New Deal: why the Congress and BJP have gone silent on each other
For nearly four weeks of this winter session, the Congress kept stalling the parliament over one issue or the other. The party leveraged its strength in the Rajya Sabha to block several pieces of legislation.
But with just three days left in the session, the party has suddenly agreed to let the House function. But why? It's certainly not the case that the Congress has run out of issues.
Could it be that the party has struck a deal with the BJP. If so, over what?
Breaking the ice
On Friday, in an all-party meeting called by Rajya Sabha chairperson Hamid Ansari, it was agreed that the House should function smoothly from Monday to allow passage of some crucial bills.
Addressing the media after the meeting, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad said, "The issue of Arunachal Pradesh is over today. We have got justice from the court. There are a few things pending in the Rajya Sabha that need to be done."
"For instance," he added, "the SC/ST Atrocities Prevention Bill and other bills that are not disputed. Only 2-3 days are left and we have to send some bills back to the Lok Sabha."
A senior Congress leader told Catch, "It's time some bills are cleared. There was too much posturing in the House over the National Herald case, which I think was not important. We should have restricted ourselves to what we are doing now regarding that case".
D Raja: Parties have to raise issues important to them, but we have to let bills pass as well
On the other side, the BJP, which had been accusing the Congress of holding up the parliament without "any substantial and valid reasons" welcomed the gesture of co-operation from the opposition.
JDU leader KC Tyagi welcomed the thaw. He told Catch, "The appropriation bills has to be passed. SC/ST Bill is important. There are 4-5 bills we need to clear, excluding the GST and the Whistleblowers Act."
D Raja of CPI said, "Political parties have to raise issues important for them and the democracy. But we have to let bills pass as well." Raja added that "there's no reason to doubt" the decision taken at the all-party meeting.
Holding their peace
Inside parliament, Azad or his counterpart in the Lok Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge didn't utter a word on the alleged DDCA scam and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley's role in it. Indeed, even when the Upper House was disrupted by the Congress MPs, it was only on the issue of Arunachal Pradesh.
It was surprising given that observers expected the Congress to use the alleged scam to get back at the BJP, especially after the National Herald episode.
In fact, even prime time TV debates have moved on from the DDCA rot to topics such as juvenile justice. Jaitley, after three restless days ducking a flurry of allegations, must be relieved.
That all this happened on the eve of Sonia and Rahul Gandhi's appearance before a judge in the National Herald case hasn't escaped notice. The same case over which the Congress, crying political vendetta against the Gandhi family by the BJP regime, had stalled the parliament for days.
#NationalHeraldCase: No drama on roads when Sonia and Rahul go to court, says Congress leader
And outside, the party was organising a march of party workers, including several chief ministers, to accompany Sonia and Rahul to the court on Saturday.
But the plan seems to have changed now, at the last minute. Sonia has urged supporters to remain peaceful. Sources in the party told Catch that there's now "less possibility of any drama on the roads except supporters protesting at the party office during the day".
This change in tone and posturing raises questions.
Has the Congress agreed to not go after Jaitley in the DDCA case in return for the BJP toning down its rhetoric on the National Herald case?
Is the AAP's aggressive stand on the DDCA worrying both the BJP and the Congress? And is that why they may have struck a deal?
After all, it's said that in politics nothing happens without a reason.