Opposition in sync on Rajya Sabha; Lok Sabha path still unclear
The Opposition parties have been able to find a collective script for their efforts to take on the government in the Upper House of Parliament, something they demonstrably lacked in the Lower House on the first two days of the ongoing monsoon session.
On Tuesday, a few key Rajya Sabha Opposition leaders went into a huddle at 10 am to devise a strategy to balance their demands for a debate on the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and their protest over rising prices.
The result: the Rajya Sabha didn’t work for three hours and then held a smooth debate on the pandemic during which Opposition leaders slammed the Centre and touted the achievements of states governed by their parties on that front.
According to two senior Opposition leaders, the Upper House might again go back to protest mode on Thursday, but this will be decided after taking different parties on board.
In the Lok Sabha, major Opposition parties have continued protests but without a joint strategy. “There has not been any single meeting of the Opposition parties in the Lok Sabha. No one knows what the other party plans to do,” said Sudip Bandopadhyay, House floor leader of the Trinamool Congress, the second largest Opposition party in Parliament.
Congress leader Manish Tewari, a member of the party’s Parliamentary strategy group argued that the government has not offered any discussion on the latest snooping scandal or any other issue. “There is no problem of coordination of Opposition parties in the Lok Sabha. In the Rajya Sabha, the government offered a debate. In the Lok Sabha, they haven’t offered anything so far. So, all parties have launched protests which shows we are all on the same page.”
The House records, however, show that parliamentary affairs minister Prahlad Joshi and other floor managers have repeatedly offered to discuss any issue on the floor of the House.
Tewari also drew a line between the functioning of Rajya Sabha and that of the Lok Sabha. “They are two different houses. One is a council of states while the other one is a House of the people. Strategies can always be different for two Houses,” he said.
The lack of coordination among Opposition parties has benefited the ruling dispensation on many occasions in the past. The government passed several bills, including the Triple Talaq bill, the law reorganising J&K as two union territories and the resolution to scrap Article 370 using this.
Opposition leaders remained hopeful that a joint approach to issues would emerge with time. With issues such as the Pegasus snooping scandal, price rise, and the faltering economy on the radar of most parties, “a larger coordination is a matter of time, but it may involve a deft handling and require leaders who can rise above their regional considerations to look at the larger picture,” said a senior Opposition leader who asked not to be named.