draft version). They are again elucidated and again everyone is satisfied. Again the Congress drags it's feet. Now, after 10 days, again people ask " .... but why is BJP not doing anything." That's right - the onus suddenly shifted on to the BJP now! The congress party, which had no freaking clarity on what to do, tried to pass the onus on to the BJP saying, they might not agree and vote on this etc!
I have not gone into too much detail on each of the issues presented above. No discussions on whether we agree with the BJP's view or not - but what is certainly disturbing is the fact that never before has then onus been on the opposition to take policy related decisions! Never before has the ruling party been so callous in it's approach towards important policy matters. And with a compliant media to help it out, the congress party has ensured in seeding the argument that it is helpless because the political class as such is to blame!
That the ruling Congress party can talk on so many issues with different voices and still get away with it is disappointing to say the least. The Congress won a resounding 206 seats on its own in 2009 against the 116 won by the BJP. Pretty much every small party was more than eager to support the congress. Despite such a clear mandate, all we get to see is the government dragging it's feet on every possible important decision. Whilst it is good that we are getting a very good insight into what the opposition's views are, on policy matters, isn't it concerning that the ruling party's incoherence is never the subject of intense debate?