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Five Reasons Why Parliament Will Stall, Again

A look at some of the factors that are going to lead to a paralysed Winter Session of the Parliament

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The faithful have a fantastic fascination for fantasies. Till the end of 2014, pundits and hacks who saw Narendra Modi as a savior wrote voluminous and wildly speculative futuristic pieces on how the NDA could end up with a virtual majority in the Rajya Sabha by 2017. This was in response to the manner in which the Congress and other non NDA parties, who command a majority in the Rajya Sabha, were behaving as obstructively as the BJP did while it was in the opposition. Like all fantasies, this one too has run out of steam and hyperbole. Now, the NDA, and in a manner of speaking, the nation face another bout of acrimony, anger, allegations and more as the Winter Session of the Parliament starts. Once it was clear that the Monsoon Session of the Parliament was a complete washout, there were some hopes that political parties would adopt a bi partisan approach and allow the Parliament to do its work: debate and pass bills. But here are five reasons why the chances of the winter session witnessing some honest work are bleak.

Bihar: The Bihar election verdict has dealt a body blow to the aura of invincibility that surrounded prime minister Modi. Soon after the humiliation in the February 2015 Delhi assembly elections, Modi fans could pass off that warning bell as a blip, or even a freak occurrence where the supposedly nihilistic and populist promise of Arvind Kejriwal hoodwinked the voters. In the aftermath of the more humiliating Bihar verdict, Modi fans are again looking for excuses. But the simple fact is that the JD (U), which was promising support to the critical GST Bill pending in the Rajya Sabha till now, has made what is now notorious as a U Turn and looks set to back new ally Congress to the hilt. As of today, the numbers for the NDA are even more unfavorable to the NDA than they were at the end of 2014.

The 2016 Elections: Three major states, Assam, West Bengal and Tamil Nadu will have assembly elections next year even as the 2016 Budget session of the Parliament is going on. The only state where the BJP and the NDA have a hope of doing well is Assam where it has emerged as a formidable force. But perversely, the Bihar elections have persuaded other parties to repeat a Bihar in Assam. So forget any help for NDA from the regional party AUDF from Assam. In West Bengal, it would be in the interest of Mamata Bannerjee to show her voters how implacably opposed she and her party Trinamool Congress are to the “communal” BJP. So no hope from Mamata too. Ditto for Tamil Nadu where J. Jayalalitha is known to be even more mercurial and unpredictable than Mamata. A paralyzed Parliament would possibly work to their political advantage.

Poor NDA Strategy: In 2014, the Parliament actually functioned reasonably well; as much as one can expect from Indian politicians. Even the Budget session of 2015 did not see a complete break down and paralysis of the Parliament. In this period, well wishers of the BJP had constantly warned against hubris and arrogance and urged the party to engage constructively with opposition parties ranging from TRS to BJD to TMC to AIADMK to SP. But so busy were BJP leaders basking in the glory of the Lok Sabha and the subsequent assembly election victories that they often failed to engage constructively with their own allies in the NDA. There were repeated warning signals that Modi could not repeat Gujarat in Delhi by simply ignoring all opposition. One doesn't know how earnestly top BJP leaders tried to engage with other parties to set an agenda for a smooth functioning of the Parliament. But it is clear that they have failed. It may even be too late by now. And blaming an implacable and “irresponsible” opposition doesn't help.

Modi Derangement Syndrome: Many analysts have coined this term since 2014 when Modi won a historic mandate. Even if you discount the many silly conspiracy theories that are peddled by Modi fans, there can be no doubt that a powerful and vocal section of Indian society absolutely detests Modi. The Congress party is taking full advantage of this irrational hatred. So this winter, be prepared to be drowned again by protests over “intolerance” as the Congress makes a determined effort to stall Parliament. The opposition and hatred towards Modi is so intense that Congress courtier Mani Shankar Aiyer actually told a Pakistani TV anchor to “remove” the Modi regime to resume “peace” talks between India and Pakistan. The strategic goal of this section is simple and clear: follow a scorched earth policy and simply do not allow Modi any room to implement an agenda for economic growth. That would mean he will lose in 2019. That is diabolical, but then that is adversarial politics and India has to live with it!

Motor Mouths: Let's assume that the top leaders of the BJP pull off a miracle and somehow persuade key opposition parties to at least ensure that crucial bills are debated and passed. Let us even assume that the Congress becomes miraculously cooperative in the “interests” of the nation. But going by the track record since May, 2014, there can be little doubt that some motor mouth in either the BJP or the extended Sangh Parivar will say something outrageous and offensive. They have done it repeatedly and prime minister Modi has, for whatever reasons, been unable to stop them. All it will need is one such outrageous remark that will become prime time fodder for TV channels and presto, the opposition will demand an explanation and an apology from Modi. The farce will continue.