The NDA’s bruising defeat in Bihar sent senior ministers into a soul-searching huddle on Monday but parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu urged the Opposition to not use the poll results to disrupt the winter session of Parliament.
At a meeting of the cabinet committee on parliamentary affairs, BJP ally and Lok Janshakti Party chief Ramvilas Paswan admitted he “couldn’t sleep last night” after the NDA’s drubbing at the hands of a three-party Grand Alliance led by chief minister Nitish Kumar on Sunday.
The panel also decided to schedule the winter session of Parliament between November 26 and December 23.
“Sab gadbad ho gaya (Everything has gone wrong). I could not sleep last night,” Paswan told the meeting, according to sources present at the venue.
The panel also decided to stretch to two days a commemorative celebration of the acceptance of the Constitution — an event that is likely to see the BJP stake claim to the legacy of Dalit icon BR Ambedkar, popularly known as the ‘father of the Indian Constitution’. The event was initially planned for a single day.
The Dalit vote was key to the Grand Alliance’s thumping victory in Bihar – grabbing 178 seats to the NDA’s 58 -- and despite roping in allies such as Paswan and Jitan Ram Manjhi, backward caste groups deserted the NDA.
Still smarting from the loss, the BJP is looking at expanding its base among the Dalit groups and has repeatedly made a pitch for Ambedkar’s legacy in the past as well. The celebrations are scheduled on November 26 and 27, marking the day the Constituent Assembly accepted the Constitution on 26 November 1949.
At the meeting, BJP minister Ananth Kumar, who camped in Bihar for almost two months for the polls, acknowledged he couldn’t gauge the currents in favour of the Grand Alliance between Lalu Prasad’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, Nitish Kumar’s Janata Dal(United) and the Congress.
“I don’t know what happened. This is unprecedented,” the BJP’s Rajiv Pratap Rudy, a minister from Bihar, said in the meeting.
Both home minister Rajnath Singh and finance minister Arun Jaitley were present but didn’t say anything.
Sources said when the discussions about Parliament agenda started, Paswan said, “Bills on Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes welfare are pending. We should push them first.” He wanted to talk more but was stopped by Naidu.
Naidu also strongly defended the government and said the Bihar results didn’t reflect the national mood.
“The Bihar verdict is not a mandate to obstruct Parliament . Legislative measures lying before parliament are crucial for Bihar as well,” he said, in an indirect reference to the goods and services tax bill.
But many opposition leaders aren’t impressed with the government’s plans. CPI(M) chief Sitaram Yechury demanded Dalit-related bills must be passed during this period.
“It would be a complete travesty if the government uses these dates to avoid a possible humiliating confrontation with the Opposition,” said Yechury.