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How Sumitra Mahajan ended up rescuing the Congress

Panini Anand | Updated on: 13 February 2017, 3:32 IST

In one swift move, the BJP has accomplished what the Congress' strategists failed to achieve for the past 15 months: end the grand old party's isolation.

Perhaps the BJP thought that by suspending 25 Congress MPs, it would add the insult to the latter's injury by reducing it to a tally of 19, even if its for just 5 days. Instead, the Speaker's action, which by most accounts is excessive, has helped the Congress. Today, even a fierce opponent like the Aam Aadmi Party has decided to boycott Parliament in solidarity with the Congress.

This support is in sharp contrast to the Congress' pitiable isolation last year. Being reduced to 44 in the Lok Sabha, the party's humiliation was complete. A merciless BJP refused to concede the Leader of the Opposition position to the party. Congress had become such an untouchable that the leaders of the second and third largest Opposition parties, AIADMK and TMC, even refused to sit with Sonia Gandhi on the front bench.

Today, the Congress is the undisputed opposition in Parliament. What's more, the party has just scored a important victory over the Modi government by forcing it to withdraw most of its amendments on the Land Acquisition Bill. This has, in effect, taken the legislation back to the original Act drafted by the UPA.

The Monsoon Session has been washed out for all practical purposes. With the BJP adopting an adversarial route by suspending 25 Congress MPs, it is clear that there is no scope for any negotiation.

Buoyed by the support from other parties, Sonia Gandhi, Rahul Gandhi and other Congress MPs have gone on the offensive against the government. They staged demonstrations outside Parliament to protest against the Speaker's move. Sonia Gandhi even called it a "murder of democracy".

In contrast, the morale in the BJP camp is low. Initially there was some optimism that the Speaker's tough stand would lead to some Bills being passed. But as one Opposition party after another supported the Congress, the writing was on the wall.

Monsoon Session has been virtually washed out. The suspension of Congress MPs leaves no scope for negotiation

"Now there is hardly any possibility of getting any bills passed this session. This session is almost over. The Opposition is getting more and more aggressive," a BJP MP told Catch.

Another MP admits that the party miscalculated. "What happened to the UPA in its last two years, is now happening to us".

Due to the impasse in Parliament, crucial legislations like the Land Acquisition Bill, the General Sales Tax Bill are hanging in uncertainty.

Poking fun at the government, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Ghulam Nabi Azad says, "the government is behaving like the Opposition in the House".

Nothing that the BJP is doing seems to work. An all party meeting was called earlier this week, but it failed to end the logjam. The action against the Congress MPs was supposed to be a ploy to divide the Opposition, it ended up uniting them. And when the BJP tried to appease the Opposition by backtracking on the Land Bill, the latter tasted blood.

On 4 August, the only non-NDA parties that attended the Lok Sabha were the BJD and AIADMK.

Even BJD MPs have expressed their disagreement with the Speaker's action against Congress MPs. All the others skipped proceedings in solidarity with the suspended MPs.

The BJP Parliamentary Party passed a resolution against "negative, obstructionist and anti-development" policies of Congress. According to Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, there is no question of agreeing to the Congress' demand for the resignation of Sushma Swaraj, Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan.

But the problem is that many within the BJP have no idea what the government is up to. By suspending the Congress MPs, the BJP has done the opposite of what it had sought to do. It has ended up demoralising its own MPs and giving the moribund Congress a new lease of life.

First published: 5 August 2015, 11:24 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.