Nobody can possibly underestimate the ability of the world’s largest and certainly India’s richest political party to help people in distress. Not only is the BJP in power at the Centre and in the largest state of the country, Uttar Pradesh, among others, it also boasts of a membership of a staggering 180 million people. By its own accounts, the party received in donations last year, close to Rupees one thousand Crore, much of it through the controversial and opaque electoral bonds. It has also been the recipient of donations from abroad, having withdrawn the law banning such donations. And as it has demonstrated in election after election, it has the resources to mobilise people and transport for mega rallies. Its organizing muscle was on display at the ‘Namate Trump’ event also.
The BJP is today not only one of the most generous advertisers in the country, it also is arguably the country’s largest event management organisation. It would, therefore, be preposterous to even think that this party, which claims to be natural rulers, was not capable of stepping out to help the millions of migrant workers on the road. Some people in the BJP would surely have done their bit, fed the migrants or distributed cash. That is the least one expects the cash-rich party to do. But what prevented the BJP from mobilizing thousands of buses to transport the helpless workers back home? It is in power in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand besides UP. It was in power in Maharashtra for many years. It is no secret either that it enjoys the support of industrialists and the richest of the land. Nor is it a secret that the BJP Government arranged for luxury buses during the lockdown to transport stranded tourists and pilgrims from Uttarakhand to Gujarat. Its enigmatic and relative inaction in extending a helping hand to the migrant workers will thus be debated for long.
But then nobody should underestimate this party’s capacity for mischief and foolishness either. The glee with which the Uttar Pradesh government this week stonewalled attempts by the Congress and Mrs Priyanka Gandhi Vadra to provide a thousand buses to transport the workers back home is a pointer. The chief minister Yogi Adityanath and his administration first gave the permission, then insisted that empty buses be driven to Lucknow first; thereafter they insisted on a list of the buses, details of drivers, names of the migrant workers and the fitness certificate of the buses. They also directed that the buses be handed over to the District Magistrates of Ghaziabad and NOIDA but would not allow the buses to enter UP from Rajasthan near Agra. And as if such petulance was not enough, they triumphantly went public to claim that 15% of the buses in the list did not have proper documents with lapsed insurance or fitness certificates.
Congress had offered to collaborate with the UP Government and had asked for nodal officers to be appointed to oversee the process. If the UP Government had so desired, they could have denied permission to 15% of the vehicles not found in order but allowed the rest. There was no reason for it to waste four precious days. As Mrs Priyanka Gandhi Vadra offered, the UP Government could have plastered the buses with its own posters and banners if it liked. But then there is no law against stupidity and nobody can underestimate BJP’s immense capacity to cut its nose to spite its face.
(This editorial comment appears in National Herald on Sunday)