Two parallel lines in BJP make it tough for ruling party’s floor managers

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi — not Leaders of the Opposition in Parliament Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley — is now running the parliamentary wing of the Bharatiya Janata Party, exasperated Congress floor managers, trying hard to push through key Bills, including the one on food security, told The Hindu on Tuesday.

Indeed, the cracks within the BJP, they said, creating divided loyalties, are making it increasingly difficult to come to an understanding with the principal opposition on how things will pan out inside Parliament. “We might come to an understanding with the Leaders of the Opposition but when we enter the House, everything seems to unravel,” said a key Congress leader.

The two parallel lines, the Congress says, are the result of a section within the BJP taking its cue from Ms. Swaraj and the other from Mr. Modi, now being described as the Gandhinagar line. So even as the BJP parliamentary party had decided in principle to support passage of the Food Security Bill, Mr. Modi’s tweet on Tuesday morning on his August 7 letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, pointing out deficiencies in the Bill and suggesting a meeting of Chief Ministers before it is passed, has caused ripples in the BJP parliamentary wing.

Top BJP leaders maintained it was Mr. Modi’s right as a Chief Minister to put forth his views in solidarity with his counterparts, like Tamil Nadu’s Jayalalithaa, and that his suggestions could be included as amendments when the Bill came up in the House. Some junior party MPs said they agreed entirely with Mr. Modi’s approach and lamented that the BJP parliamentary wing had adopted a conciliatory posture on the proposed law.

Indeed, it is this duality of views that saw the BJP mount a relatively gentle attack on the Congress on the Robert Vadra affair: in the Lok Sabha, the party raised it just once; in the Rajya Sabha thrice, but on the second two occasions, very mildly. A senior MP recalled that NDA working chairperson L.K. Advani had maintained that personal attacks should not be made against relatives of opposition leaders. But Mr. Modi has conveyed to his supporters in the BJP parliamentary wing that he expected a frontal attack on the Congress.

Opposition leaders, however, held the Congress — and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath — responsible for not being able to run the House in a manner conducive to passage of the food security Bill that was listed for discussion in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. They argue that the Congress had failed to prevail upon Telugu Desam Party MPs not to shout slogans against Telangana in the well ever since the session started. Thus it failed to create an atmosphere in which a serious exchange of views is impossible.

These opposition sources said the Congress leadership should have got in touch with TDP supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu to sort out the matter rather than appealing to non-TDP parliamentary leaders to convince the MPs not to disrupt the House. Indeed, they pointed out that if Congress MPs, and State ministers could be allowed to protest against the creation of Telangana in the precincts of Parliament House — being televised back to their constituents — they could hardly expect the TDP MPs, who are in a similar political predicament, to remain silent. One opposition floor leader even said he was surprised that the Congress had made the announcement on Telangana before it passed the food security Bill, knowing there would be repercussions in Parliament.

Meanwhile, Congress chief whip and spokesman Sandeep Dikshit appealed to the four TDP MPs, who disrupted the Lok Sabha, to cooperate so that the House could debate and pass the food Bill.

Keywords: Food Security Bill

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