A tactical miscalculation by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday cost the Government the hard-won confidence of Opposition parties, especially that of Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav.
Public praise by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for working to end the logjam in the House sent Mulayam Singh Yadav scurrying back to the Congress’ ranks. This was in sharp contrast to the anti-Congress position he had taken on Monday vis-à-vis disruptions in the House over the Sushma Swaraj-Lalit Modi issue. The reason for Yadav’s volte face is political — he may be able to engage with the BJP and the Modi-led government at the Centre in backroom parleys and covert strategies but his minorities-dominated constituency prohibits any overt/public hobnobbing with the ruling party. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister praised Yadav during the last scheduled meeting of the BJP’s parliamentary party in the Monsoon session. While attacking “some people”, a reference to top Congress brass, who are “working to stall economic growth”, the Prime Minister expressed “gratitude” to the SP chief.
“The Prime Minister said a message has gone out that there are some people who aremisusing Parliament to stop the pace of the country’s development. Their main goal is to stop the economic growth. He expressed his gratitude to those, especially Mulayam Singh Yadavji, and all those parties who have felt that this is a conspiracy to stop the country’s progress. He hailed them and asked the party and members to do so as well,” said Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Pratap Rudy, after the BJP’s parliamentary party meeting.
Changed strategy As soon as the House met, the effect of these utterances was reflected in the SP’s changed strategy. Yadav’s party MPs re-joined the agitating Congress members in the Well of the Lok Sabha with renewed vigour. An ashen-faced Yadav, who was seated next to Congress chief Sonia Gandhi, watched his party MPs shout slogans and carry placards, rejecting Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s constant appeals to restore order in the House. The Congress seemed delighted with the proceedings as the ruling party’s charge that it is “isolated” in Parliament was negated on the floor of the House. With the SP, BSP, Left, Trinamool Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party joining the Congress ranks, the protest was louder and the placards more colourful. In a move reminiscent of the BJP’s demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee to probe the 2G scam for which the then Opposition party derailed the entire winter session in 2010, the Congress has taken the lead in stalling proceedings throughout this monsoon session.
The Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi was practically acting as the prompter for his party’s sloganeers. While Sonia Gandhi mouthed slogans sitting in her front row seat in the Lok Sabha, Rahul was seen gesticulating at the TMC MPs, urging them to troop into the Well. When the TMC MPs merely stood with placards on their seats, he walked over to them and engaged in a lengthy conversation. After the House was adjourned during lunchtime, Samajwadi Party MPs stood on the stairs at the main gate and shouted slogans, demanding the release of caste data from the Socio-Economic and Caste Census.
While Modi’s praise cost the Government Yadav’s enthusiastic support, the SP chief may still be constrained to vote for the GST Bill in the Rajya Sabha. This is given that the CBI is pursuing his aide Yadav Singh, a controversial UP government employee, for amassing assets disproportionate to his wealth. But the ruling party has not made it easy for the SP chief.