The first week of the monsoon session of Parliament has demonstrated that the Treasury Benches and the opposition have both adopted a faulty strategy even as they are blaming each other for holding up the proceedings. The deadlock is likely to continue for a while.
The ruling coalition must be having anxious moments going by the display of unity among the Opposition parties on the crucial price rise issue. It would have done well to split its detractors. One way would have been to raise the Sohrabuddin issue in Parliament where not only its constituents but even the Left and other secular parties would have gone hammer and tongs at the BJP.
In fact, the saffron brigade would have found itself isolated. Since the issue is already hogging the headlines, the treasury benches could have created a wedge in the opposition ranks quite effectively.
Equally surprising is the decision of both the BJP and the Left to move an adjournment motion on the price rise issue knowing full well that the Speaker will not permit it. The price rise matter is so overarching that it touches a chord everywhere. There are elements even within the ruling coalition that concur with the opposition on this. But since the Speaker has already given her ruling, discussions will now perhaps be held under Rule 184 in the Lok Sabha under which any matter can be raised. This rule, like the adjournment motion, can also lead to voting on the subject.
However, going by the gravity of the subject, the BJP or any of the opposition parties could have insisted on moving a no-confidence motion under the conduct of rules of business of the Lok Sabha under Rule 198. Any member can move this motion and if it has the support of a stipulated number of MPs, it has to be taken up as an overriding priority. The motion entails voting and the Speaker cannot sit on judgment if its movers do it as per procedure.
Many may argue that since the UPA government had demonstrated its strength on a cut motion during the budget session, this move would be counterproductive. After all, the UPA has a majority in its favour on paper. However, a no-confidence motion is also a tool to ascertain the kind of support this government enjoys on the price rise issue. Fence-sitters who were supporting the adjournment motion but were against voting on the subject will also have to commit themselves on the floor.
The division on a no-confidence motion will reflect partywise views on the issue and at the same time will compel the UPA government to take serious remedial steps. If the fence-sitters abstain from the voting, this will go against them in the state assembly or subsequent parliamentary polls.
The Opposition, in fact, has nothing to lose from any angle. If the ruling coalition wins, it will be that it was expected but the issue of price rise will certainly come under the kind of scrutiny it needs. It will require all the resources of the treasury benches to get past this. Once the game is settled, the normal business of Parliament can be transacted.
It appears that the Opposition, by going in for a motion under rule 184, has exhibited its lack of confidence in taking the government head on. Unless it feels that once the 184 option is exhausted, it can still corner the government under Rule 198 later at a more vulnerable time. Rule 198 may thus be its nuclear weapon at that juncture.
To ward off this seeming embarrassment, the treasury benches may resort to other tactics of dividing the Opposition and to ward off any visible threat. But its most effective tool at this moment is the Sohrabuddin/Amit Shah case. This has the potential of pitting the entire Parliament against an isolated BJP. But in the scheme of things as they exist at the moment, good strategy is the casualty in the game of realpolitik. Between us.