New Delhi: Parliamentary affairs minister M. Venkaiah Naidu today appealed to Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Ghulam Nabi Azad for help to break the legislative logjam in the upper House in what appeared to be a last-gasp bid before the winter session's impending washout.
In a note he dispatched, Naidu asked if Azad and other Congress leaders were willing to meet him tomorrow for another round of talks.
Last heard, the Congress had not replied.
The current session, which convened last month, is scheduled to end on December 23.
As Naidu grappled virtually solo to pick his way through floor management with some help from House leader Arun Jaitley and nothing from either Prime Minister Narendra Modi or other ministerial colleagues, old-timers from non-BJP parties recalled how Atal Bihari Vajpayee went about the task.
It helped that the former Prime Minister was gregarious and, more importantly, a product of Lutyens' Delhi that made for a certain degree of familiarity with parliamentary protocol and the do's and don'ts of political engagement with the Opposition.
"In contrast, Modi is a loner and a workaholic. He doesn't believe in making small talk with his political colleagues or just inviting them for a chit-chat over tea. Things worked for him in Gujarat (when he was chief minister) because he successfully decimated the only Opposition, the Congress, and BJP dissidents. Delhi is a different ball game," a senior MP from Maharashtra, who has known Modi for years, said.
"The winter session started off on an uncertain note. But the events that followed have not helped, whether it was the National Herald case or the raids against an official of (Arvind) Kejriwal or those on (P.) Chidambaram's son.It gives an unfortunate impression that our government is opening as many fronts with the Opposition as possible, a case of aa bail mujhe maar (wave a red flag before a bull)," a BJP MP said.
Modi's November 27 meeting with Congress chief Sonia Gandhi and former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to try and narrow down the differences over the goods and services tax bill was milestoned as an ice-breaker in a season of aloofness.
Then came the Herald case and the summons from a lower court, asking Sonia and Rahul Gandhi to appear in person. That the summons was a response to a complaint from Subramanian Swamy, now a BJP member "blessed" by Modi, was not lost on the Congress.
As Naidu planned outreaches to the Congress to sort out the GST bill, the BJP charted a different track, dissing the Gandhis for "corruption" and resurrecting its old graft plank against the party and its allies.
"It's wrong to say we are targeting the Congress. The Herald case is a result of the Congress's mistakes. If I am summoned even by an IT official for defaulting, I have to obey the order. Let's be clear, nobody can accuse this government of misusing the official machinery," a source close to Modi insisted.
The Arunachal Pradesh governor's face-off with the Congress government - that culminated in the Speaker's "impeachment" and protests lodged with the President by Sonia - exacerbated the state of relations between the Centre and the Congress.
Governor Jyoti Prasad Rajkhowa's office, without the advice of the cabinet, had issued an order to advance the Assembly session from January 14 to December 16 and take up an impeachment motion served by BJP members against Speaker Nabam Rebia.
BJP sources emphasised that for Modi, certain beliefs could not be compromised with. "He will not countenance any kind of corruption. Doing backroom deals with the Opposition is out of question," a source said.
A source said Modi was "prepared" to face the eventuality of a paralysed Rajya Sabha in the sessions to come, even if that meant bills like the one on the GST remained on hold. "The Prime Minister firmly believes that an eight or nine per cent growth rate is possible without legislating the GST bill. Things can be done by executive orders too," a source said.
Naidu, meanwhile, labours on./ The Telegraph Calcutta