The Congress, having been voted off power after 10 years, appeared aimless in its role as an effective Opposition during the just-concluded budget session of Parliament.
Though its leaders claimed that the party was a responsible Opposition, facts speak otherwise.
Its opposition to the insurance bill and initial reluctance to support the judicial accountability legislation was contradictory on the part of the Congress as the party had strongly pitched for these two initiatives when it was in power.
Reduced to its lowest ever tally of 44 in the Lok Sabha, Congress is visibly isolated in the House so much so that members of other political parties are unwilling to sit with its leaders.
Not only the Biju Janata Dal (BJD) and AIADMK, but also the Trinamool Congress (TMC) has refused to share space with Congress.
The TMC was a major part of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government’s second term. The three parties wanted to maintain their regional identities.
Congress also failed to gather support to oppose the TRAI amendment bill. Its long-time ally, the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), backed the NDA government on the issue.
Questions were again raised on the participation of its members on serious issues. When the Lok Sabha discussed the issue of communal violence on Wednesday and Thursday, barely half of the party’s total members were present in the House.
The issue was being debated after Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi demanded a discussion on the rising communal violence in the country. Though Rahul sat through the discussion, he did not speak.
Barring a few minor disruptions, the Narendra Modi government has managed to run the Parliament smoothly in the budget session.
The Congress is also eagerly awaiting Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s decision on the issue of the Leader of Opposition. So far, there are no indications that the Congress will get the post.
In his opinion to the Speaker, attorney general Mukul Rohatgi has said that neither parliamentary tradition nor the law backed the Congress party’s claim.
To further rub salt on Congress’ wounds, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ensured that the AIADMK floor leader is unanimously elected as the Lok Sabha deputy speaker. By doing so, BJP has also sought to keep the southern party on its side.
But there is some silver lining for the Congress.
Since the government lacks majority in the Rajya Sabha, it needs Congress’ support on getting key legislations passed. The Congress has managed to score a point over the BJP when it forced the government to refer the landmark insurance bill to a select committee.
The bill that proposes to increase the foreign investment limit in the insurance sector from 26% to 49% was the first major economic reform initiative of the government.
The Congress also managed to score a point when it forced the government to drop the veto clause in the judicial accountability bill.