Inside politics

Has the BJP been able to shut up and brush aside the opposition?

The government believes it can afford to be tough with the opposition because it is on a strong wicket.

A united opposition has paralysed Parliament ever since the winter session got underway on November 16 to register its protest against the hardship caused to the weak and poor sections by the Modi government’s decision to annul high denomination currency notes.

But the ruling alliance is not too concerned about the disruptions or the opposition attack as it is using this time to pump in more currency notes in banks and ensure that normal banking resumes at the earliest. Its indifference to the disturbances in Parliament are based on the internal assessment of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party that it is the opposition which is under pressure to explain its objections to the demonetisation move and why it is holding up Parliament.

The government was on the defensive in the face of the opposition attack when the Parliament session commenced. But the scales have tilted in favour of the ruling alliance since then after it received reports that the decision to ban old notes had got widespread support from the people, especially the poor. Even its allies like the Shiromani Akali Dal, which had voiced their concern over the Prime Minister’s decision, have fallen in line after their surveys revealed that the note ban had actually been welcomed by the poor because they were convinced that it had hit the rich hard. This change is evident in the body language of the leaders of the two camps. While BJP ministers sound more confident now, the opposition camp is showing signs of frustration, especially since its campaign against the government is not resonating with the people.

Consequently, the government’s floor managers have made little effort to break the logjam in Parliament.

Logjam in Parliament

Home Minister Rajnath Singh did call opposition parties for a meeting last week but it proved to be a non-starter when the opposition leaders realised that not all of them had been invited for the talks and that this was an attempt to create fissures in their ranks. There has been no follow-up by the government on Rajnath Singh’s initiative. Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has also tried for a compromise between the government and the opposition but nothing concrete has emerged from this move.

The opposition first held up proceedings in the Rajya Sabha to demand that the Prime Minister sit through the debate on demonetisation and reply to it instead of the finance minister. However, it has upped the ante after Modi slammed the opposition at a public function. It is now demanding that the prime minister should apologise for his remarks, failing which it will not allow the House to function. The Lok Sabha proceedings have been disrupted as the opposition wants a debate on demonetisation under a censure motion requiring a vote. Not surprisingly, the government has rejected the opposition’s demands.

The government believes it can afford to be tough with the opposition because it is on a strong wicket. Its confidence levels have shot up further after the BJP registered impressive wins in the recent by-elections in Assam, Madhya Pradesh and Arunachal Pradesh. This has been followed by victories in the local body polls in both Maharashtra and Gujarat. The BJP forged ahead in Maharashtra by winning 851 of the 3,705 seats in 147 municipal councils and 17 panchayats. The results from the prime minister’s home state also proved to be a shot in the arm for the ruling party which won 107 of the 126 municipal and district panchayat seats for which elections were conducted.

Narendramodi.in
Narendramodi.in

The BJP was obviously in an upbeat mood after these results. Held after Modi announced the ban on high-denomination currency notes, these elections had been described as a referendum on the prime minister’s move. The BJP leadership lost no time in underlining that these election results were a clear indication that the people support demonetisation. “People of India back note ban move... Our performance in local polls held across two states present the mood of the nation. We sense they are with us,” declared Human Resource Development Minister Prakash Javadekar. The BJP president Amit Shah put out an equally exultant tweet:

Riding high on these victories, the BJP is further drawing comfort from the fact that there are differences in the opposition camp which surfaced during its protest day on November 28. Janata Dal (United) president and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who has consistently supported Modi’s decision on demonetisation, refused to join the protests while the other opposition parties conducted their individual protest marches as their state-level rivalries prevented them from putting up a united show.

While the opposition is continuing with its collective protests inside Parliament, the government is working overtime to see that the new notes reach the cash-starved banks before December 1. The ruling alliance is focused on making sure that pay day goes off without any glitches as it could provide fresh ammunition to the opposition to hit out at the government. If the Centre succeeds in stabilising the situation and ensuring there is no disruption in the payment of salaries to government employees and those employed in the informal sector, it will not just blunt the opposition attack but will also provide it with yet another reason to steamroll its political opponents.

We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content  BY 

As India turns 70, London School of Economics asks some provocative questions

Is India ready to become a global superpower?

