Boomerang politics

The BJP must acknowledge its shared stakes in passing crucial legislation

Written by The Indian Express | Published: April 25, 2013 12:01 am

The BJP must acknowledge its shared stakes in passing crucial legislation

The UPA is under attack on several fronts,and it has brought much of it upon itself. The BJP wants the law minister as well as the prime minister to resign for the government’s attempts,first reported in this paper,to vet the CBI report on coal block allocation. The CBI’s affidavit is still to come. The opposition,meanwhile,has forced repeated adjournments in Parliament and stalled legislative work. Notwithstanding the specific features of the unfolding situation,a larger pattern is also becoming discernible. Successive sessions of Parliament over the last three years have been sacrificed to political confrontation. Now,with many critical bills pending,which will matter greatly to the economy’s prospects,Parliament is paralysed again.

For the BJP,this should be a moment to balance its calculations of political profit and loss with the larger imperative of pushing necessary bills forward. As the main party of the opposition,and as a party that could well return to govern at the Centre,surely it has stakes in their passage. Any ruling coalition at the Centre will have to contend with the same challenges. Getting a new and improved land acquisition law in place,or instituting the goods and services tax,will be critical to the economy,and both major political formations can ill afford to disregard their urgency. In fact,many of the bills the BJP has held up in the UPA’s regime were piloted by the NDA. It is true that getting them passed is ultimately the government’s responsibility. But the opposition must also realise the limits of intransigence,and its costs. Vigorous political disagreement and electoral competition can coexist with legislative and policy cooperation in crucial areas. This is not a call to political or parliamentary virtue,but a reminder that the BJP’s long-term interests lie in getting some of these bills through.

Parliamentary non-cooperation may also be a dangerous example to set. There is every likelihood that it will be employed by the Congress too if it finds itself in the opposition — the Congress has been known to be an obstructionist opposition in the past. The BJP must find a way to express political grievance and score off the government,without eroding the very system it depends on.

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