New Delhi, July 14: The BJP sees today’s Trinamul U-turn on the Trai and Andhra bills as a “coup” because it considered them “test cases” of its ability to foil the emergence of an Opposition coalition in Parliament.
Party sources say the same objective lies behind the BJP’s “resolve” to deny the Congress the post of the leader of the Lok Sabha Opposition, on the plea that it lacks one-tenth of the House’s seats.
They argue that if the Congress gets the post, that would “legitimise” its claim to be the spearhead of the Opposition in the House and allow it to try and coalesce other parties around itself.
The government today succeeded in largely isolating the Congress in both Houses as it got the amendment bills on Trai and Andhra reorganisation passed respectively in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, despite its lack of numbers in the upper House.
A senior minister pooh-poohed the Congress talk of a larger “anti-BJP” grouping of “like-minded secular forces”, claiming that no party wanted to sit next to the Congress in the House.
In both Houses, the ruling allies sit on the right side, with the largest Opposition party getting the first seats to their left and so on. The leaders of the legislature parties sit in the first row.
The minister said the AIADMK, the second-largest Opposition party with 37 MPs after the Congress’s 44, was “reluctant” to sit next to Congress members.
Convention dictates that AIADMK legislature party leader M. Thambidurai be a neighbour of Sonia Gandhi and Mallikarjun Kharge in the Lok Sabha. It’s a prospect Thambidurai does not relish, the minister claimed.
“This is the reason the Speaker has not been able to allocate the seats. How can we physically isolate the Congress even if we can do it politically?” the minister said.
On the budget session’s first day, when the Congress stalled proceedings after being denied an adjournment motion on price rise, the government was worried at the “display of aggression” and its potential to unite the Opposition, sources said.
So, the BJP was overjoyed at its success in today’s “test”, especially after a senior minister’s observation last week that Trinamul was fast replacing the Congress as a “serious Opposition” in Parliament.
Ministers M. Venkaiah Naidu and Ravi Shankar Prasad had apparently worked on Mamata Banerjee through Trinamul intermediaries over the weekend.
The BJP and its pre-poll allies have just 56 members in the Rajya Sabha, way below the halfway mark of 123, so it needs all the support it can marshal to get tricky bills passed.
In the Lok Sabha today, the BJP received support from all the parties except the Congress, Left and the Aam Aadmi Party. In the Rajya Sabha, the Telangana Rashtra Samiti, Biju Janata Dal and the Congress’s Telangana MPs opposed the reorganisation bill, which seeks to transfer 200-odd villages from Telangana to Andhra to facilitate the Polavaram dam project.
Trinamul, which opposed the bill last week, stayed away as the legislation was passed by voice vote.
The government mediators who tapped the non-Congress parties had offered two arguments. One, the Trai amendment was not an ideological issue and not “against the national interest”.
Two, the Congress may be accusing the government of “bulldozing” bills through Parliament, but the UPA had promulgated 61 ordinances in 10 years, with 11 in 2013 alone.