House awaits monsoon storm; NDA plans to stand up to aggressive Cong
The Congress threat of a Parliament washout this monsoon session could face a tough test amid differences among opposition parties as well as the NDA government’s determination to push the GST bill and deflect attacks over corruption allegations.
This is the first time the Congress had made such a blanket threat despite its support to the Narendra Modi government on crucial reform-related bills such as the one on the insurance sector during the turbulent budget session.
“The fate of the Parliament session depends on the PM’s decision,” said Ghulam Nabi Azad, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, reprising the party’s demand to sack BJP chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje over corruption allegations.
For the ruling BJP, passing the goods and services tax (GST) bill will be top priority this session to bring a law for a common market across the country, a step to push Prime Minister Modi’s reforms agenda amid growing doubts about his government’s ability to deliver.
Holding the widely-criticised land bill and putting full focus on the GST bill, hanging fire since the Congress-led UPA government’s time, is part of the NDA’s strategy to cut the risk of an opposition unity against the government this session.
“If the GST bill comes to voting, can the Congress vote against the bill brought by the UPA?” asked a senior BJP minister.
The NDA and Congress spent the entire Sunday preparing for a stormy session, although the government could take heart from the fact that some of the major opposition parties such as the AIADMK, BJD, Trinamool Congress and Leftists were not keen on disrupting House proceedings.
These parties were not in favour of prolonged disruptions, including the Left bloc, known to be on the same page with the Congress on several issues.
“We want proper debate and discussions on land, unemployment and other serious issues. Disruptions cannot be planned in advance,” CPI(M)’s Lok Sabha leader Mohammed Salim told Hindustan Times.
The GST bill was on everyone’s mind on Sunday. “Sun afternoon spent reading voluminous report of Parliamentary Com on GST .Can’t discus contents but allowed 5 (smileys),” Trinamool’s Derek O’Brien tweeted, reaffirming the party’s support to the proposed law.
The Congress, keen to keep up the pressure on the NDA, has contacted JD(U), SP, BSP, DMK and the Left parties to make the session a “flop show”, but government managers said disruptive tactics wouldn’t last.
“Just wait to see the muqabla (contest) we will have in some days,” Prime Minister Modi said in Jammu last week, indicating the government’s intention to brazen it out.
NDA strategists met on Sunday to chalk out a counter-attack as the government plans to pass 11 bills and introduce eight in the 18-day session from Tuesday.
The AIADMK, BJD and Trinamool have already distanced themselves from the Congress’s strategy to hold the House to ransom over charges against foreign minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan chief minister Raje and her Madhya Pradesh counterpart Chouhan.
“The AIADMK and the BJD are in touch with each other. We will not join the Congress chorus,” said BJD leader Bhartruhari Mahtab.