The BJP, accused of being an obstructionist party by the ruling Congress-led UPA the last couple of years, turned the tables in the first week of the monsoon session exposing a lack of cohesion in the government and its vulnerability.
Its success was evident by the end of the fourth day of the session Thursday, when Defence Minister A K Antony was forced to change his statement on the killing of Indian soldiers along the Line of Control made Wednesday.
BJP did not claim victory but took a moral high ground, saying all parties stood united against the misadventures of Pakistan. “As a responsible Opposition, it is our duty to bring the government back on track when it derails. We have played our role. Defence Minister A K Antony has corrected the mistake, which could have been dengerous for the country. The matter ends,” party spokesman Shahnawaz Hussain said.
After the Antony statement Wednesday, BJP accused the government of “dilution” of a factual position and providing an “escape route” to Pakistan and demanded that the minister apologise and the government not hold talks with the neighbour. Antony, however, did not oblige.
Having gained an upper hand over the government, BJP too later did not insist on an apology.
“I thank the Defence Minister for rectifying his mistake,” Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj said in Lok Sabha, adding, “Such a mistake should not be repeated.” In fact, she walked up to Antony after the House was adjourned and was seen complimenting him. BJP maintained that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should not hold an early dialgoue with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif.
“We have got some assurance (on talks with Pakistan). But BJP has already stated its position that this is not a time for talks at the level of Prime Ministers,” Hussain said when asked if the party persisted with its demand to call off a Singh-Sharif meet scheduled next month on the sidelines of UN General Assembly.
In the evening, Swaraj tweeted: “I am happy with today’s statement of the Defence Minister. Let us deal with terror first. We will talk later.”