Akrita Reyar I am convinced. Bollywood is in trouble. It was uninterrupted entertainment for 48 to 64 hours. With Parliament being the centrestage of such jocular display, who needs the movies! The government won the trust vote with a comfortable margin, but not before some spin on horse trading, animated debate, and even more interesting theatrics of the Opposition.
Much before the parties descended in the House for the over-hyped and under-debated Confidence Motion on the Nuclear Deal, there was a din about suitcases exchanging hands, MPs changing loyalties and some unchanging levels of greed. There was also a buzz about the going satta rates and some very bizarre bed partners. The Sunday dinner feasts at the UPA and NDA camps were harbingers of things to come. There seemed an assured exuberance in the Congress den, while NDA nervously counted its missing members. Days before the trust vote, Mayawati had made a grand entry. Certainly the main heroine (villain for some) of the entire piece, she managed to change equations both rapidly and dramatically. Suddenly, Congress’ old-foe-turned-new-friend Samajawadi Party was on the back foot, trying emphatically to keep its flock together. But the damage had already been done. Mayawati had poached. She not just set off some tittle-tattle about an imminent split in enemy ranks, but also flaunted her catch - SP general secretary Shahid Siddiqui. The Rajya Sabha MP, who is known to be a moderate and had been supporting the nuke deal so far, suddenly had an attack of asphyxia. He declared that he had been “suffocating” in the Samajwadi Party over the forced positions he was being made to take on issues his “conscience” did not allow him! It was another matter that his term as an Upper House MP is set to end later this year, and he had no hope of a ticket from his parent party. Mayawati also gave the UPA some anxious moments, as she weaned away the JDS and RLD from right under its nose. In a game where each vote counted, minus six was a major setback. Amar Singh, not one to be under rated, too had enough tricks up his sleeve. He set off head hunting among Opposition herd and by evening showed off his booty with panache. A BJP MP had fallen by his way, as had many others of whom the press didn’t get a scent of till the final vote had been counted. The PMO battery was working overtime, well aware of the phenomenal stakes. According to reports, the skills of National Security Advisor M K Narayanan were being used to seam together alliances. It is believed that he held the initial round of talks with potential partners and vetted out their demand lists for Mrs Gandhi before the seals were waxed. It is also believed that the IB Chief was entrusted with the job of keeping an eye on dodgy elements within the Congress, as well as for arranging secret rendezvous with the SP. The Battle in Parliament Home work done, the debate that opened Monday morning in the House was even more spirited. Little did we know of the tamasha that was in store for us. A confident PM declared an all out war as he set off the Motion by invoking Guru Gobind Singh’s couplets that sound the victory bugle. It was an open challenge to the Left, as to the main adversary the BJP. Advani, as the Leader of the Opposition, was the first to take on Manmohan Singh, the government and the nuclear deal, in that order. In a vitriolic but lackluster speech, he targeted the PM personally for turning the nuclear deal into one between “individuals and not countries”. By the 5th minute of his bitter drone, it was clear Advani lacked real arsenal against the Indo-US nuclear deal, and was only concentrating on taking pot shots at the Prime Minister. These too fell way side, as he blundered through facts and was accosted by the Speaker more than once for not following protocol of the House. It was a sad scene seeing such a senior leader and a prime ministerial candidate of the main Opposition party turn the whole argument so individualistic, and that too in a language that only stymied his stature. He heaped accusation on the government for selling India cheap on the deal, of making India submissive to the world’s superpower and compromising its security by not adequately tackling terror. The only time Advani showed some spark was when he picked up his pet subject of Hindutva, and bludgeoned the government for the gaffes in the Sethusamudram project and the Amarnath land transfer case. Pranab Mukherjee showed the statesman that he is. In no time he tore apart Advani’s delivery and gave a point by point rebuttal for each of the objections he raised. There is one I can’t resist mentioning. Advani had slammed Congress on nuclear moratorium saying Pandit Nehru had reservations about the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Pranab then drew attention of the House to the fact that the late Prime Minister had passed away in 1964, while the treaty came into existence only in 1970. “I can’t imagine how a dead man can object to a deal that was inked only after he passed away,” asked a bewildered Pranab, leaving Advani crimson and drawing guffaws from Treasury benches. After shredding Advani apart, the senior Congressman then went about his business by coolly explaining the country’s ballooning energy needs and the ever growing chasm between demand and supply. He also drew attention to the spiralling costs of hydrocarbons, showing how nuclear power would also help combat inflation. He then exposed the Left charade about not being taken into confidence addressing all nine objections that the Reds had raised. Lalu was Lalu. Perhaps the only Speaker, who united the House, with generous doses of humour in his homily. He also added the song and dance element of Hindi movies, quoting liberally from some popular melodies. But he did manage to put across some serious points despite his comical style. Not one to bother about niceties, he reminded BJP of its abysmal track record on terror and communal politics. “I also want to be the PM,” he declared, leaving everyone in splits, “only that I am in no hurry like Advaniji.” Lalu also called the Left ideology “imported” and said that Communists had their own points to score with the Congress in West Bengal and Kerala.