There was rare camaraderie on the eve of the Monsoon session of Parliament between the BJP and the Opposition parties, with both PM Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi in agreement on the need to pass certain Bills. The photo op of Modi walking with the Lok Sabha Opposition leader was used with telling effect. Earlier, Rahul had written to the PM, proposing that the government bring the Bill for granting 33% reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies. That his own reconstituted Congress Working Committee has less than 15% representation for women is besides the point, but his offer to Modi was taken in right earnest. Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, who is concerned with the drafting of Bills and other related routines, wrote back to the Congress president suggesting that the cooperation be extended to three bills, covering reservation, triple talaq and nikah halala, over which the PM had sought Rahul’s support.
And, when Parliament assembled, the proceedings began with an assurance from the PM that the government was open to discussing any issue. But there was a bit of an anti-climax as a no-confidence motion against the government was moved and accepted the first time that such a thing has happened in 15 years. Notice of the motion was initiated by former NDA ally, the Telugu Desam, which had accounted for much of the disruption during the Budget session, with Congress and NCP support. The Speaker has fixed coming Friday for a debate on the motion. There is, of course, no danger to the Modi government as it has the numbers for survival, but it has the potential to mar the promised cooperative spirit.
The Congress has drawn up a long list of issues to be taken up, which will be dominated by mob lynching, women’s safety, Supreme Court strictures against summary arrest in cases involving atrocities against Dalits, farm distress, unemployment and so on. Modi has already served notice on the Congress that the government is not letting go of any opportunity to attack Rahul on his alleged assurance of the Congress being a “Muslims party”. The appeasement ploy has already created a lot of bad blood between the ruling alliance and the Opposition, forcing the ‘Grand Old Party’ to go on the back foot. Rahul has sought to make amends by saying that he and his party will stand with the last person in the line and embrace those in pain.
Yet, the first day of the Monsoon session went off with minimal interruptions, as both Houses enjoyed a nearly full day’s work. But, as the week progresses and the build-up for the debate on the motion starts, acrimony and disruptions seem to be the order of the day. The only point of curiosity would then be to see if it is a total washout like the Budget session.