Modi And BJP Are Failing in Parliament

The end of the year should have been triumphant  for Narendra Modi . Government was running well and   electoral victories in  Haryana, Maharashtra, Jharkhand  and  Kashmir  were  stunning.  But the Winter session in Parliament was not successful . The BJP has a  majority in  Lok Sabha . But in  Rajya Sabha,    BJP has no majority. In such  situations,  if  Government wants  a  Law  passed, it can  have a Joint session of both  Houses and get  Bills passed. However this is an extreme remedy and rarely done.  The BJP government wanted to pass many laws in Rajya sabha   to help the economy. The Opposition sensed this urgent need of the Government and started raising  difficulties, using  any pretext.

The Congress party did not lead  the disruptions since the public will turn even more  hostile to them. It used  smaller  Trinamul Congress of Mamata Banerjee and Left parties  to disrupt the Rajya Sabha.  The Opposition in the Rajya Sabha  demanded that Narendra Modi must  speak  on the  issue of  Vishwa Hindu Parishad and conversions and such issues.

The opposition wanted to  diminish the prestige of  prime Minister Modi . They  insisted that Prime Minister  make a statement on conversions . The idea was to attack Modi in the Rajya sabha and diminish his prestige . Sensing  this possibility,  BJP naturally  ensured that the Prime Minister  Modi did not speak in the Rajya Sabha  . So the stalemate continued  and no laws could be passed in the Rajya Sabha  . But the Government needed  reforms  for the  economy. Particularly, the Government  wanted  laws regarding Insurance,   Land  Acquisition law of 2013.    Since the bill were not passed , Government got  Ordinances  signed by the President. An ordinance is a law, but it must  be approved within 6 months by Parliament .  Unless  there is a  grave emergency, government does not resort to Ordinances .

By  getting Ordnances, the BJP has shown that it does not control parliament, which is a sign of weakness. The  media attacked the government for its inability  to tackle parliament and get laws passed. The business community also said that Ordinances meant that  the laws were  forced and since parliament did not pass them, they might be reversed later.

There  is general agreement that Narendra Modi is  doing  well. The normally  impatient people of India are satisfied that they have a government which is   working  for the common man  . People under-estimated Narendra Modi and thought  he will never be able to  handle foreign affairs since he was not highly educated or  experienced. No one thought that Narendra Modi will be able to understand the  intricacies of foreign policy . Modi has proved them all wrong.

But running a  country is just not controlling the officials. New laws have to be passed. Moreover, Indian parliament represents   the entire   country and it is important for Indian democracy that Parliament function well . The Prime Minister has  to earn the respect and affection of Parliament. Though the Opposition might be small, an Indian prime Minister must never try to bully parliament .  When Nehru was Prime Minister, he had  a huge majority in both Houses of Parliament. But he showed maximum respect and always  tried to oblige the Opposition.

P.V. Narisimha Rao had no majority  in the Lok Sabha when he was Prime Minister  between 1991-96. Yet, he got everything he wanted from Parliament. During Narasimha Rao’s time, the country faced an economic crisis,  Punjab rebellion,  Kashmir  problems and Assam violence . Yet, he carried parliament along with great tact and always  obliged individual MPs and parties.  Narasimha Rao nominated  Leader  of the Opposition  Atal Behari Vajpayee  to lead  delegations to the United Nations  . Naraismha Rao  told his Ministers that they must show respect to the Opposition MPs. He further said that his was a Minority government  and cannot anger  MPs of any party .He earned goodwill and finished his full 5 years with only 225 MPs. Modi has over 280 MPs.

Narendra Modi  had never been in Parliament . He might have been a successful Chief Minister of Gujarat . But parliament and Delhi are different. Opposition MPs do not care for the ruling party if they belong to regional parties. A government cannot control them . MPs might respect you if you win elections. But you need their affection and for that , the prime minister has to reach out to both  individual MPs and their leaders  . MPs must get appointments with the prime minister  and if they seek favours, he must try to oblige them within the law. If Modi  follows the example of P.V. Narasimha Rao to some extent, he will never have trouble in parliament.  Even if the leaders of Opposition parties want to create problems, the individual MPs will not participate .  But un-fortunately, the BJP committed a whole host of mistakes.

a. In victory, BJP and Modi  should be magnanimous. . Modi and   BJP  should understand that after  elections , they should  respect  the opposition and win them over.   But unless  the BJP and Modi compromise with the  Opposition  through  persuasion , there will be  trouble. This happens in all democracies . In  USA, though Barack Obama is President, he has failed to win the opposition and hence never passes any new laws. The Opposition did not want to give him any victories as they found him  arrogant .  No law has been passed recently in US  because Obama does not have a   working relationship with his opponents. The same thing is happening in India.

b. BJP government must  understand that it is no longer in opposition and making funny, insulting speeches in Parliament is self-defeating. The BJP feels that winning a  debate is enough. But in reality, the opposition is becoming more determined to fight the BJP and  they are uniting . There just seems to be no leader in the BJP who is ready to reach out to the Opposition.

c. Most BJP Ministers are not seasoned politicians .  They do not seem to feel they should oblige Opposition MPs and respect them. Most of the Ministers are in Rajya Sabha and have no mass base. They do not understand that MPs are politicians  and they want to oblige their voters and hence Government can win them over. In a  democracy, there is no other way a government can work.

