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Thwarted from within

BJP may cooperate on key legislation. But it is the government’s job to make it happen

Written by The Indian Express | Published: April 20, 2012 3:08:51 am

BJP may cooperate on key legislation. But it is the government’s job to make it happen

After several sessions of stubborn gridlock in Parliament,there is some hope to be found in senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley’s assurance that his party would aid the government in passing the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority Bill this session. Given that the two major parties have more in common than they like to openly admit,in terms of their instincts about the economy,there should have been greater cooperation between them on important financial legislation — which includes the Companies Bill,the Direct Taxes Code,the GST Bill,amendments in banking and insurance,and more.

In recent months,the BJP has played by its own narrowly imagined ideas of political profit and loss rather than what the economy needs. It has opposed pieces of reform it had itself previously piloted. However,as Jaitley’s intervention underlines,these hurdles should not be hard to overcome for a determined government — and the UPA’s inability to do so is a harsh reflection on it.

It is the government’s job to create provisional coalitions of action across party lines on critical issues,to keep backroom dialogue going. That is a craft the UPA has miserably failed in. In fact,with much of the opposition to important bills coming from sections of the Congress and its allies,the ruling coalition sabotages its own schemes. Many of its best ideas — the UID,for example — have been thwarted from within. Similarly,FDI in retail was obstructed by a UPA ally,rather than the opposition. This government has been unable to make a strong policy imprint because of its peculiar disengagement from both its allies and the opposition,and its lack of an authoritative decision-making structure. That structural incoherence is what has caused it to trip over every seeming obstacle,from Anna Hazare to civil-military equations. As Jaitley indicated,it is still possible to rescue a sense of common purpose,if the UPA gets its act together and strengthens its working relationship with the opposition.

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