5:48 am - Sunday November 8, 2015

BJP plan for the monsoon session: Big on political firepower, low on legislation

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Swaraj-Prasad-PTI

Having weathered the opposition’s protests over its leaders’ alleged involvement in various scandals by simply holding firm, the BJP-led NDA government has decided to follow the same strategy in Parliament as well, which could well mean that the upcoming monsoon session willl be a damp squib.
The Prime Minister held an all party meet on Monday to discuss ways to ensure a smooth session of Parliament but has already acknowledged that there will be ‘muqabla’ (contest) in the upcoming session.
Battle lines were unequivocally drawn when BJP chief Amit Shah on Sunday held strategy meetings with various party colleagues, including union ministers Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Smriti Irani, Ravi Shankar Prasad and Piyush Goyal as well as party spokespersons. Rajasthan Chief Minister, Vasundhara Raje, was also present, and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also finally got an audience with the BJP chief.The one clear decision coming out of that party huddle: no BJP leader will be resigning any time soon. Since offense is the best method of defence, Shah and his colleagues focused on honing their plan to counter the Congress party attacks that will commence on Tuesday when the session starts.
The Telegraph reports that the BJP chief has told the different leaders embroiled in scandals to fend for themselves. So even if the Congress and Opposition parties seek his response, the Prime Minister won’t be making any statement on the controversy surrounding Swaraj, Raje and former IPL chief Lalit Modi, or on the Vyapam scam. Human resources development minister Smriti Irani too will also have to fend for herself if her qualifications become an issue on the floor of the House.
Raje and Chouhan, however, have also been told that the more ‘articulate’ of the party’s MPs like Akbar, Goyal and others will defend their reputations in Parliament.
Their plan: to fight fire with fire. So if the Congress rakes up Swaraj and Raje, the BJP intends to counter with the former IPL chairman’s tweets regarding Sonia Gandhi’s sister and Priyanka Gandhi, reports the Indian Express. On the Vyapam scam, the party intends to defend itself by saying that a CBI probe had already been initiated in the matter.
The BJP also intends to launch its own counter-attack on the Congress by raking up allegations of disproportionate assets case against Himachal Pradesh chief minister Virbhadra Singh.
The monsoon session was seen as being a crucial one for the BJP since it intended to pass legislation like the Goods and Services Tax and the contentious Land Acquisition Bill. The Congress, which has the majority in the Rajya Sabha, had promised to disrupt proceedings in both houses unless the government complied with its demands seeking the resignation of Raje and Swaraj.
But as Firstpost’s R Jagannathan pointed out earlier, the two legislations are already on a weak footing and there is little chance that the BJP government would be able to push through either of them.
“The right strategy for the Modi government on GST is to slow things down and come up with a better bill when the time is ripe. Better still, it should ask the Congress to help completely rework the bill along with the regional parties and recommend appropriate changes for passing,” he had pointed out.
The Modi government’s confrontational attitude on the Land Bill — and opposition from within the saffron party — will also mean that the legislation won’t clear the Rajya Sabha, where it lacks the numbers, he had noted.
And then there’s the fact that not all parties are supporting Congress’ plan of disruption, notes the Telegraph report. It may be wiser then for the BJP not give parties a reason to rally behind the Congress on legislation like the Land Acquisition Bill and instead leave that battle for another session of Parliament. Despite the PM’s call to action at the all-party meet, the signs of a rollback on the Land Acquisition Bill are already evident.
Four senior government officials failed to appear before a joint parliamentary committee examining the proposed changes to the law, and their report will now be delayed. The government is also instead looking for alternatives like re-promulgating the ordinance after the monsoon session and getting states to pass their own individual land acquisition bills.
The government may instead focus on legislation like the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Amendment Bill to enhance the punishment of teenagers who are arrested for heinous crimes, reports the Hindustan Times. The bill while contentious, doesn’t really invite the same level of opposition, as the GST or the Land Acquisition Bill and could give the party something to show at the end of the upcoming session.

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