Poll campaign or Parliament debate? Opposition parties have a tough choice to make this election season, which started on Monday.
The budget session of Parliament will resume on April 25 and end on May 13. However, the elections to all the constituencies of Tamil Nadu and Kerala and the last three phases of polling in West Bengal are also due during this period.
Though BJP is also in the polling fray, it has little to lose when compared to its political rivals. The party’s best chance of scoring a win is in Assam, but the poll process there will end in the next seven days. As the ruling dispensation only has a limited stake in other states, it can focus almost entirely on the budget session while its rivals scramble to strike a balance between electioneering and legislating.
“It can be a tricky situation. We can’t afford to send many MPs to campaign as it may give the BJP a numerical advantage for passing bills that are stuck due to our opposition,” said a Congress MP.
The Congress and the Left, the BJP’s two main rivals, are engaged in a bipolar battle in Kerala. In West Bengal, they have entered into an informal alliance against the Trinamool Congress.
“In polls that stretch over weeks, regional parties always find themselves at a disadvantage. They don’t have a vast pool of human resources to deploy. I can imagine that almost all MPs of the Trinamool Congress and the Left would be required for poll campaigns. As it is, the Left doesn’t have a lot of resources right now,” said Bhartruhari Mahtab of the Biju Janata Dal, another regional party.
Bills such as GST and labour reforms have been stuck in Parliament because the government does not have the numbers to push them through the Rajya Sabha. However, if many opposition MPs go out to campaign for the polls, the BJP may finally succeed in its attempts.
In 2011, the then Congress government had scrapped the second half of the session to let legislators focus on election campaigning. Though many opposition parties demanded that the second half of this budget session be rescheduled on similar grounds, the government seems unlikely to relent. “The BJP refused to accept our demands. In an all-party meeting meant to fix the budget session schedule, parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu refused to scrap its second leg,” a Congress leader recalled.
However, CPI(M) central committee member Nilotpal Basu said this was nothing but a “minor hitch”. “We will manage. The BJP is going to have a tough time in every state,” he said.