The alleged snooping on Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi by an assistant sub-inspector (ASI) of the Delhi Police threatens to dent the Narendra Modi government’s reforms agenda. The controversy is bad news for government strategists such as Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Parliamentary Affairs Minister M Venkaiah Naidu. The two had worked hard to reach out to opposition parties such as the Trinamool Congress (TMC), Samajwadi Party (SP), Biju Janata Dal (BJD), All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) and even the Congress to support the government’s reform agenda.
Last week, Prime Minister Modi had met West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and her MPs (members of Parliament), giving them a patient hearing and the sense within the TMC was that while the PM did not commit on Banerjee’s demand for a debt waiver for West Bengal, he signalled that other demands related to infrastructure projects would be considered.
Modi also reached out to Odisha chief minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik. The BJD mellowed its position on the land Bill discussion in the Lok Sabha on Thursday, withdrawing its amendments to the contentious Bill.
The government had also shown accommodation to the Congress, conceding to its demand on Friday to postpone the Budget discussion until Jaitley returned from London.
Similarly, the Janata Parivar parties, particularly the SP, have become amenable to supporting some of the key reform Bills. Modi attending the wedding ceremony of SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav’s grand nephew with Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad’s daughter, too, has played a part in smoothening things.
Barring the Left parties, nearly all opposition parties either supported the Insurance Bill or walked out of the Rajya Sabha before the Left could demand a division on some the amendments it had moved. Most opposition parties also agreed to the select committees on Mines and Minerals and Coal Bills giving its report within seven days – by Wednesday, March 18 – to give the House enough time to discuss and pass the two bills before it breaks for recess on Friday (March 20). A seven days’ time-frame is a rarity.
The government will also need to initiate discussion on the Land Bill. It hopes some of the Opposition parties, including the BJD, AIADMK and Bahujan Samaj Party could walk out of the Rajya Sabha instead of voting against the government on the Land Bill, bringing down the effective strength of the House to help the government push through the Bill.
However, the visit of the Delhi Police ASI to the Congress vice-president’s residence could prove a hurdle. The incident is reminiscent of how in 1991, his father and then Congress president Rajiv Gandhi pulled the plug on the Chandra Shekhar-led minority government, which had been pushing for economic reforms, for the alleged surveillance of his residence by two Haryana Criminal Investigation Department officials.
NEXT WEEK’S AGENDA
The two Houses break for a month-long recess at the end of proceedings on Friday, March 20
- Select committees to table report on Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Bill and Coal Bill by Wednesday, March 18
- Discussions on rail and general Budgets
- Slated to take up the Land Bill, Companies (amendment) Bill and Regional Rural Banks Bill – all three already passed by LS
- Discussion on general Budget
- Bills: Warehousing corporation and Andhra Pradesh Reorganisation amendment Bills, the repealing and amending Bill of 2014