Government didn't do parliamentary arithmetic before listing Bills

The Bharatiya Janata Party's parliamentary leaders — Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley — had reason to applaud their performance in the just-concluded monsoon session even as they said the government betrayed a lack of direction with some Congress MPs freely criticising their own Ministers on the floor of Parliament.

Ms. Swaraj, in fact, said it became a “refer” and “defer” session for the government with proposed legislation one after another being referred to a select panel or postponed till the next session for want of adequate support. Clearly, the government had not done its parliamentary arithmetic before listing Bills for consideration and passing.

“Government leadership seems to be losing its grip… it did not look as if the government was moving forward on the basis of collective responsibility… lack of coordination within the government was evident, with one ministry stopping projects of another ministry and a gap between ministers and ruling party MPs visible [or rather audible] on the floor of the House,” Mr. Jaitley said.

Ms. Swaraj talked about her party's strategy based on its views on various issues. “Where we got the support of other Opposition parties, as on prices, we gheraoed the government; we exposed it on the Bhopal gas tragedy and the issue of safe passage to the then Union Carbide head, Warren Anderson; on the proposed bills on enemy property and education tribunal, the government was forced to defer the legislation, even as the BJP forced it to send some new bills to the standing committee.” And where the government agreed to take on board the BJP's concerns, the party cooperated with it for, “We did not want to oppose for the sake of opposition.”

Ms. Swaraj made the point that the government suffered embarrassment as it was not able to push through several bills — the NDMC (Amendment) Bill was sent to the standing committee and the torture Bill to a select committee. The enemy property bill and the education tribunal bill had to be deferred.

On the BJP's understanding with the government on the Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage Bill, both Mr. Jaitley and Ms. Swaraj took the credit for securing several key amendments to make supplier liability a reality. “And even on this subject, the government stood exposed because of the way it handled it,” Mr. Jaitley added.

Was this a well considered change of tactic from what the party employed between 2004 and 2009 when it had been mostly obstructionist? “Obstruction, cooperation and opposition are all legitimate parliamentary tactics,” Mr. Jaitley responded.

And this session, the principal Opposition used all these tactics to its advantage.

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