Strategy to isolate Cong could backfire, key bills may be stalled

  • DK Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 04, 2015 13:26 IST

Within a day after the suspension of 25 Congress MPs, the government is learnt to be exploring options to pacify the principal opposition party to end the growing acrimony that threatens to derail the NDA regime's reforms agenda.

A section of the ruling dispensation is of the view that a request should be made to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to reconsider her decision to suspend the MPs for unruly behaviour in the House. The initiative may come either from the treasury benches or from some regional party that could be roped in to seek leniency from the Speaker.

"But no decision has been taken yet. The opposition has to get the message loud and clear that they cannot hold the entire House to ransom. Usually, it's the aggrieved party that should approach the Speaker," said a government functionary.

“Let's first see how many parties boycott the House in support of the Congress. We will take a call (on making any move to get the suspension revoked) after that,” the functionary added.

The re-think in the government has come in the backdrop of other opposition parties rallying around the Congress following the suspension of the MPs. Hours before the Speaker's decision, a meeting of major parties in Parliament witnessed dissenting voices, with many regional parties not endorsing the Congress' “first-resignation-then-debate” stand.

The Congress has said it will allow Parliament to function only if foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan chief minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan quit. Swaraj and Raje have been accused of helping tainted former IPL chief Lalit Modi while Chouhan has been linked to the Vyapam admission and recruitment scam.

Government strategists saw the stance adopted by regional parties as an opportunity to drive a wedge. As a Congress MP pointed out, MPs of the RJD, SP, and TRS all protested in the Well of the Lok Sabha during the morning session on Monday but none of them were suspended.

Government strategists were, therefore, taken aback when the Trinamool Congress, NCP, Left parties, Aam Aadmi Party and other opposition parties declared they would join the Congress' cause and boycott the Lok Sabha for the period of suspension of five days.

With the strategy of isolating the Congress backfiring, the government has been forced to do a re-think. In the absence of the opposition, it may go ahead and pass bills in the Lok Sabha, but doing so will further vitiate the already acrimonious relationship with the principal opposition party.

Given that the NDA is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha, these bills may get stalled in the Upper House.

According to Congress sources, the party had "an inkling" that its MPs could be suspended for disrupting proceedings on Monday. Yet, it went ahead with showing placards and shouting slogans in the Well of the House.

While many observers see Rahul Gandhi’s imprint on the Congress' aggressive strategy in Parliament, sources pointed out that it was president Sonia Gandhi who had, during the last session of Parliament, galvanised the party and the entire opposition to protest against the new land acquisition bill and march to Rashtrapati Bhawan. Rahul was on a sabbatical then.

Even on Monday, after Congress MPs were suspended, Sonia stayed inside the House for about an hour, confabulating with party colleagues about the next course of action. "We should have a coordinated strategy with other parties," she reportedly told them.

The rancour between the two sides threatens the government’s reform agenda, with the Congress warning of a “disastrous fallout”.

An angry Congress is expected to harden its position on all contentious legislations in the Rajya Sabha, where the ruling NDA is in a minority.

Congress’ deputy leader in the Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, told Hindustan Times that the suspensions will have a “disastrous fallout”. He said: “It means that there is now no meeting ground with the government.”

The suspension of Congress lawmakers has also dented the prospects of a rapprochement between the two sides.

As the Congress prepares to step up its offensive against the NDA, taking it down to the states and districts, there is a growing apprehension that the government-opposition faceoff may even spill over to the winter session in November-December – the way it did from the budget to the monsoon session.

Read: Suspension of MPs would have 'disastrous fallout', warns Cong

Parliament logjam: 25 Congress MPs suspended for 5 days from LS

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