Meaningful changes have always been driven by the right, but inconvenient questions. As India completes 70 years of its sovereign journey, we could do two things – celebrate, pay our token tributes and move on, or take the time to reflect and assess if our course needs correction. The ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, the annual flagship summit of the LSE (London School of Economics) South Asia Centre, is posing some fundamental but complex questions that define our future direction as a nation. Through an honest debate – built on new research, applied knowledge and ground realities – with an eclectic mix of thought leaders and industry stalwarts, this summit hopes to create a thought-provoking discourse.

From how relevant (or irrelevant) is our constitutional framework, to how we can beat the global one-upmanship games, from how sincere are business houses in their social responsibility endeavours to why water is so crucial to our very existence as a strong nation, these are some crucial questions that the event will throw up and face head-on, even as it commemorates the 70th anniversary of India’s independence.

Is it time to re-look at constitution and citizenship in India?

The Constitution of India is fundamental to the country’s identity as a democratic power. But notwithstanding its historical authority, is it perhaps time to examine its relevance? The Constitution was drafted at a time when independent India was still a young entity. So granting overwhelming powers to the government may have helped during the early years. But in the current times, they may prove to be more discriminatory than egalitarian. Our constitution borrowed laws from other countries and continues to retain them, while the origin countries have updated them since then. So, do we need a complete overhaul of the constitution? An expert panel led by Dr Mukulika Banerjee of LSE, including political and economic commentator S Gurumurthy, Madhav Khosla of Columbia University, Niraja Gopal Jayal of JNU, Chintan Chandrachud the author of the book Balanced Constitutionalism and sociologist, legal researcher and Director of Council for Social Development Kalpana Kannabiran will seek answers to this.

Is CSR simply forced philanthropy?

While India pioneered the mandatory minimum CSR spend, has it succeeded in driving impact? Corporate social responsibility has many dynamics at play. Are CSR initiatives mere tokenism for compliance? Despite government guidelines and directives, are CSR activities well-thought out initiatives, which are monitored and measured for impact? The CSR stipulations have also spawned the proliferation of ambiguous NGOs. The session, ‘Does forced philanthropy work – CSR in India?” will raise these questions of intent, ethics and integrity. It will be moderated by Professor Harry Barkema and have industry veterans such as Mukund Rajan (Chairman, Tata Council for Community Initiatives), Onkar S Kanwar (Chairman and CEO, Apollo Tyres), Anu Aga (former Chairman, Thermax) and Rahul Bajaj (Chairman, Bajaj Group) on the panel.

Can India punch above its weight to be considered on par with other super-powers?

At 70, can India mobilize its strengths and galvanize into the role of a serious power player on the global stage? The question is related to the whole new perception of India as a dominant power in South Asia rather than as a Third World country, enabled by our foreign policies, defense strategies and a buoyant economy. The country’s status abroad is key in its emergence as a heavyweight but the foreign service officers’ cadre no longer draws top talent. Is India equipped right for its aspirations? The ‘India Abroad: From Third World to Regional Power’ panel will explore India’s foreign policy with Ashley Tellis, Meera Shankar (Former Foreign Secretary), Kanwal Sibal (Former Foreign Secretary), Jayant Prasad and Rakesh Sood.

Are we under-estimating how critical water is in India’s race ahead?

At no other time has water as a natural resource assumed such a big significance. Studies estimate that by 2025 the country will become ‘water–stressed’. While water has been the bone of contention between states and controlling access to water, a source for political power, has water security received the due attention in economic policies and development plans? Relevant to the central issue of water security is also the issue of ‘virtual water’. Virtual water corresponds to the water content (used) in goods and services, bulk of which is in food grains. Through food grain exports, India is a large virtual net exporter of water. In 2014-15, just through export of rice, India exported 10 trillion litres of virtual water. With India’s water security looking grim, are we making the right economic choices? Acclaimed author and academic from the Institute of Economic Growth, Delhi, Amita Bavisar will moderate the session ‘Does India need virtual water?’

Delve into this rich confluence of ideas and more at the ‘India @ 70: LSE India Summit’, presented by Apollo Tyres in association with the British Council and organized by Teamworks Arts during March 29-31, 2017 at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. To catch ‘India @ 70’ live online, register here.

At the venue, you could also visit the Partition Museum. Dedicated to the memory of one of the most conflict-ridden chapters in our country’s history, the museum will exhibit a unique archive of rare photographs, letters, press reports and audio recordings from The Partition Museum, Amritsar.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Teamwork Arts and not by the Scroll editorial team.