Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s efforts towards a “Congress-mukta Bharat” are not over yet. Modi gave that call in 2014 and has achieved it, to some extent.
Congress was reduced to a number – less than 10% of the total strength of the Lok Sabha – that denied it even Leader of Opposition’s status in Parliament’s lower house. But Modi feels there is a need to press the refresh button on his strategy.
In the last seven days, PM Modi spoke in both Houses of Parliament and tried to achieve it through a two-pronged strategy. First by taking on the Congress whose opposition has held the reform agenda of his government. And second, by making a distinction between the Congress and other opposition parties.
“Why is not the House allowed to function properly? It is their inferiority complex,” Modi said in the Lok Sabha last week while replying to the debate on motion of thanks on President’s address.
“There are many deserving members in the opposition, who will get an opportunity to speak if the House will run. Some people do not want them to overshadow,” he added.
Modi reached out to the opposition admitting that his suggestion to fix a full day just to allow first time MPs to speak was actually inspired by a similar suggestion from Biju Janata Dal leader Tathagata Satpathy. Modi said he was pained when the poll manifesto of Mulayam Singh Yadav’s party was torn by Rahul Gandhi in 2012 at a public meeting.
He brought this “isolate Congress” strategy in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday when he insisted whenever the BJP attacks the Congress, media presents it as an assault on the entire opposition. This concession, he added, is not available to others like Bahujan Samaj Party head Mayawati or Janata Dal (United) chief Sharad Yadav.
“It is described as attack on BSP or JD(U). But attack on Congress is attack on entire opposition,” Modi argued.
So what is the Prime Minister’s strategy for drawing a distinction between the Congress and other opposition parties? What purpose is he trying to serve by driving a wedge into the opposition?
The Congress remains BJP’s principal challenge in most of the state where the latter has a foothold – such as Punjab, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Rajasthan.
A resurgence of the Congress in Bihar, winning 27 out of 41 seats it contested, did not augur well for the BJP. The Congress is abandoning its “go solo” strategy. It formed an alliance with the DMK in Tamil Nadu and is set for an understanding with the Left in West Bengal. Any gain that the Congress accrues will hurt the BJP.
The Congress party has been aggressive in Parliament, more than any other opposition party. Its opposition to the provisions of the GST bill and some others such as the land acquisition law has ensured they remain stuck.
The Modi government believes the Congress was throwing a spanner into its work and its tit-for-tat strategy was turning out to be counter-productive to the dispensation that is about to complete two years in power.
The more Congress gets isolated in Parliament, the more it will help the BJP in Parliament. The government’s floor managers believe the Congress cannot sustain opposing their reform agenda beyond a point if it lacks support from other opposition parties.
The government has been insisting in allowing parties like the BJD and Trinamool Congress to occupy the centre stage in opposition benches, as their opposition or support to legislations are issue based and reasonable in opposing a move.