Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to be heard on matters ranging from caste-based reservation to intolerance in the Winter Session of Parliament beginning Thursday.

Besides the Prime Minister’s more proactive role, the ruling party’s strategy will consist of a more conciliatory engagement vis-à-vis the Opposition.

Getting things done

In the wake of a stormy and unproductive Monsoon Session, the BJP seems more determined not only to ensure that Parliament functions, but also that it appears more business-like and with a sense of purpose rather than being confrontationist – which may spark debates on a sense of drift in the government.

Accordingly, unlike the previous few sessions when disruptions ruled, the Treasury Benches struggled to push legislative business and the PM remained silent on crucial issues, the ruling party’s strategy in the Winter Session will be not just to engage but aggressively put forth its views during debates in Parliament.

A clear sign of things to come was the PM’s attendance at the all-party meeting where he said there are “great expectations” from Parliament.

What emerged from two back-to-back strategy sessions – of the Executive Committee of BJP’s Parliamentary Party and that of the NDA – was that the PM was likely to conclude the opening debate of the session, which is loosely constructed around the theme Constitution of India & Dr B. R. Ambedkar’s Contribution in both Houses of Parliament.

Modi may use the occasion to clarify the BJP’s commitment to caste-based reservations. This is significant in the light of the controversy that had arisen after RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat’s comments about a re-examination of the reservation issue, which cost the BJP heavily in the Bihar Assembly elections.

Sources said Home Minister Rajnath Singh will open the Constitution debate in the Lok Sabha and the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley will do so in the Upper House.

Speaking to reporters after the strategy meetings, Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu said: “We are ready for a debate on intolerance. The government has nothing to feel shy about it.” Even in this debate, it is expected that the PM may intervene.

Back-channel talks

The Finance Minister’s back-door diplomacy with the Congress seemed to be bearing fruit on the GST front as well. The PM reportedly said at the NDA meeting that he was “confident that the GST will be passed”.

Venkaiah Naidu’s comments after the meeting echoed the sentiment. “The government has decided to have a dialogue with the Congress, will address concerns of Opposition on GST and other Bills,” he said after the NDA meeting.

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