The Congress' move to participate in a debate on the Lalit Modi issue on Wednesday, the penultimate day of this monsoon session of Parliament, came as a surprise to many.
The debate began after the government accepted the Opposition's demand to discuss an adjournment motion on external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj's alleged role in Lalit Modi controversy, in signs of the first breakthrough in the session marked by disruptions.
Though the Congress and other opposition leaders have consistently given notices of adjournment motions on Lalit Modi and Vyapam issues, the main opposition party’s sudden decision to participate in the debate was widely seen as a climbdown from its tough stand of “resignations first and discussion later”.
Congress chief whip Jyotiraditya Scindia dismissed any climbdown in the party’s stand on controversies involving top BJP leaders.
“Participating in an adjournment motion does not mean that we are moving away from our demand for resignations. Government accepted our motion and so we took part,” he said.
The principal opposition party has disrupted House business, demanding the resignation of foreign minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje for allegedly helping former IPL chief Lalit Modi get UK travel documents. The Congress also wants the ouster of Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over the multi-crore Vyapam scandal.
Congress strategists, sources said, had come to a conclusion that the party had made its point by forcing adjournments all these days and could use the discussion on the penultimate day to highlight charges of impropriety against Swaraj.
“The decision also made sense as other regional parties had distanced from our strategy of disruption,” a senior leader said.
The first indication of a rethink in the Congress had come on Monday when Congress president Sonia Gandhi is said to have told Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandyopadhyay that her party could consider participating in an adjournment motion that entails voting.
MIM chief Asaduddin Owaisi expressed surprise at the move. “As a student of politics, I fail to understand the logic behind Congress party’s decision to agree on a discussion after stalling Parliament for all these days… I am surprised,” he said.
The motion, moved by Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, was defeated by a voice-vote in the absence of the main opposition party, which staged a walkout when finance minister Arun Jaitley began to reply.