More-for-states pitch uniting opposition

More-for-states pitch uniting opposition

A storm is brewing across the nation for Narendra Modi. People’s growing vexation with a number of promises not kept by the Modi government is being promptly tapped by the opposition, which, though splintered hitherto, is showing signs of unity to take on the BJP-led NDA in the State Assembly elections this year; their results would broadly show which way the nation is veering towards. 

A storm is brewing across the nation for Narendra Modi. People’s growing vexation with a number of promises not kept by the Modi government is being promptly tapped by the opposition, which, though splintered hitherto, is showing signs of unity to take on the BJP-led NDA in the State Assembly elections this year; their results would broadly show which way the nation is veering towards.

The velocity with the storm is gathering clouds and forming on the horizon should be a cause of concern to the saffron party, more so to its allies. Without any campaign unleashed by the opposition – which is still grappling with the issue of who will lead it, Congress chief or a regional leader – it appears that it is effectively Modi’s authoritative style of functioning which is exasperating BJP allies and the opposition parties alike. A gradual erosion of Modi’s popularity is becoming perceptible and BJP has itself to blame for not reining its leader to mend his ways. A sudden dip in the popularity of the central government cannot be ruled out in some quarters of the nation.

The concept of a new united federal front seems to be getting crystallised slowly but steadily. If the front can really take off in the true spirit with which it is being imbued with, then certainly it can open a new chapter in the annals of the political history of the country. It is surely an experiment worth a try by all the parties opposed to Modi’s overbearing style of governance.

The emphasis in the opposition camp still in the making, as of now, is to take forward the concept of cooperative federalism which was once the major poll slogan of BJP; alas, it has failed to follow through the precept with practice. Thus, the concept remains a mirage in the federal context of the country.

If, at all, there is any hitch in forging the opposition unit, that is from Telangana Chief Minister and TRS supremo K Chandrashekar Rao. In a way, his insistence on non-Congress, non-BJP federal front appears myopic. He is failing to perceive a larger picture. As the Congress party is TRS major rival in the State, he sees no scope for the Congress role in the front. But, other regional leaders like Mamata Banerjee have a different take on the issue.

She is of the strong opinion that without Congress, no front of any kind to take on Narendra Modi may not be possible. Of course, a section of left is also pitted against the Congress. In fact, she feels that the proposed front should have all major rivals to BJP at state-level should be co-opted and allowed a say in the functioning of the front. If the front materialises, it certainly would lead the march against the Modi government with a clarion call to protect the interests of states with the spirit of cooperative federalism. Thus only, it will be able to catch the fancy of the electorate so as to own it up.

The Chief Ministers of the two Telugu States, N Chandrababu Naidu and Chandrasekhar Rao who have long political experience, are also likely to play a key role in enlisting the support of like-minded parties during their separate visits to Delhi next week. However, they have not come together on a common platform on the issue, as yet.

It is really ironic that such a situation has arisen in just a span of four years, albeit in an imperceptible manner, since Modi rode to power with a colossal majority and all along there appeared no major threat to his juggernaut. But then the BJP has to blame itself for the sudden change of the wind. It all began with the GST and the way the Centre gave a go-by to the concept of cooperative federalism.

The momentum gained with the Centre’s failure to implement the assurances given in the AP State Re-Organisation Act-2014, finally leading to severance of ties between the TDP and the BJP. This development provided a major fillip to the subdued efforts of the opposition leaders to firm up an alternative to the BJP-led NDA government.

As the TDP and BJP collided head-on and the former decided to move a no-confidence motion in Lok Sabha, the opposition parties which were waiting in the wings sprang into action and the talk of a new federal front came to the fore and gained pace following a meeting between TS Chief Minister K Chandrashekar Rao and Mamata Banerjee.

The BJP had always claimed that during the Congress regime the government never tried to ensure smooth functioning of Parliament and always ran away by adjourning the House the minute there was pandemonium. But once in the driving seat, the BJP too seems to be following the same formula – blame it on opposition.

The Constitution of the land, through the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha and through the practices and conventions, gives adequate powers to the Speaker to help her in the smooth conduct of parliamentary proceedings and for protecting the independence and impartiality of office. It is rather painful to observe that for past 20 days, the Speaker has been claiming that she is not able to take a decision on the no-confidence motion because the House has not been in order. No serious effort – visible or otherwise – is made to see that the protests in the well are called off.

It is a known fact that the Speaker is elected from among the members of the ruling party. The functioning of Parliament or Assembly is done in close coordination with the government and that is where the Chief Whip and the Minister for Parliamentary Affairs play a key role. It is their responsibility to assist the Speaker in smooth conduct of the house.

In a situation where members rush to the well of the house, as it has been happening for past three weeks in Lok Sabha, the Speaker normally calls the floor leaders of the respective parties to the Speakers Chamber and along with the minister for Parliamentary Affairs, where a formula is hammered out to ensure order in the House.

I remember an incident when Dr Balram Jhakar was the Speaker. Congress was in power and Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister. The opposition had given notice for discussion on some contentious issue. The government did not want it to be taken up and the Congress members too rushed into the well opposing it. Jhakar did not adjourn the House. He first appealed to the members to resume their seats, when they refused, he stood up and cautioned them that he would have to name them if they did not go back.

Still as the pandemonium continued, he sought the opinion of all floor leaders on the issue and then adjourned the House for a short time, held a meeting with all floor leaders and the issue was finally resolved. Jhakar once told me, “The Speaker should not only be impartial but should also appear to be so.”

Those who have observed the functioning of the highest legislative body closely for a long time are left perplexed since those creating disturbance are not many in number. The Speaker has an option of using electronic voting system through which she can put the notice to vote if she feels that she cannot take a head count due to disturbance, or if she does not want to use her powers to suspend them from the house. But nothing of the sort is happening and this is sending wrong signals in political circles who feel that the Speaker is adjourning the House as the government is in no mood to concede the opposition demand.

While the BJP may have its own reasons to stonewall the no-confidence motion, it has given an opportunity for the opposition parties to intensify the anti-BJP campaign and try to unite all such forces ahead of the next General Elections which are likely to be held in November or December 2018.

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