No, the BJP hasn’t lost it. It does not believe that the prime minister will resign just because it is asking him to do so. Nor is it stupid and unthinking.
You can agree, or disagree, but here is what the BJP is thinking: That, finally, they have their big opportunity, their 2012 Bofors moment. It is for the first time since 2004 that they have a scam that reaches the very top of the Congress party and the prime minister. Until now, the Congress had been able to deflect all scams and failures to an inconvenient ally. The 2G scam was blamed on the DMK, and an angry public was calmed by sending A. Raja and Kanimozhi to jail and Dayanidhi Maran into oblivion. Price rise was blamed on another ally, Sharad Pawar. The questions over the Air India aircraft purchases were similarly dumped on Praful Patel even though the decision was taken by an EGoM led by a Congress minister (P. Chidambaram). Lack of economic reform and policy paralysis were because of Mamata Banerjee, the usual suspect. In short, as a top BJP leader explained to me, the Congress was getting away comfortably with a three-point formula: pradhan mantri imaandar, allies beimaan, aur gathbandhan ki majboori (the PM is honest, the allies are crooks and there are compulsions in coalition politics).
The BJP believes the CAG report on coal has changed all that. The coal portfolio has always been held by the Congress, and for a very long spell by the prime minister himself. Even the two ministers of state who assisted him in the coal ministry, Dasari Narayana Rao and Santosh Bagrodia, are from the Congress. So there are no alibis. And here is the story that the leadership of the BJP seems to believe: that the mines were given out on a cash-and-carry basis, that allottees were paying the powers that be and simply reporting to the prime minister’s office with little slips confirming that they had paid their tribute, to collect their mines as negotiated.
The attack, for once, can be directed at the prime minister and the top leadership of the Congress. The prime minister is seen to be a particularly useful target because he is thin-skinned. Why is he then not being allowed to face Parliament where the BJP’s articulate heavyweights could take him and his party apart?
The BJP believes that a parliamentary discussion will dilute their case. That irrespective of whether they have a plain discussion, or one with a vote or adjournment motion, it would end inconclusively and with the government proving, once again, its majority and stability. A couple of days’ discussion will simply lead to a return to parliamentary routine: passage of some bills, individual and regional demands and so on. This will take the sting out of their campaign. They would, therefore, rather have this session conclude with the coal scam still top-of-the-mind.
Even the less combative elements in the BJP leadership are doubtful that putting the coal CAG report through the usual parliamentary committee process will work when the majority will be able to block the PAC, or even a JPC if it continued…