The Lok Sabha Speaker’s surprise move to suspend 25 Congress MPs for disrupting the Lok Sabha has served to bring many opposition parties together in their boycott of the lower house. The Left parties, the JD(U), RJD, AAP, Muslim League, and NCP have decided to show solidarity by boycotting the lower house for the next five days, the period for which the Congress MPs remain suspended.
Interestingly, the Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge has charged the NDA with ushering in the ‘Gujarat model of legislature management’ under which scant regard is shown to legislative procedure and the bulk of the opposition gets suspended for considerable periods during which the executive does its business unilaterally. This cuts at the very root of the democratic principles on which the legislative procedures are designed. Journalists covering the Gujarat assembly say Modi rarely showed up to participate in important debates or to make statements on issues of corruption raised by the opposition.
Is the Gujarat pattern of legislative management getting repeated in New Delhi? It may be a bit early to clearly pronounce on this because the national opposition parties are a different kettle of fish. If Modi thinks he can repeat the Gujarat model at the Centre he would be making a grave mistake.
The fact that Modi refuses to utter a word on either Lalitgate or the Vyapam scam, even outside Parliament, shows the BJP’s ostrich-like attitude, as if nothing wrong has happened. This approach was reflected in Parliament Affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu’s statement yesterday that “No illegal or immoral act has been committed by any Central minister or Chief Ministers of the BJP.” This begs the question of how Venkaiah knows this when hundreds of arrests have already been made in the Vyapam scam, which include officials working closely with Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan.
How can the Parliamentary Affairs minister give a clean chit to Chouhan even before the CBI has collected all the evidence under the Supreme Court’s supervision? Naidu’s statement that no illegal or immoral act has been committed is actually tantamount to influencing the course of the investigation.
Indeed, it is this brazenness on the part of the NDA which has resulted in the hardening of positions within Parliament. The BJP, presumably under Modi’s guidance, has been resorting to all kinds of strange tactics which have served only to further alienate the opposition. This makes one wonder whether the ruling party itself is serious about conducting parliamentary business.
For instance, on the third day after Parliament opened, the BJP launched a blistering counter attack on Congress Chief Ministers, alleging corruption of various kinds. This happened when the Congress party was having internal discussion on whether to withdraw the boycott of Parliament and participate in a debate on the Lalitgate and Vyapam scams. Even some opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party were actually talking about joining the debate and discussion inside the house. However, the BJP pre-emptively went on the offensive, attacking the Congress CMs of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Kerala citing various instances of corruption. This provoked the main opposition party no end and it was a downward slide since then. After this, Rahul Gandhi accused Sushma Swaraj of criminal misconduct. The BJP, in turn, has threatened to file a defamation case against Rahul Gandhi.
All of this makes one wonder whether the BJP itself was serious about getting the Congress’s cooperation to pass crucial bills like the GST or the amended land legislation.
The BJP, on another occasion, clearly elected to needlessly bring up the issue of “Hindu terror” in Parliament, possibly with an eye on the Bihar elections. The Home Minister read a written statement on the attack by Pakistan-based terrorists in Gurdaspur. This statement had bipartisan support. But immediately after reading the written statement, Rajnath chose to go beyond it and provoked the Congress by recalling UPA home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde’s controversial reference to “Hindu terror” in 2013. Everyone was surprised at this unexpected reference to Shinde’s past statement. The house went into another round of turmoil.
The larger question is why is BJP doing this. Does Narendra Modi trying to divert attention from Vyapam and Lalitgate as much as possible? Is that the reason why the BJP chose the middle of a Parliamentary logjam over issues of corruption to ask Sonia Gandhi whether she endorses the term “Hindu terror”? The BJP would prefer that the “Hindu terror” debate gathers traction in the backdrop of Yakub Memon’s hanging and the Gurdaspur attack. If this debate persists until the Bihar elections, even better. These cynical calculations do not exactly show a great commitment to run Parliament in an orderly manner, which is the ruling party’s primary responsibility.
The BJP must realise that such calculations work in politics only so long as the party retains a modicum of credibility in the eyes of the people. That is clearly under test today.