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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Poll equations blunt Oppn attack, differences in BJP weaken govt hit

The government’s response, on the other hand, seemed to suffer due to a lack of seasoned leaders with a gift of the gab who could have scored political points at such a critical time.

Written by Liz Mathew | New Delhi |
Updated: February 4, 2021 7:34:10 am
Speaker Om Birla in Lok Sabha on Wednesday. (PTI)

While ruckus in Lok Sabha over the past two days underlined the Opposition parties’ support to the farmers’ protests, political equations in several poll-bound states appeared to have hindered them from coming together as a cohesive force to corner the government.

The government’s response, on the other hand, seemed to suffer due to a lack of seasoned leaders with a gift of the gab who could have scored political points at such a critical time.

Parliamentary Minister Pralhad Joshi appeared to be struggling to ensure business in the House as the Opposition parties, despite a lack of cohesion, managed to force repeated adjournments.

Joshi’s attempts to convince Opposition MPs to allow the debate on the Motion of Thanks to the Presidential address failed on Wednesday again despite the government’s offer to extend the debate duration from 10 hours to 15 hours to allow time for a discussion on farmers’ issues. His response to the Opposition charge was largely restricted to accusing them of “breaking the tradition”.

Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar, too, failed to retaliate effectively; on Tuesday, he just reiterated his offer for talks with the farmers and blamed the Opposition for not using the Question Hour to talk about farmers’ issues.

The response by the other BJP MPs, too, appeared to be lukewarm over the past two days.

Party sources admitted that there is a difference of opinion among the MPs on the “way the BJP governments handled the farmers’ protest episodes”. A number of party leaders have privately admitted that the issue — right from the passage of the Bills to the attempts to remove the agitators from protest sites — could have been “better handled”.

On the other side of the aisle, main Opposition parties Congress, DMK, the Left and TMC, did not seem to have any coordination among themselves even as they opposed the government.

The main reason, according to leaders of the Opposition parties, is political compulsions in the poll-bound states of West Bengal and Kerala. Lack of proper coordination appeared to be missing even among the MPs from Congress and the DMK, which have agreed to contest the Tamil Nadu Assembly polls together.

When the House met on Tuesday, MPs from the Congress, DMK, Left and TMC trooped to the Well, but raised slogans in different groups. While the Congress and others raised Hindi slogans, TMC MPs led by Kalyan Banerjee raised slogans in Bangla and appeared to be trying to outshout the others.

The TMC is gearing up for a triangular fight in West Bengal against the Congress-Left alliance and the BJP. And, the Left parties will have to fight the Congress in the Kerala election.

On Wednesday, the TMC looked confused on whether they should join those who were already in the Well. When the House met at 4.30 pm after a brief adjournment, some Congress MPs stood up, but did not move till AAP’s Bhagwant Mann rushed to the centre of the House, questioning the government’s move to put up barricades to stop the farmers. “Are they from China or Pakistan to be stopped like this?” he shouted. It was then that a group of young Congress MPs moved in, raising slogans.

With the Opposition agreeing for the debate in the Upper House, Congress leaders who attended the meeting of floor leaders did not oppose when the government suggested that the duration for the debate could be extended from 10 hours to 15 hours to allow more MPs to speak on issues, including the farmers’ agitation. However, at a meeting of Congress MPs chaired by Rahul Gandhi, many members criticised floor leaders for agreeing to the offer from the treasury benches, sources said. The meeting also decided to coordinate with other opposition parties, they added.

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