The current troubles of the Bharatiya Janata Party, witnessed after a spate of electoral defeats, was a “passing phase” that would surely pass and the party will “rebound.” That was Sushma Swaraj’s “prophecy” for the future of the main opposition party.

The deputy leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha certainly did not agree with the suggestion that the Congress was on the “rise and rise” and the BJP “down and down.” In 1999 the Congress had 114 MPs and it recouped. In 2009 the BJP has 116 MPs and there is no reason why it cannot get back its old strength.

Speaking at the HT Leadership Summit here on Saturday, she made the point that at the Centre there was “no ambiguity” about her party’s role, which was very much that of the Opposition. However, she had spelt out her party’s stance: it would support the government’s pro-people programmes; it would remind and warn the government if such programmes were derailed or delayed: and it would strongly oppose any moves by the ruling party that it did not think were in the best interests of the people.

Deftly avoiding a direct answer to a question put to her by the moderator on if and when L.K. Advani would hand over the position of Leader of the Opposition to her, she said that it was “your perception” that these changes were expected. In fact, sitting by her side CPI (M) MP Sitaram Yechury laughed and said the moderator was “spoiling her chances” by naming her as Mr. Advani’s possible successor.

An interesting point made by her was that many parties were now ruling parties in one State and Opposition parties in another. This was true of the Congress, the BJP, the CPI (M), the Akali Dal and others. They had to learn to behave responsibly in both the roles.

Sukhbir Singh Badal, Punjab Deputy Chief Minister and Shiromani Akali Dal leader emphasised the importance of the Centre listening to the voice of regional parties that were articulating the specific and differing problems of different regions of the country.

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