Positions harden: Opposition, government spar as Bills await action

India's Parliament building . All is not well within
India's Parliament building . All is not well within

After the Opposition amendment to the motion of thanks to the President’s Address and the¬†Prime Minister’s speech in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday, hopes of Congress-BJP patch-up for passing crucial Bills pending in Parliament have further receded. The Prime Minister’s cursory appeals for Opposition cooperation and the withdrawal of the amendments proposed to the motion of thanks coupled with strident attacks on the Congress leadership indicate the government itself has given up all hope of seeing the GST and other Bills through.

For the second consecutive year the Opposition has embarrassed the Modi government in the Rajya Sabha, where it outnumbers the ruling alliance. This time, however, cracks appeared in Opposition unity. The BJD and BSP MPs staged a walkout, while the Trinamool Congress did not participate in the voting. The amendment, moved by the Congress, regretted the failure of the President’s Address to mention the government’s commitment to securing the right of all citizens to contest elections. Haryana and Rajasthan have laid down educational qualifications for contesting the ¬†panchayat elections – a controversial decision upheld by the Supreme Court. Since opinion is clearly divided on the issue, the Opposition only wanted to score a point and it did succeed in putting the government in its place.

Prime Minister Modi’s strategy is clear: divide the Opposition and isolate the Congress. Last month he blamed “Ma-Beta” for the Rajya Sabha logjam. He quotes Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi to run down the present Congress leadership, including Dr Manmohan Singh. Nobody has ever accused him of being an economist, leave alone of the caliber of Dr Manmohan Singh. He is firm on his resolve on a “Congress-mukt Bharat”. Modi has a penchant for oratory but knows when to keep quiet. He has skipped the hot countrywide debate on nationalism and did not utter a word either on JNU or riots in Haryana. His battalion of warriors, joined lately by Anupam Kher, is busy dividing people into “national” and “anti-national”. Few expect Modi to control them. Divisive issues occupy the national center stage now. In this combative national mood, legislators indulge in theatrics and refuse to do the job on hand: pass the Bills.

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