Walkouts from Parliament are made to make a political point. However, some walkouts miss to make the point and may, in fact, boomerang. The Congress walkout on Tuesday after the suo moto statement by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh is being seen as a missed point.
Sources say that just before Singh was scheduled to speak, some Congress MPs reached out to few leaders of opposition parties like the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Trinamool Congress (TMC) to also stage a walkout. When they refused to do so, the Congress leaders made their way out alone.
It is a catch-22 situation for the Grand Old Party. It does not want to be seen as being against the government on national security issues. Nor does it want to add to a perception which has been built up against the Congress that it indulges in a strategy and makes comment that are lapped up either by China or Pakistan and used to their benefit. In the past, many in Pakistan and Chinese media have quoted Rahul Gandhi and this has been used by the BJP to make the point that Congress feels more for its opponents than its own country.
Rahul Gandhi’s aggressive stand against the government on the China issue has also forced the party to be belligerent. So the Congress is in a dilemma. It does not want to be seen as the lone party taking on the government and questioning it over China and its foreign policy. It wants to be seen as a consensus voice over the issue. The problem for the Congress is that other opposition parties understand its pitfalls. The encounter with the Chinese army in the Galwan Valley, NCP chief Sharad Pawar had, in fact, issued a public statement that they should be seen as being one with the government on this matter.
Even the Trinamool Congress which is fighting the BJP in Bengal, has stayed away from this China rhetoric. It refused to accede to the Congress’ request to walkout on Tuesday. Besides, the Congress has recently burnt its bridges with the TMC by appointing a known Mamata Banerjee baiter Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury as party chief in the state.
The Congress is also caught in the dilemma of being seen as the lone alternative to the BJP on a muscular foreign policy issue. The part-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) 1 and 2 was badgered by the BJP and Narendra Modi as being soft on terror.
The narrative was so built that eventually in stark contrast to Modi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh came across as a weak man. The Congress feels the confrontation with China could be a payback time to the BJP.
However, unfortunately for the Congress, it is being forced to ‘ekla chalo’ (walk alone). And, in this, it has no choice as no other opposition party wants to walk by its side on the China issue.