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Parliament logjam: Rajya Sabha has become Modi's worst nightmare

Panini Anand | Updated on: 22 July 2015, 0:22 IST
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The logjam

  • Narendra Modi government is desperate to pass crucial legislations in the Monsoon Session
  • Opposition parties have cornered the government on the Lalit Modi controversy and Vyapam scam
  • The say that they won\'t let Parliament function unless Shivraj Chouhan, Vasundhara Raje and Sushma Swaraj resign

The house

  • The government is woefully short of a majority in the Rajya Sabha. It has 62 MPs, much less than the halfway mark of 123
  • It was counting on a division in Opposition ranks. But that hasn\'t happened

The past

  • When in Opposition, BJP didn\'t let Parliament function demanding the resignation of tainted UPA ministers

The Narendra Modi government is desperate to pass a number of big ticket legislations in the Monsoon Session of Parliament that began on 21 July. Put on the defensive by the Lalit Modi controversy and the Vyapam scam, the government was counting on a division in the Opposition ranks. But that doesn't seem to have happened.

The requests for adjournments motions and notices by members of Opposition parties indicate that they are on the same page. Not just the Congress and the Left parties, most of the regional parties in the Opposition are also rallying against the government. This is hardly surprising as it reflects the political equations in their respective states.

For many regional parties - be it the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Janata Dal (United) or the Trinamool Congress - the primary threat is the BJP. Therefore, it is very difficult for them to strike a deal with the party. The only two non-NDA parties the government can count on are the AIADMK and the Biju Janata Dal.

The battle is most intense in the Rajya Sabha, where the government is in a minority. The Opposition's message is clear: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan must resign. Unless that happens, the House won't function and no Bill will be passed.

Opposition closes ranks

Ever since the NDA came to power, the Upper House has been a major obstacle for it. The ruling alliance is woefully short of numbers and it will take them two more years and victories in a few more states to have a functional majority.

On 21 July, Lok Sabha was adjourned after paying tributes to Dileep Singh Bhuria, a sitting BJP MP from Ratlam who died on 24 June. But in the Rajya Sabha, a united Opposition took the government to task, accusing PM Modi of going back on his promise of zero tolerance towards corruption.

Congress, SP and CPI(M) moved motions seeking discussion on the scams in the House. When the government agreed to a discussion, the Opposition leaders collectively demanded that Raje, Chouhan and Swaraj need to resign first.

Be it the SP, Trinamool Congress, BSP or JD(U), the main threat for most regional parties is the BJP

CPI(M) General Secretary Sitaram Yechury, who also represents the party in the Rajya Sabha, says that there can be no double standards on corruption. "During UPA rule, we stood with the BJPand made the UPA remove its tainted ministers. Why is the BJP scared of using the same yardstick?" Yechury asks.

"Let there be an inquiry. In order to have a fair probe, they should resign until the inquiry is over," he further adds.

This demand was echoed by SP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Naresh Agarwal: "No discussion is possible without these three resignations".

Strategies

At present the NDA has 62 members in the house of 245: 48 from BJP, 6 from Telugu Desam Party, 3 each from Shiv Sena and Shiromani Akali Dal and one each from RPI (Athawale) and Nagaland People's Front. At 68, Congress alone has more MPs than the NDA. The halfway mark of 123 is nearly double that of the NDA tally.

The Opposition, at least the Congress, is determined to put the government on the defensive even in the Lok Sabha. "In the Lok Sabha, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi will not miss any opportunity to attack the government. There are bound to be fireworks when they come to Parliament," says a Congress leader.

This belligerence was evident even in the Budget Session, during which Sonia Gandhi led a march of Opposition MPs to Rashtrapati Bhavan against the Land Acquisition Bill and Rahul Gandhi made his 'suit-boot ki sarkar' jibe at the government.

The BJP feels that the Opposition is being obstructionist.

"They don't want a meaningful discussion. They just want to disrupt the house," says Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, minister of state for parliamentary affairs.

Articulating the Opposition's argument, CPI MP D Raja says that the BJP is solely to blame for the logjam as it has not asked the concerned ministers to resign.

"It is part the Opposition's job to demand the resignation of ministers on the basis of certain allegations. We and the BJP did that when the spectrum scam surfaced during the UPA government," Raja further adds.

First published: 22 July 2015, 0:22 IST
 
Panini Anand @paninianand

Senior Assistant Editor at Catch, Panini is a poet, singer, cook, painter, commentator, traveller and photographer who has worked as reporter, producer and editor for organizations including BBC, Outlook and Rajya Sabha TV. An IIMC-New Delhi alumni who comes from Rae Bareli of UP, Panini is fond of the Ghats of Varanasi, Hindustani classical music, Awadhi biryani, Bob Marley and Pink Floyd, political talks and heritage walks. He has closely observed the mainstream national political parties, the Hindi belt politics along with many mass movements and campaigns in last two decades. He has experimented with many mass mediums: theatre, street plays and slum-based tabloids, wallpapers to online, TV, radio, photography and print.

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