Specials

Why things don’t add up for the BJP

A M Jigeesh New Delhi | Updated on January 27, 2018 Published on May 18, 2016

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It doesn’t have the numbers in the Rajya Sabha; worse, it has antagonised its allies too



The 2014 election busted the myth that single-party rule is a thing of the past in the country. Though, technically, the National Democratic Alliance won at the hustings, it is the BJP that is calling the shots at the Centre.

So much so that key allies — the Shiv Sena, the Telugu Desam Party and the People’s Democratic Party — have been openly unhappy with the BJP’s governing mechanism. If editorials in the Shiv Sena organ, Saamna, ask Narendra Modi to shed his arrogance and consult allies, the TDP has not hidden its displeasure over the delay in granting special status to Andhra Pradesh. The BJP-PDP alliance in Jammu and Kashmir is a tightrope walk, and the buzz in Punjab is that the Shiromani Akali Dal is looking at ways to end the alliance with the BJP ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections.

“The NDA is a mythical entity now,” says veteran Congress leader Jairam Ramesh when asked about the future of the Alliance. “In fact, the most dissatisfied people today in Indian politics are the Shiv Sena, the TDP and the Akali Dal. We have a Prime Minister who represents the three omnis — Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnipresent,” he says. .

The BJP’s inability to handle a coalition is reflecting on the Parliamentary business too. While in the Lok Sabha, the BJP has full control, that is not the case in the Rajya Sabha. But, then, for more than three decades, no party or front has had a majority in the Rajya Sabha. Getting Bills passed without a majority requires political skills, but the BJP does not seem to have mastered this negotiating skill, and is, thus, getting snubbed by the Elders.

The situation could, however, change, with a third of the House set to retire by July. Though the BJP’s strength will improve, it will still not be able to flex its muscles. But that it is feeling more confident is already seen with the re-entry of Subramanian Swamy into the House, and the Agusta-Westland scam hitting the headlines. Bringing in Navjot Singh Sidhu (from Punjab) and Suresh Gopi (a prize catch from Kerala) should help the BJP.

The government is also slowly evolving a mechanism to talk to the leaders of other parties. “The government’s persistent reaching out to opposition and other parties is resulting in better functioning of Parliament despite the heat generated on some issues,” says Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi. He lists the passage of the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, the Securities Laws (Amendment) Bill, the Labour Laws (Amendment) Bill, the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Amendment Bill, the Companies (Amendment) Bill, the Negotiable Instruments (Amendment) Bill, the Real Estate (Regulation and Development) Bills, the Aadhar (Targeted Delivery of Financial and Other Subsidies, Benefits and Services) Bill, and the Insolvency and Bankruptcy Code as cases in point for the government’s improved Parliamentary tactics.

Outside the House, too, it has been a rough run for the government. “The Congress has rediscovered street politics. With the Land Acquisition Ordinance, we rediscovered the politics of the street. There is still an India for whom it has much meaning, and the Congress has discovered that,” says Jairam Ramesh.

The Opposition fears that India is becoming an illiberal democracy. Says Ramesh: “There is an attempt to browbeat the judiciary. Civil society is being silenced. The media is being controlled.”

CPI(M) veteran Sitaram Yechury has no doubt that during the celebrations for the government’s two years in office, “there will be song, dance, speeches, films and monologues”. But he wants the Centre to remember that parts of India are suffering from one of the worst droughts ever. “The Centre,” he says, “is interested in spending money on promotion and advertising of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan; it accounts for 83 per cent of all advertisement spending on various schemes done by the Centre. That is where the priorities of Modi and his government lie; 33 crore Indians reeling under drought be damned…Does this government even care?”

Published on May 18, 2016
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