As an aggressive Congress gets ready to pin down the Bharatiya Janata Party in the budget session of Indian Parliament later this month, the slugfest between the two political rivals is expected to centre around “corruption vs corruption”.

Besides identifying a host of other issues, the Congress has made it known that it will demand answers from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the recent media reports that vast tracts of land were allotted to the business associates of Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel’s daughter at throwaway prices. It has already demanded the chief minister’s resignation and a Supreme Court-monitored probe.

In the Parliament, the principal opposition party will focus its attack on the prime minister on the grounds that he was the Gujarat chief minister and Anandiben Patel his revenue minister when the land allotment was cleared. Modi will be in the line of fire for allegedly allowing “nepotism, conflict of interest and brazen plundering of public land”.

Drawing up strategies

Having been under relentless attack by the BJP over a series of scams which surfaced when the United Progressive Alliance government was in power, the Congress believes it now has an opportunity to hit back at the BJP on the issue of corruption.

In addition to the Gujarat land deals, the grand old party will again focus on the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, the involvement of Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje in Lalitgate, and the ration card scandal in BJP-ruled Chhattisgarh. The prime minister will be particularly targeted for his election promise to root out corruption and his famous one-liner: Na khaunga, na khane doonga.

The BJP, for its part, is unlikely to sit back and allow the opposition to fling allegations at Modi. The ruling party will hit back by recalling the controversial land deals of Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra, who is being probed by its governments in Haryana and Rajasthan.

If the Congress aim is to damage the prime minister’s reputation, the BJP strategy is to discredit the principal opposition party’s First Family, which is fighting a court battle in the National Herald case.

The Congress will therefore have to tread carefully on the issue of graft. Excessive focus on corruption could boomerang. As it happens, several Congress leaders are busy battling corruption charges.

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Ashok Chavan, for instance, is in trouble after the state governor gave permission to the Central Bureau of Investigation to prosecute him in the Adarsh case.

Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh too is being probed by the CBI. The 81-year-old Congress veteran is facing charges of corruption in a disproportionate assets case relating to the period when he was a Union minister in the UPA government.

The CBI has also been entrusted with a case against former Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot and former Union minister Sachin Pilot, following allegations that rules were tweaked to award a tender for the operation of ambulances in the state to a firm on which the two Congress leaders were directors.

Opposition solidarity

Predictably, the Congress has accused the Modi government of pursuing vendetta politics, but this charge may not resonate with the people who have yet to forget the financial scandals associated with the UPA government. In this case, public memory has not proved to be short.

However, the Congress hopes to rally support of other opposition parties in their battle against the ruling alliance as they have also been targeted by the BJP.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is on the defensive following the involvement of her party leaders in the Saradha chit fund scam, while the Nationalist Congress Party is unhappy with the BJP government in Maharashtra after it ordered a probe against former Deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar and former Water Resources Minister Sunil Tatkare in the irrigation scam.

Another former NCP minister Chhagan Bhujbal is also in the dock in connection with the construction of Maharashtra Sadan in Delhi. Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and Bahujan Samaj Party president Mayawati have cases pending against them.

Although it is questionable if the Congress will get the backing of other opposition parties on the issue of corruption, it will certainly get support in highlighting the Rohith Vemula suicide case and the Centre’s move to impose Central rule in Arunachal Pradesh.

A united opposition will only be too willing to put the Modi government in the dock for its anti-Dalit moves and for violating its own principle of cooperative federalism.

The opposition realises that the BJP is on the back foot on both these matters. In fact, its handling of the Rohith Vemula suicide has also upset the BJP’s Dalit MPs and its allies who feel that the government’s insensitivity had alienated the Dalits and strengthened the perception that the NDA government is not favourably inclined towards the scheduled castes.

Similarly, all opposition parties have slammed the BJP government for using the governor’s office to destabilise a democratically-elected state government.

Since the budget session is being held on the eve of assembly elections in Assam, Kerala, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, the opposition attack is expected to be particularly sharp as it will use the Parliament to position itself for the coming electoral battle.

This article first appeared on and has been reproduced with permission.