Why PM Narendra Modi’s call for constructive debates during Budget session may fall on deaf ears

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Prime minister Narendra Modi during the 6th conference on asset recovery in New Delhi on Wednesday. Express Photo by Anil Sharma. 18.11.2015.

On Tuesday, moments before the crucial budget session started, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the Opposition to utilise Parliament for constructive debates. But it seems, the call has come too late.
Even President Pranab Mukherjee’s appeal – “I urge all Members of Parliament to discharge their solemn responsibilities in a spirit of cooperation and mutual accommodation”- would fall on deaf ears as the Opposition is in no mood to let the BJP-led governent to have a smooth session. The reform legislation including the GST seem to be in freezer for a longer time. The Parliamentary affairs ministry has compiled a list of 74 items of business with 63 legislative items and 12 financial items. As many as 63 bills are now pending before the Parliament and 69 draft legislations are awaiting to be introduced and debated.
But this is not likely to stop the opposition from stalling the proceedings.
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Opposition alleges the government has behaved in the last few months, since the house adjourned sine die after the Winter session, which was also a wash out, as if it does not need opposition at all. There have been personal attacks against both Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi, there were accusations against Trinamool Congress leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over Malda violence and Left leaders were at the receiving end of a vicious attack – this includes one on daughter of CPI leader D Raja, Aparajita, a JNU student also was painted as änti national – during the last two months.
Not just that, there have been no specific attempts from the government to reach out to the Opposition – neither for their cooperation in governance nor for their support in fulfilling the government’s legislative agenda.
Prime Minister Modi’s positive gesture, inviting both Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for tea to break the stalemate in the Rajya Sabha over GST – was not followed up by the party or the government. Instead, most of the leaders vied with each other to vitiate the
atmosphere.
Those who have been watching the political developments closely know it for sure that there is not much to hope from this budget session, at least in the first half. The mere formalities of presentation of railway and financial budget will take place before the house goes for a break. Unless the government and the ruling party reach out to the opposition, even the second half will be a wash out like the last few parliament sessions.
The first showdown between the treasury and the opposition benches would be in exhibition in the Rajya Sabha on February 24, when the JNU row would be discussed. BJP sources said the speakers from the government – Arun Jaitley is likely to speak – are “charged up” and would do maximum to cash in on the “nationalist sentiments” against the “anti national activities”in the JNU campus and the Opposition leaders’ support to them. But the Opposition plans to corner the ruling party on Rohith Vemula issue which has been a setback to the BJP as Dalit leaders including those within had resentment against the leadership for terming Rohith an anti-national.
The opposition has too many issues to put the government on the mat- the political crisis in Arunachal Pradesh, where the Congress alleges that the governor appointed by the BJP-led government äcted with vested interests” to “trample”democracy. The BJP’s own allies are also unhappy although they are unlikely to attack the government on the floor of the house, they too do not want the government to have a smooth sailing in the budget session.
While the ministers and the BJP leaders would accuse the Opposition of being hostile to Modi and his government, Opposition would hit back asking them to behave democratically. But all these will be at the cost of a crucial budget session, which should have been agenda heavy.