From the slogan of Opposition unity at the beginning of the monsoon session in Parliament, the script has now changed to government-BJP coordination. And the BJP is ready to shower praise on the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for making his ministers interact regularly with the Opposition on key legislation.
“As the head of the cabinet, the Prime Minister certainly deserves credit for the consultations that cabinet ministers have routinely held with the principle opposition party in recent days,” said Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj.
Interestingly, these words of praise comes close on the heels of a phase of acrimony: Senior party leader Arun Jaitley had called him a “weak PM” days back while speaking on the Kashmir crisis.
The early stalling of the House had marked the high point of Opposition unity — BJP ally Sharad Yadav had even tried to play facilitator — but this soon began to fall apart.
When the Opposition was pressing for an adjournment motion on price rise and the government was unwilling to accept it, the Prime Minister had a word with Swaraj on the sidelines of a meeting held to fill two vacant posts of vigilance commissioners. He is believed to have requested Swaraj to find a way out, and even offered to get Home Minister P. Chidambaram to talk to her.
The promised conversation did take place, after which the government and the Opposition sealed the matter by agreeing to a discussion under Rule 342 — entailing no vote but a sense of the House resolution — at a breakfast meet at Pranab Mukherjee’s residence.
But where does this leave Opposition unity?
“Opposition unity is a loose arrangement; it is issue-based support,” said Swaraj. “On inflation and Bhopal, the Opposition was together, but on the Enemy Property Bill it is not.”
But, if such arrangements go on, the smaller Opposition parties may become irrelevant. “It is not the purpose of our politics to make them relevant,” said a senior BJP leader.