This Article is From Aug 24, 2014

Boycotting the PM? Seriously, Congress?

(Nalin S Kohli is spokesperson for the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Director of the party's Public Policy Research Centre. He is also a lawyer and has extensive experience in media and education.)

Desperate times sometimes call for desperate measures. Even if it means a political party seeking to emulate an ostrich. Burying one's head in the sand is not a substitute to accepting reality. The decision of the Congress party's Chief Ministers to boycott sharing the dais with Prime Minister Narendra Modi smacks more of political cowardice than principle.

On three occasions, opposition Chief Ministers faced a discomforting situation where the assembled crowd was clearly more interested in hearing the Prime Minister speak rather than them. What added to their embarrassment was the slogan-shouting and heckling by the crowd when the chief ministers spoke. Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan faced it in Solapur, Haryana Chief Minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda in Kaithal and then Jharkhand Chief Minister Hemant Soren in Ranchi. Prithviraj Chavan finally decided to boycott the Nagpur function marking an unfortunate first in political protocol where a Chief Minister boycotted a function in his own state to avoid sharing the dais with an evidently popular Prime Minister.

The Congress party has sought to politicize the issue by claiming that the BJP is orchestrating all this through managed crowds for political mileage in election-bound states. However, the facts speak for themselves.

Over the last several years, Shri Narendra Modi has repeatedly emphasized the importance of strengthening the federal structure of the country. As Prime Minister, he has consistently reiterated the need of involving states in India's developmental story and also propagated the need for Team India, a partnership between the central government and the states.

Unfortunately, the Congress has not only chosen to overlook the Prime Minister's commitment toward strengthening federalism but also conveniently ignored that during these incidents Mr Narendra Modi was himself seen gesticulating to the crowd to maintain peace. How can a boycott of the Prime Minister by Chief Ministers strengthen the federal structure of the country?

The larger question is one of political ethics. Through such actions, is not the Congress party responsible for politicizing the institution of the Prime Minister and his office? Is this desirable? The same holds equally true for the institution of the Chief Minister and the Chief Minister's office. When Mr Narendra Modi addresses such functions, he is there as the Prime Minister of India, of every Indian and not of any particular party or any region. This must be recognized and also respected.

By trying to derive political mileage from such incidents, the Congress party might well be trying to deflect attention from the poor performance of its various leaders at the state and central levels. The individual popularity of any leader can be a matter of self-introspection for that leader. It cannot be used as an excuse to level wild allegations against the highest office of the land or the Prime Minister personally.

It is also worth noting that in the national election in Haryana, the Congress lost 9 out of 10 seats, in Maharashtra it lost 43 out of 48 seats and in Jharkhand, the BJP won 12 out of 14 seats. The same voter responsible for the 2014 mandate is also attending such functions where the Prime Minister and the respective Chief Minister are on the same platform.

Beyond the mandate, the Prime Minister is keen that states become joint partners of shaping India's developmental trajectory. When 125 crore Indians will jointly take a step forward, India wins, every Indian benefits. That's what Narendra Modi wants for India, a vision above politics. Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu set the tone by publically stating that Chief Minister Chavan's presence was missed in Nagpur. Will the Congress now like to strengthen federalism instead of indulging in petty politics?

<B>P.S.</B> Haryana Chief Minister Bhupender Singh Hooda met Prime Minister Narendra Modi yesterday over a cup of tea at his residence. Hopefully, better sense has finally prevailed.

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