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  • Archis Mohan - Deputy Political Editor, Business Standard

    Archis Mohan

    Deputy Political Editor, Business Standard

    DATE: August 12, 2015, 02:00 PM

    SUBJECT: Prospects for co-operation between BJP & the Opposition




    Hello and welcome to a webchat with Archis Mohan, Deputy Political Editor at Business Standard

  • R


    What are the key points of opposition and why is the ruling party not ready to accept those? Rather than creating noise, there should have been healthy and an interesting discussion in the Rajya Sabha.


    Indeed. Both, the Opposition, particularly the Congress, as well as the government needed to be more accommodating to their respective concerns. The Opposition, and not just the Congress but other small parties as well, have complained that the government didn't try hard enough to reach out to them. The government says that the Congress by demanding "no resignation, no House" took a maximalist position, instead of a discussion on the issue of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj's help in facilitating travel documents of former Indian Premier League commissioner Lalit Modi. The government had maintained it was willing to have a discussion, but the Congress and left parties demanded her resignation, pointing out the 2G case and the consequent disruption of Parliament in 2010 as a precedent.

  • V


    What could be the likely impact on the economy if the GST Bill does not get cleared in the ongoing monsoon session which ends tomorrow?


    The GST, if not cleared in the ongoing Monsoon session, will find it difficult to meet its planned rollout by April 1, 2016. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has said GST will add one to two per cent to the GDP, lessen corruption and be advantageous to consuming states. You can read more on the economic impact of the GST in this chat with AK Bhattacharya, Editor, Business Standard here

  • A


    Is the demand for resignation of some ministers by the Congress the only reason for the continuing logjam over the GST Bill?


    Apart from the Congress demand for resignation of the ministers, there is a breakdown of communication between the BJP-led government and the Congress. The Congress, despite being reduced to 44, wants to be taken more seriously by the government as the lead opposition. Unfortunately for the Congress, even some of the regional parties are not always willing to treat it as such in the Lok Sabha, which at times has given the NDA the opportunity to isolate the Congress within the Opposition space. That the government refused to grant Mallikarjun Kharge, the Congress leader in the Lok Sabha, the status of 'leader of the Opposition' has not gone down well with the Congress. But the BJP-led NDA can afford to be patient. By next year, the Congress could cease to be the single largest party in the Rajya Sabha. It will also be facing tough elections in Kerala and Assam. Meanwhile, the BJP-led NDA will see its strength increase in the Upper House. This could explain the Congress aggressiveness in the Monsoon session, and could impact the Winter session of Parliament as well.

  • S


    What are the options available to the BJP in case the GST bill is not passed today?


    There is little hope for the GST constitutional amendment to be passed in the current session if the Rajya Sabha doesn't pass it by today evening. For, the Bill will need to be sent back to the Lok Sabha since the select committee suggested amendments, and tomorrow is the last day of the Monsoon session. The only option is to have the Bill discussed and passed by the Rajya Sabha during the winter session, and ensure that at least half the state assemblies ratify it during their respective winter sessions. The winter session of Parliament will start sometime in mid-November but the government can advance it by a couple of weeks. After the passage by half the states, the government can take up other GST related Bills in the Budget session. This is a small window of opportunity if the GST regime is to roll out by April 1, 2016.

  • N


    Co-operation and consensus-building is not Modi's virtue. Do you think his approaching the opposition will impact his long-term strategic thinking? Or will it be just a one-off 'matlabi' occasion?


    Prime Minister Modi did reach out to the Opposition to ensure the passage of the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, something the Manmohan Singh-led UPA failed to do. Modi's outreach included assuaging concerns of West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. On the issue of land Bill, the government has finally relented and willing to concede ground to not only to the opposition but also its Sangh Parivar affiliates. Last week, Modi was in Chennai where he met Tamil Nadu CM and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa. The AIADMK has consistently opposed the GST Bill. Cooperation and consensus building, whether the PM or the government likes it or not, is their compulsion given that the NDA is in woeful minority in the Rajya Sabha. While the Congress might progressively lose its current strength in the Upper House, the BJP-led NDA cannot hope for a majority even in 2018 and will need to work at least with the regional parties.

  • P


    With such huge protests after the GST Bill was tabled do you think that the government would find it even more difficult to pass the Land Bill in the next session of the Parliament?


    The prospect looks bleak if the Congress continues to be as aggressive as it is now. But public pressure, including from industry and trader groups, could persuade the Congress to help pass the GST constitutional amendment Bill in the Winter session. The Bihar assembly election results could also have a bearing on how the Winter session progresses.

  • S


    The Congress has finally agreed to allow the Lok Sabha to function and the debate on Lalit Modi issue is currently underway. Does this indicate a thaw in the frayed relations between the government and the major opposition party? Could the government have done anything different with regard to its floor management strategy?


    It did indicate a thaw. Until Tuesday, the Speaker had refused to entertain a Congress adjournment motion on the issue but admitted it today after External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj intervened. But the peace didn't last very long as the treasury benches objected some of the statements of Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge and the House had to be adjourned. The government did reach out to some of the other parties. The Trinamool Congress, the Janata Parivar parties, Biju Janata Dal and AIADMK didn't join the Congress and the Left parties in demanding the resignation of Swaraj. The Lok Sabha has managed to pass nearly half dozen amendment Bills. The real problem has been the Rajya Sabha where the government is in a minority and which was slated to discuss and pass the all important GST constitutional amendment Bill as well as the Real Estate Bill. This is where the government's lack of communication with the Congress top leadership has hurt. Although, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and others have said that they reached out enough and that it was the "ego" of Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Vice President Rahul Gandhi that has stalled the GST Bill.

  • U


    Is the Congress justified in its policy of obstructionism, especially given that the BJP itself asserted, when in opposition, that not allowing Parliament to function is also a form of democracy?


    The obstructionism, from the Congress perspective, looks justified since it believes the BJP, then in the opposition, washed out an entire session to demand a joint parliamentary committee probe into the 2G scam in 2010. It also believes its justified as BJP ruled states stalled the GST for several years. And yes, BJP leaders, when they were in opposition, did say that not allowing Parliament is also a form of democracy. But as the saying goes 'two wrongs don't make a right'. The larger public interest is served by an early roll out of the GST, whatever the Congress grouse might be against the BJP.

  • S


    Do you think that Cong will have at least contemplated letting the GST pass? By doing so they could show (by effective PR) that they are better than BJP who held the parliament hostage in a similar fashion when they were in the Opposition.


    Yes, I do think that the Congress should have let the GST pass. The Congress set a good example by letting the Insurance Bill pass in the budget session. The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had first introduced the insurance reforms bill which the Congress had then opposed. The Manmohan Singh-led UPA 1 and 2 wanted to bring in the insurance bill but the BJP opposed it. The Congress broke this pattern by supporting the insurance bill, and it could have done the same with the GST which again was stalled by BJP ruled states during the UPA years. But it seems the question isn't as much about the GST but a breakdown of communication between the government and the lead opposition party.


    Thank you, Archis for your time. We hope to see you soon. We also thank our readers for sending in their questions.


    Most welcome