eghalaya Governor and BJP leader Satya Pal Malik has done it again. He has gone hammer and tongs against the Centre, questioning the wisdom of some of its crucial decisions, including the three controversial farm laws, policies and even the party’s tall claim of stemming the tide of corruption that flourished during the previous UPA-II government.
The belligerence this time is even greater than on the recent two occasions. The timing appears to be perfect. For, his outbursts on the occasion of a global Jat conference in Jaipur November 7 coincided with the BJP’s first national executive meeting in two years at Delhi. Interestingly, the political resolution adopted at the meeting was silent on the three farm laws. It was only in response to media query on farmers’ protests that Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said the government has time and again expressed its willingness to talk to farmer unions and asked them to list their grievances on the three laws. On the other hand, the resolution highlighted the government’s programmes for their welfare, including the release of new varieties of crops, farm credit, PM-KISAN scheme and Kisan Rail among others. But, its studied silence on the farm laws themselves, the issues of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and the military standoff with China is, indeed, deafening.
What is puzzling the nation is the open revolt by the Meghalaya Governor, who is a BJP nominee, against the Centre. He himself conceded that he had been given the post by ‘two to three’ leaders in Delhi and no one is left in any doubt about who they are. What he has said this time around may test the patience of the BJP leadership far more than what he had said earlier. It may be interesting to note, as a sideline, that Satyapal Malik’s vociferous open opposition of the Modi government might be the key for which his position is safe till now. Any retaliation against him would be construed as punishment for speaking the truth. Although action against him cannot be ruled out, it might be risky for the BJP leadership’s image, which is already facing criticism. Malik was sarcastic at his best when he said Central leaders send a condolence message when a dog dies, but there was not a word from the Centre on the death of 600 farmers agitating against the farm laws. In an audacious reference to the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, he said he had urged PM Narendra Modi not to antagonise Sikhs and Jats who form the bulk of the protesters against the farm laws.
He didn’t stop there and went on to say the farmers’ agitation is having repercussions on the Army as well as many of the country’s soldiers belong to farmers’ families. The smouldering rage may lead to any consequences, he warned, which could have been construed as provocation to create disaffection among soldiers against the State, had it come from any other government critic.
He further said he had reminded the PM that Indira Gandhi had performed a yajna at her farmhouse because she feared she might have to pay with her life for the Operation Blue Star to neutralise the Khalistanis taking shelter in the Golden Temple complex fighting against the Army. The broad hint is too ominous.
He revealed he had suggested to the PM to tell the protesting farmers that though he thought they were wrong, yet he would accept their point of view as he could not endure their suffering. This, according to him, would have enhanced the PM’s stature in the eyes of the nation. It does sound like a sensible suggestion, even though the Governor seems to have glossed over the corporate interests influencing the decision on the farm laws. He also divulged that some in the government are sympathetic to the farmers’ cause.
He repeated his prediction that the BJP will not be able to retain power in UP as it has incurred the wrath of farmers, while the prospect in Goa is equally bad because the BJP Chief Minister there is mired in ‘corruption.’ Earlier, he had accused a key BJP leader, known to be close to the RSS chief, and a corporate house of insisting on his clearance of some files for which a staggering amount of money was offered to him as bribe. He claimed after he informed the PM of this development, the latter told him not to clear the files. That no action has been taken by the Modi government against the accused for alleged corruption at high offices is another matter.
At the same time, he has called into question the Modi government’s most ambitious and controversial Vista Redevelopment Project in the Capital and said the huge money being spent on it could have been better utilised by setting up world class academic institutions.
Now, the question is why the BJP central leadership and the RSS are tolerating Malik spilling the beans and damaging the party’s poll prospects in UP and Goa, in particular. Two questions survive. Does Malik know too much for which any action before the crucial state Assembly polls would cause incalculable harm to the party? Is trouble brewing in the Sangh Parivar itself and Malik is being used to advance the interests of one group to corner another? The silence and hesitation of the Centre to take action against Malik strengthens suspicion and speculation. The challenge he has thrown at the BJP top leadership by announcing that he won’t take minutes to resign if he is removed from his post for his utterances only confirms the huge risks entailed in disciplining him. This is music to the ears of the Opposition. It seems all’s not well with the Sangh Parivar however much the party tries to project it is different from the Congress parivar.