d. BJP government also made a big publicity issue of getting defeated MPs evicted and Ex- Ministers shifted out of their bungalows. Of course, it must be  done. But the in-sensitive  way it was done, had angered the entire political class in Delhi. The BJP government made it a big media event.  The politicians  felt insulted and they want to insult Prime minister. BJP government might say they were following rules. But there are traditions set in India for the last 62 years ,which have to be followed. Government will not work if rival politicians  are humiliated.

e. The BJP government  does not have a system whereby different Ministers are given responsibility to coordinate with other political parties and ensure smooth sailing in Parliament. Every successful government  has  a “ back-channel “ links with Opposition parties.   There is a total absence of  use of  diplomacy and  soft skills to win over  opposition. Mrs. Indira Gandhi had a huge majority. But her government became un-popular because she just could not reach out to the opposition and they started  attacking her everywhere. Narisimha Rao did not have a  majority and yet he was never attacked the way Indira Gandhi was. That is the difference .

f. Narendra Modi is keeping a distance from political parties. He cannot afford  to become  inaccessible and un-helpful to opposition parties.  He has to change his attitude . Modi thinks that once he gets a majority in the Rajya Sabha , then he  can do anything. He cannot be more wrong.  The parliamentary system does not work like that. Whatever might be the majority a government has, it has  to compromise and take the Opposition along.  The BJP has  to do that  as difficult as it might be.

g. When the BJP was in Opposition from 2004 to 2014,   it constantly disrupted Parliament.  They have set the precedent for the  Opposition. It is now upto  the BJP to change its stance. Another interesting development is that giant Indian Corporates  are also criticizing the BJP for being unable  to handle parliament.  The Government is responsible for Parliament working and it has to make serious  compromises to ensure that. It is not the role of the Opposition to run  parliament.

h. There  is also  a feeling that many Ministers are  flattering  Modi and ensuring that he takes wrong steps . They convince him that he is very popular  and that the Opposition has  to bend to his orders or the people will throw them out.

However  mighty or popular the Prime Minister might  be, he has no  option but to follow earlier Prime  Ministers like Jawaharlal Nehru and P.V. Narsimha Rao and win over  the Opposition . Modi should remember how another  Gujarati Prime Minister Morarji Desai had over 377 Lok Sabha MPs  in 1977  and yet his government collapsed   within 3 years due to his un-compromising and rigid stances.  The other problem for Modi is that only he has   a big stature. His other ministers are unable to convince opposition parties.  The lack of mass leaders in the cabinet also makes the opposition careless towards the government . Speaking English well is not enough .

The BJP has not made efforts to win over  neutral and regional parties like the  Trinamul Congress. . The  Trinamul Congress  feels that  BJP is aggressively  trying to  spread in Bengal. But that should not have led to enmity in parliament. The BJP feels that since it won  the elections, all politics are  over and politicians  must bow down. That will  never happen in a democracy. In neighboring Sri lanka,  President Rajapaksha thought he had no opposition till elections were declared and then even his closest Ministers of 15 years standing started defecting . Politicians wait for the right time to strike.

The BJP President  Amit Shah has  shown great political  sense and  winning  elections.  Shah has won over many opponents of the BJP. The same kind of tactics and strategy are needed in parliament.  The BJP needs an Amit Shah in parliament to win over opponents to allow Parliament to work. Prime Minister Modi needs to review where he has failed in parliament  and why .

Narendra  Modi  is losing  prestige as he is unable to get Parliament  to respect him.  This will get worse as time goes on. While he is enjoying great success , he seems unable to understand that  BJP must change its style in parliament. So far, as BJP  is winning elections, Modi can  manage . But once he loses a state or two, then  troubles will start as they did for Indira  Gandhi and even Vajpayee.  The Opposition will not go away. Modi has  to work with it and his colleagues are not enough . He has to find solutions if he wants parliament to work and his government to run smoothly. .

This reminds me of what happened in the British Parliament, the mother of all Parliaments. In 1653, Oliver Cromwell  had  removed King Charles of England and was virtual  dictator of England. But Oliver Cromwell had a famous fight with Parliament which is remembered to this day .  On 20th. April, 1653, Cromwell listened to some  critical speeches  in Parliament . Then he stood up and abused the MPs  and said :

 “ You have sat too long for any good you have done. Depart and go.  You are no Parliament “. Then he ordered his soldiers to throw out all the  English MPs and closed  Parliament. But within  few years,  Parliament and King were back.

Similarly, in1933, Adolf Hitler  found the German Parliament  an obstacle for him. So with a brute majority he got passed  and “  Enabling Law “, which meant that henceforth Hitler can pass  any law since Parliament had authorized him. After  that, Hitler became a dictator . India Gandhi tried the same tricks during  the Emergency in 1975 and subdued Parliament .

Modi cannot do all that  and   must remember  that  at the beginning of his term, he must not have confrontation but compromise with parliament. He should shunt aside his advisers and  find compromises himself. He is very good at dealing with troublesome international leaders . Why cannot  he deal with our Indian leaders ?

By Pullarao Pentapati


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