With the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and Congress being at daggers drawn hurting critical reforms, PM Narendra Modi must change his functioning style and build bridges with the non-NDA parties to ensure better outcomes in the Budget session.
As the winter session of Parliament draws to a close on Wednesday, it could easily be taken as a near washout in terms of completing critical legislative business with the Rajya Sabha clearing just a few non-contentious Bills including the crucial SC and ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Amendment Bill, the writing on the wall for the ruling National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is clear.
Forget about passing any Bill in Parliament, including the Goods and Services Tax (GST) Bill and also the labour law changes that the Congress party decides not to support.
This being the case, PM Modi must introspect now on whether the idea of pushing the Congress party back to the wall after BJP’s grand victory in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, without getting other non-NDA parties into its fold, has been a good idea.
From the very beginning, it was clear that without the support of the non-NDA parties, it would not be possible for the NDA to pass reform legislation, especially Constitutional Amendment Bills like the GST in the Rajya Sabha, but somehow the NDA dispensation got under the impression that a strong majority in the Lok Sabha would force the opposition to fall in line and help the government in clearing the legislative business.
So, the BJP goofed up by taking on the TMC chief Mamata Banerjee in West Bengal first, who could be a great ally in Parliament; and then the political message of BJP being in the race to grab as much of political space in other states as possible, has ended up creating a space for the non-NDA parties to unite against the NDA government.
Now that the Delhi and Bihar elections have shown the BJP, a lesson that they should have drawn from the party’s 2004 Lok Sabha poll defeat, it is dicey to alienate smaller parties that have strong footholds in states – it is in this context that parties like NCP, SP, BJD, AIADMK and BSP, even JD(U), are important in Parliament.
Having lost the initial advantage to a large extent, it is now up to PM Modi to change course and put up a more accommodating and a moderate approach in dealing with the non-NDA parties.
Inviting Congress party president and former prime minister Manmohan Singh for tea before the start of the winter session was a good idea, though it failed to make a breakthrough in passing the GST Bill.
That channel needs to be kept open as the Congress party also needs some breathing space to keep its political existence meaningful after its historic drubbing in the Lok Sabha polls last year.
Then, there is also a feeling among the non-NDA parties that holding crucial parliamentary work due to the political slugfest between the two largest parties is not a good idea – this has to a certain extent already isolated the Congress party in Parliament – and if PM Modi exploits this situation well, the chances of better outcomes in the Budget session, will certainly get boosted.
No government can afford to continue with a deadlock in Parliament and it is the primary responsibility of the ruling dispensation to find a way out to end that.
The more the Congress rejects the genuine efforts of the government to end the parliamentary deadlock, the more it will get isolated, so there is a limit to which the party can go.
This column had earlier talked about involving external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj extensively in the parliamentary floor management considering her acceptability among the opposition ranks.
But, ultimately, the change will have to come from the top – it is not good for PM Modi to always be at loggerheads with other senior leaders, both within the party and also outside.
Is it so difficult for him to learn the art of taking along the political opponents when he is ready to work as the ‘pradhan sewak, of the country?