The government’s unwillingness to accede to the Opposition — which has been holding together on the issue — has made it practically impossible to break the deadlock in the Rajya Sabha that seemed set for the introduction, discussion and passage of the insurance bill the BJP desperately wanted to push through.
Asked if Modi would be present in the upper House this week and make a statement on “re-conversions”, a top BJP minister said: “It doesn’t look so.”
Another senior minister seemed combative. “Why should he? Is this a mazaak (joke)? The Prime Minister came once to speak on an issue the Opposition screamed for (minister Niranjan Jyoti’s contentious remarks on Muslims). What happened after that? The Opposition tasted blood and did not honour its part of the deal. It continued disrupting the House (Rajya Sabha) for the next three days. This fraud will be repeated.”
Modi’s expression of regret for Jyoti’s comments, even if it was to buy peace with the Opposition, did not go down well with the BJP. “What was the need to pay a price for silencing the Opposition? It meant rejection of something deeply ideological to us. Modiji became a hero for us when he refused to wear a skullcap (offered by a Muslim cleric at a public event in Ahmedabad in 2011). These are defining moments in the life of a leader and, hence, no compromises will be brooked,” an Uttar Pradesh MP said.
BJP president Amit Shah had last week publicly called for a “strong” national law proscribing conversions, lending official heft to the statements from the hotheads. “If there was no conversion, there was no need for re-conversion too. We call it homecoming,” a BJP source stressed.
Meeting BJP MPs this morning, Modi iterated for the fourth time that they should not “speak out-of-turn” or say anything that would deflect from his commitment to “good governance and development” and gift the Opposition reasons to obstruct Parliament.
It is learnt that Modi could ask Shah to speak to the likes of Sakshi Maharaj and Yogi Adityanath, two of the MPs who have kicked up a storm with their statements. A few months ago, Shah had ticked off Union minister Maneka Gandhi for publicly saying her son Varun should be projected as chief minister in the 2017 Uttar Pradesh election.
For now, though, the immediate casualties of the House impasse are the insurance, coal and the goods and services tax (GST) bills. The Centre wanted them passed in this session ending December 23.
Opposition sources made it clear that by disrupting the Rajya Sabha, they will deny the government the chance to hold a discussion and a vote on the insurance bill. That will nullify the option, being considered by the BJP, of a joint session. The rules say such a session cannot be convened unless a bill is rejected by the Lok Sabha or the Rajya Sabha or remains in abeyance in either House for six months.
“We want the PM to speak. We will not let the House function until the PM spells out his stand,” said Trinamul Rajya Sabha MP Derek O’Brien, the Opposition’s floor manager at large.
-The Telegraph, Calcutta
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