Stormy session looms large
When skeletons in a cupboard come tumbling out they create an unseemly mess. This is probably the predominant thought swirling in the minds of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s top-rung leadership as of now. As the monsoon session is set to begin in almost a month from now, there will be a lot of figurative lightning and thunder as opposition parties seek to seize the moment and attack the Modi government. The Modi government is facing the heat on what is arguably its first big scandal since it assumed power last year. Political commentators across the board are apprehensive that the upcoming Monsoon Session of Parliament will be a total wash out in light of the immense controversy surrounding former Indian Premier League chairman Lalit Modi and his links with senior Bharatiya Janata Party leaders.
The monsoon session which is scheduled to start from July 21 is crucial to the current government, with key legislations hanging in the balance: the amendments to the land law and the goods and services tax (GST) Bill prominent among them. Despite mounting evidence of impropriety against Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj regarding their murky dealings with corruption-tainted Lalit Modi, the ruling dispensation seems intent on riding through the storm. The BJP has maintained the same roughshod attitude towards news that a Delhi court has taken cognisance of a complaint alleging that Union Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani misrepresented her educational qualifications in affidavits submitted to the Election Commission. Meanwhile, opposition parties are preparing to stall Parliament yet again, mounting fears that the upcoming session will not be as productive as the previous one. Noises coming out from the BJP suggest that it will hold firm, despite relentless opposition pressure to sack the aforementioned leaders from their posts.
With key Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh affiliates up in arms over the NDA government’s land acquisition bill, the BJP’s vigorous bid to pass this key piece of legislation has become a lot harder. While a joint committee of Parliament will submit its report on the land acquisition bill on the first day of the Monsoon Session, another Rajya Sabha select committee will also present its findings on the GST Bill. For the uninitiated, the NDA has just 64 members in the Rajya Sabha out of a possible 250, relegating it to a substantial minority. To pass both the GST and land acquisition bill, the NDA government can do two things. First, the government can rope in members of the opposition onto its side. For example, in its bid to pass the GST Bill, the ruling dispensation has reportedly managed to rope in the Trinamool Congress, which currently governs the state of West Bengal. Other parties like the Biju Janata Dal and Nationalist Congress Party have also been brought into the GST fold. Second, with a sweeping mandate in the Lok Sabha, where it holds 336 seats out of a possible 552, the NDA government can opt for a joint session of Parliament, in the likely event that the Rajya Sabha rejects the land acquisition bill.
Under Article 118 of the Constitution, however, only the President of India can call for a joint session of both the houses. Under a joint session, the NDA might find its path a lot smoother with it possessing the requisite numbers. The process of arriving at a joint session, however, will not be smooth by any stretch. The ruling dispensation, therefore, is in for a tough time, unless it can a find a clever way past these controversies.