Stormy session ahead
The current Monsoon session of Parliament promises to be one where unfortunately legislative business may not hold centre stage. Amidst intense pressure from opposition parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party led central government continues to stand firm. Despite allegations of gross impropriety and corruption against senior ministers both at the state and central level, senior BJP leaders continue to defend the party and its government. The opposition hopes to grill the ruling party and its subsidiaries over issues of gross impropriety and corruption in both the Lalit Modi-related Indian Premier League scandal as well as the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh. The BJP, led by party president Amit Shah, however, is not planning to take matters lying down.
On Sunday, the party’s top leadership held a series of meetings with both Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, as they worked on a strategy to stave off opposition attacks and conduct crucial legislative business. Both leaders are under fire for their alleged role in the Lalit Modi affair and Vyapam scam respectively. The opposition though has made it clear that it will disrupt legislative proceedings to press their demand for their resignations, including that of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.
The first piece of legislative business up for discussion in Parliament was the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill. Most opposition parties are on board with the BJP on the GST Bill. However, without the assent of the Congress, passing it might be difficult, since the Bill is a constitutional amendment. As per law, a constitutional amendment requires the support of two-thirds of members in each House. To the uninitiated, the ruling dispensation stands outnumbered in the Rajya Sabha. The controversial land acquisition bill, which is currently being scrutinised by a parliamentary committee, will not see the light of the day in the current session, owing to the upcoming Bihar assembly polls. According to certain reports, many in the BJP fear that discussions on the Bill will allow the opposition to pummel the ruling alliance and project it as being “anti-farmer”.
Despite a mountain of evidence against its top leaders in both the Lalit Modi affair and the Vyapam scam, the BJP continues to brazen it out. In addition, there seems to be a definite lack of forward movement in investigations surrounding both cases. Despite serious allegations of the money laundering and foreign exchange violations, the Enforcement Directorate has not yet filed a chargesheet against former Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi. Despite calls for his extradition from by certain BJP leaders, the fact remains that the ED remains far away from a presenting a thorough case to British authorities. In the massive Vyapam scam, meanwhile, it was the apex court’s intervention that finally compelled the state government into handing over the investigation to the CBI. The strategy to brazen it out, therefore, does not seem very wise on the BJP’s part if its government wants to conduct crucial legislative business.