The Congress is caught in a dilemma whether to embarrass the Modi government yet again by getting passed the opposition amendments to the motion of thanks to the President’s address or focus on the ongoing assembly elections in five states.
To ensure full attendance by its members in the Rajya Sabha, the main opposition party will have to issue a three-line whip for Monday when amendments to the motion will be taken up for voting. Defying a party whip invites expulsion from a House.
With a majority in the Upper House, the Congress holds the key to the passage of any opposition amendment to the President’s speech. The party is in a catch-22 situation as some of its members are busy campaigning in poll-bound states.
Two Congress members – T Subbarami Reddy and Chhaya Verma – have moved the amendments and the party will take a call on Monday whether to press for these. CPM leaders Sitaram Yechury and Ritabrata Banerjee, CPI’s D Raja, Derek O’Brien of the Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party leader Kiranmoy Nanda are among the other members who have moved the amendments. Out of the total 651 amendments being moved, 359 are by Samajwadi Party’s Sanjay Seth, while 19 are on demonetisation. For the past two years,the NDA government had to face embarrassment in the Rajya Sabha after the opposition managed to pass its amendments to the President’s address.
Last year, Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad had moved an amendment, expressing regret that the President’s address did not pledge support to rights of all citizens to contest panchayat elections in Haryana. When Azad pressed for the amendment, 94 voted in favour of it and 61 against.
Prior to that, an amendment moved by Yechury and others in the Upper House in 2015 that the President’s address did not mention the failure of the Modi government to curb high-level corruption and to bring back black money was passed with 118 voting for and 57 against.