New Delhi: If mercurial politics of Mulayam Singh Yadav was one factor, the Congress obstinacy to disrupt proceedings and thereby stall the Goods and Sales Tax (GST) Bill pushed the likes of Trinamool Congress out of its ambit.
The love-hate relationship between Congress and Samajwadi Party came to the fore once again today reminding political watchers the shenanigans of 1999 when first Yadav explicitly scuttled Sonia Gandhi’s bid for prime ministership within days after Atal Bihari Vajpayee government had fallen by one vote.
The Samajwadi Party supremo, who was in return humiliated in 2004 after the Congress-led UPA had won the elections, has sought to repeat his 1999 game plan vis-a-vis Congress today and almost left the grand old party licking its wounds when he led the other smaller and regional parties in “isolating” the Congress.
Yadav’s move today has burst the Congress myth that non-BJP secular parties like Samajwadi Party, Trinamool Congress and NCP had no alternative but to stick to Congress.
In 1999, it was Yadav’s terse one-page letter to then president KR Narayanan that ended Sonia Gandhi’s now infamous sojourn for the citadel of power in Delhi after the Congress chief had made the historic remarks, “we have 272….we will soon have more”.
“If you agitate further we won’t support you,” Yadav told Congress leader in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjun Kharge and Congress president Sonia Gandhi in the morning in no unambiguous terms. Playing spoilsport to Congress strategy to continue to disrupt the proceedings in Parliament even as the five-day suspension of 25 Congress MPs from Lok Sabha ended today, Mulayam also urged Speaker Sumitra Mahajan to convene an all-party meeting to end the logjam.
He repeated his stance again in the meeting wherein Kharge attended along with party colleague KC Venugopal where to utter dismay of Congress leaders, representatives from Trinamool Congress, JD(U), RJD and NCP backed Mulayam. “Kharge was literally left red-faced and momentarily was struggling for words,” one MP who attended the meeting said.
Only about an hour ago, Congress MPs had met Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to workout today’s parliamentary strategy and decided to stick to its earlier stance that the House can function only when BJP leaders External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan tendered resignations.
As expected, the BJP camp was more than delighted at the visible discomfort of Congress with party leaders and ministers taking a refrain, that “it’s purely Sonia Gandhi and her son Rahul who were stalling Parliament proceedings”.
“There’s a visible growing public anger building up against Congress,” said Babul Supriyo, singer-turned-BJP MP from West Bengal and also junior minister for Urban Development.
“As a first time Parliamentarian I am angry and disgusted by the shameless behaviour of senior leaders of ‘politically bankrupt’ Congress Party,” he tweeted.
“With such mindless/anarchist leaders at the helm of Congress, I wonder if we (are) seeing the beginning of THE END of a party with such legacy,” he said in another micro-blogging site posting.
The Congress was taken back and almost gave an impression of making a climb down, even as Rahul Gandhi sought to change the goal post itself.
Rahul Gandhi told reporters in the afternoon that Congress will allow Parliament to function only after Swaraj discloses her family’s financial transactions.
“We also agree that Parliament must function. But, we have raised a basic issue. We have said, and I have said it three times, Sushma Swaraj, the chief minister of Rajasthan and the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh have carried out in some cases illegal acts. In Madhya Pradesh there are murders happening and our Prime Minister does not feel it necessary to comment on them,” he said.
Rahul directed his ire against Swaraj, who had actually made optimum use of vacant opposition benches last week, and had made a statement in Lok Sabha denying her involvement with Lalit Modi and that she had only helped Lalit Modi’s ailing wife on humanitarian ground.
Rahul could not, however, buy that argument and instead took a potshot at the minister saying, “You want to be kind, you want to be charitable, why do it in secret? Why hide, why not tell your whole ministry?”
To a volley of questions, he denied that the Congress party stood isolated today although a few Congress leaders privately agreed that “the disruption agenda was stretched too far”.
“We are not fighting a losing battle….We were lucky that smaller parties including the likes of Trinamool had supported us over a ruling from the Chair. This was a good gesture, but at the same time, we have organsied a bandh in West Bengal on 20 August against the Mamata regime,” said a party MP from North East on the condition of anonymity.
Pradesh Congress chief in West Bengal, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury on Sunday gave a call for a state-wide bandh on 20 August to protest against “ongoing terror and violence” by Trinamool — a move that certainly left TMC leadership annoyed.
Another party JD(U), which is also sounding pro-Congress in the last two months, agreed to Samajwadi Party chief’s call to support normal Parliament functioning. “We agree with Mulayam Singhji, he is our leader and I agree with him that we smaller parties have a bigger role to play is the functioning of Parliament,” said JD(U) Rajya Sabha member KC Tyagi.
Other smaller parties agree Congress had taken the support of regional outfits for ‘granted’. “There was an element of arrogance in Congress. Today, they decided unilaterally to disrupt proceedings. They thought we have no alternative than to support them,” a Trinamool source said.
In the meanwhile, it is understood that the government’s GST Bill card has also influenced state-level parties.
“Most of the regional parties like Trinamool Congress and Samajwadi Party are in favour of GST and they find no reason in stalling that Bill which could be detrimental for their respective state economy,” a key BJP floor manager toldFirstpost.
Trinamool sources said West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will be arriving Delhi late evening (10 August) and try to meet “some relevant people” to back the GST.
For his part, amid the bedlam, the Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said, “The assessment in the government is that there are not many in even Congress pushing this logic that House should not run. Only their top two leaders… have been stubborn on it” — making perhaps for the first time a direct indictment on Sonia-Rahul duo.
He said the main opposition party, which has the advantage of numbers (68) in Rajya Sabha as against a modest 48 of BJP, has been allegedly trying to use the row over Sushma Swaraj-Lalit Modi as a “pretext” to stop passage of the GST bill.
The non-passage of GST Bill would make it impossible to roll out the new reformed tax structure from 1 April 2016 — which was initially the declared target even of the erstwhile UPA regime.
“(They say) Parliament should not function, legislations should not be passed. If there is harm to the country, to the system let it be,” the Leader of Rajya Sabha told reporters.
The Union finance minister charged Sonia Gandhi with being “directly responsible” for UPA’s policy paralysis and for slowing down the economy.
“It’s best endeavour is that since it won’t be able to stop the GST it is definitely trying to delay,” Jaitley said.