Home Minister Rajnath Singh conceded as much at an all-party meeting convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Thursday to discuss the functioning of Parliament.
But it is to be seen if Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will be willing to go along with this suggestion since they have been resolutely opposed to a dialogue with the opposition on its demand for the resignations of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje.
In fact, both Modi and Jaitley have given the impression that no purpose would be served by talking to the opposition parties since their demands were unacceptable. The opposition was given to understand that the government had accepted that the monsoon session was going to be a washout. The ruling alliance, on the other hand, believed opposition members would tire themselves out and that it should not get bullied by them.
Another explanation being offered is that the prime minister wants the disruptions to continue because it helps to keep the focus on Swaraj, Raje and Chouhan, which renders the trio vulnerable and, in the process, strengthens Modi.
Counter-offensive in states
In any case, both houses of Parliament have failed to transact any business since the session commenced on July 21 as belligerent opposition members have derailed proceedings for the past two weeks to press their demand.
Instead of reaching out and accommodating the opposition, the Modi government unleashed a counter-offensive against the Congress and even held a dharna to demands the resignation of the chief ministers of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand who, they charged, were involved in corruption scandals.
Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah and Jaitley talked tough at a parliamentary party meeting last week where MPs were especially instructed to ignore media reports and hit out at the Congress to underline that the grand old party had no moral standing to talk about corruption when its chief ministers were embroiled in scams in their states.
Several party spokespersons were subsequently fielded to highlight a recent sting operation where Uttarakhand Chief Minister Harish Rawat’s personal secretary is allegedly negotiating a deal with a liquor baron. Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh was also in the firing line for allegedly being under the CBI scanner.
The tough posture adopted by the ruling alliance only resulted in the Congress hardening its position and led to a non-stop war of words between the two sides.
Following Gujarat strategy
Opposition leaders maintained that the handling of the parliamentary logjam by the ruling alliance was in sharp contrast to the approach by the previous regimes as it is the government’s responsibility to ensure that the two Houses run smoothly. “After all, it is the government’s business which suffers if Parliament does not function,” remarked a Congress leader.
According to him, Modi did not believe in reaching out to the opposition. Citing the example of the Gujarat assembly, he said, Modi would invariably get the opposition members suspended when he was chief minister and then rush through the government’s legislative agenda.
Opposition leaders recalled how Pranab Mukheree, who was Lok Sabha leader when the United Progressive Alliance government was in power, would engage ceaselessly with the opposition to arrive at a consensus so that parliamentary work did not suffer.
Admitting that the NDA’s attitude was baffling, a BJP minister tended to agree with the opposition view that the government had resigned itself to the fact that it would not able to conduct any business in this session. Moreover, he said, there were no major bills which needed to be cleared urgently except for the Goods and Services Tax Bill.
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