A few weeks ago, in a signed column, The Tribune had in utter disbelief asked, “Where is our shadow PM?” Opposition is the soul of a parliamentary democracy, which becomes dysfunctional without an effective bulwark against the government. Now, on Tuesday, former Congress president Sonia Gandhi seemed to have shaken her head in similar disbelief at her leader in Lok Sabha, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury’s statement on Jammu and Kashmir. He has questioned the long-held Indian stand that J&K is an integral part of the country, all issues concerning J&K are internal and that it does not appreciate any outside interference.
Chowdhury’s jaw-dropping queries on the competence of the Indian Parliament to make laws concerning J&K came after Home Minister Amit Shah made a statement in the Lok Sabha on the government’s move to scrap Article 370 and to create two union territories out of the old state. Chowdhury’s references to United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan, Simla Agreement and Lahore Declaration simply proved that more than being inarticulate in Hindi, the leader of the largest party in Opposition is completely out of his depths. Earlier, the Congress chief whip in Rajya Sabha, Bhubaneshwar Kalita, had quit the party and veteran Janardan Dwivedi had broken ranks with the leadership and referred to mentor Ram Manohar Lohia to support the government. Worse, Manish Tewari of the Congress quoted, of all texts, an erotic novel, 50 Shades of Grey by EL James, to inadvertently explain his party’s dilemma.
This is probably the most embarrassing moment in the Grand Old Party’s history. Its stand on the abrogation of J&K cannot be 50 shades of grey or a bunch of inarticulate queries from a person who obviously does not understand the subject. The Congress has to clearly spell out why it is opposing the government or else support the Bill like BSP, BJD and YSRC. In all this din, the Opposition has disastrously failed to secure the freedom of a member and a coalition partner, who is still under house arrest. The Lok Sabha should not have discussed the Reorganisation Bill in the absence of its member from Srinagar, Farooq Abdullah. His presence and participation would have legitimised the government’s actions.