Monsoon session could be a washout
The combined Opposition benches propose to target the Modi government in the ensuing monsoon session of Parliament. It can be predicted even before the three-week session begins on July 21 that it will be a complete washout. It could be another combative session where the government may face an overtly hostile opposition. Unfortunately, even if the Congress-led opposition wants to tone down its stand, it cannot afford to do so as it has already upped the ante. After all this was just what the BJP had done to the Congress-led UPA for the past ten years while sitting in the opposition.
Congress, which was still licking its wounds after a humiliating defeat in the 2014 polls, never expected that it would find such a fine set of thorns (read controversial issues) to <g data-gr-id="58">prick</g> the BJP government with. In previous sessions, the Congress looked isolated but now it sees the present crisis as an opportune time to bring the secular parties together. It isn’t just the Congress that is capitalizing on the BJP’s woes. Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has already targeted Swaraj, Raje and other alleged ‘tainted’ BJP leaders in the run-up to the Bihar elections. Even the Aam Aadmi Party is planning to launch a nationwide campaign against the BJP. In short, the BJP is at the receiving end even from within its own ranks.
The demand for sacking four top women leaders of the BJP will hold the up Monsoon session unless the government acts before. While it all began with the demand for resignation of the External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj two weeks ago, for her alleged involvement in helping the ex IPL chief Lalit Modi whom the opposition calls a “fugitive living in London” the crisis has grown bigger.
Subsequently, the revelations involving <g data-gr-id="72">favours</g> done by Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje to Lalit Modi had surfaced. Added troubles for Raje came with the disclosure that her son Dushyant was the beneficiary of investments of over Rs 11 crores made by Lalit Modi at a high premium. Recently a Delhi court took cognizance of a complaint against HRD minister Smriti Irani on falsification of her educational qualifications. Added to that was the allegation that Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde cleared contracts worth Rs 206 crore for the state’s woman and child welfare department illegally, without inviting tenders. The opposition accuses them of alleged corruption, dishonesty, impropriety as well as the violation of constitutional office. Although it is adopting a brazen attitude now, the party has to take into account the political cost of the present crisis and how it will affect its image.
All these have come at a time when the government and the party can ill afford. More than the Parliament session the crisis would have an impact on the October Bihar Assembly elections where high stakes are involved. Bihar is seen as a second test for the <g data-gr-id="57">waning</g> Modi magic. In January this year the party lost Delhi to the Aam Aadmi Party that won a spectacular victory. With this backdrop, the Opposition is planning a big offensive against the BJP-led government and score points.
Secondly, what is at stake is that the ensuing session is important for Prime Minister Modi’s reform agenda. A washout session would mean Modi’s second wave of economic reform is in jeopardy. Both the GST bill, as well as the ordinance promulgated for the third time in place of the land acquisition bill, lie in the doldrums. The amendments to the Lokpal and Lokayukta Act, the Railways (Amendment) Bill, the Waterways Bill, Compensatory Afforestation Fund Bill and Benami Transactions (Prohibition) amendment Bill, 2015 are some of the key measures pending in the Parliament.
This brings us to the real question whether the opposition strategy of stalling business is the right approach. In a democracy, no doubt the opposition has to function as a watchdog. In the earlier decades after independence, this spirit of debating and discussing the issue was followed by and large and the Parliament functioned well. There were good parliamentarians like Piloo Modi who made the house <g data-gr-id="62">lively</g> with their wit. The speeches were engaging.
The negative spiral started during the Rajiv Gandhi time when his “Shouting brigade” against the then Prime Minister VP Singh used his lung power. Also with the live television covering the proceedings, the Members of Parliament seem to believe that disruption gets them more focus than debate. The opposition should realize they can resort to a street fight on political issues but Parliament is meant for debate and discussion and to put the government on the mat if things go wrong.
Secondly, the Congress should practice what it has preached when in power and allow the house to run rather than blocking proceedings. If the four ministers had done anything wrong, let the courts decide. Above all the attitude of the BJP needs to be one of giving and taking. After all it is the responsibility of the government to run the business of the house. But the indications are that the government is willing to sacrifice the monsoon session rather than find a way out. This attitude will not resolve the problem. One face-saving way of doing it is to find some facing formula. Given that it needs opposition’s support to facilitate important bills such as the GST it cannot be unconcerned. Modi who came riding on a high moral horse needs to assure the public of government’s integrity. A passive approach will make NDA no different from UPA.