Following the announcement by the Uttar Pradesh government to organise this marathon session, the Opposition, including the Samajwadi Party, BSP, Congress and the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party, took no time to ‘boycott’ the special session. The decision to boycott a session that was organised to discuss developmental goals on the occasion of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150 birth anniversary was, by all means, a self-goal as it proved bad on strategy as well as optics.
It was bad on strategy as it could not retain the “opposition unity” which saw fading away in no time. The first one to cause a crack in Opposition’s ‘unified boycott’ was Congress’ Raebeareli Sadar MLA Aditi Singh who openly defied party leadership in general and Congress’ general secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, in particular, to whom Singh is considered close.
Singh is one of the most prominent faces representing Congress which has just seven members in the 403-member Uttar Pradesh Assembly.
As reported by The Economic Times, Singh, on being asked about her reason to defy the party and attend the special session, said, “I rose above party line and tried to speak on the development. This is my first and foremost priority.”
“If you heard my speech, I only spoke about development and sustainable development goals. I practise politics the way my father used to do it — whatever I feel is correct, I do it,” added Singh.
On being asked what she will do if the party takes some action against her, she said, “It is the party’s call and whatever decision they will take, I am ready to accept it. I did whatever I felt was appropriate.”
The defiance was not limited to Congress. According to The Indian Express, rebel Samajwadi Party leader Shivpal Yadav and BSP MLA Mohammad Aslam Raini not only attended the special Assembly session but also heaped praises on BJP government. Yadav said that Yogi Adityanath is “an honest chief minister”.
Yadav, who though parted ways from the Samajwadi Party before the 2017 Uttar Pradesh Assembly election and formed his new party Pragatisheel Samajwadi Party (Lohia), continues to be a Samajwadi Party MLA. Given his acrimonious relationship with the party which he continues to represent, Yadav’s presence was no ordinary event.
Statements made by Raini were more than a defiance and verged around revolt. Given the fact that BSP chief Mayawati is known for her ‘authoritarian’ leadership, where even a murmured criticism of her or the party is last thing that one can expect from a party member, leave alone a sitting MLA, an open criticism in the Assembly signifies much more than defiance.
Raini said that her decision to attend the special session was because she could not ignore the voice of her ‘antaraatma’.
According to The Indian Express report, Raini said that while his loyalties are still with BSP, he believes that the ruling BJP has gone far ahead than BSP in terms of cadres and organisation. He said, “I have been with BSP since 2002 and people used to praise BSP for its organisation, but today the BJP has gone far ahead.”
In a scathing attack on Mayawati, Raini highlighted lack of consultation and consensus in BSP’s decision making and said, “Our leader does not think it is right to consult even 18 leaders.”
The Opposition had boycotted the special Assembly session saying that “BJP is more interested in making records than solving the problems of people”. By doing so it must have thought that they can gain some mileage. But, an Opposition that hardly constitutes even 20 percent of the total strength, should have realised that they would have made more noise by participating in the special session and using it to take on the government on whatever issue they deemed fit.
But, its decision to boycott the special Assembly session — that had the sanctity of a solemn occasion and sanction of developmental agenda — was, by all means, a bad calculation that has only highlighted the inability of Opposition, alone or combined, to seize opportunities to make them heard.