Rajya Sabha numbers game challenge for Modi Government
by Ashok B Sharma on 12 Jun 2014 2 Comments

The numbers game is all that matters in the Indian Parliament today. The BJP won a majority of 282 seats on its own in the 543-Member Lok Sabha; the pre-poll NDA alliance jigged up the numbers to 336, which places the ruling coalition in a comfortable position in the Lok Sabha.


The 129 year-old Congress party has been shattered to its lowest ever score at 44 -  way below the 10 per cent seats required to secure the party leader the status of Leader of Opposition, along with Cabinet rank under the Salary and Allowances of the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977. This is a pathetic state of affairs for a party that has ruled the country for several decades.


Reading the writing on the wall, the Congress did not project the scion of the Nehru-Gandhi family, Rahul Gandhi, to lead the party in the House; the onus fell upon former Railway Minister Mallikarjun Kharge. The Opposition parties had no choice but to allow the unanimous election of BJP candidate Sumitra Mahajan as Speaker of the Lok Sabha. Technically, it is now her domain to decide whether or not to recognise Kharge as the Leader of Opposition. The flip side is that once the position is bestowed, Congress may change the Leader of Opposition and bestow the post on the party president or vice president. There is also no assurance that the Congress will continue to cooperate with the regime for five years once it is gifted the status of Leader of Opposition.


This may have prompted the three regional parties – AIADMK, BJD and Trinamool Congress – to join hands to form a bloc in the Lok Sabha and deny the Congress the political space as principal Opposition party. The three together command 91 seats – AIADMK (37), BJD (20) and Trinamool Congress (34). It may be recalled that these three parties had earlier thought of forming a non-BJP, non-Congress Federal Front; the Trinamool Congress even insisted on forming a front minus the Left parties.


The Tamilnadu Chief Minister and AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa and Odisha Chief Minister and BJD chief Naveen Patnaik have met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and conveyed their intention to play the role of “constructive Opposition” and lend issue-based support to the regime. Both Chief Ministers also gave their respective wish-list to the Prime Minister. For some reason, the West Bengal Chief Minister and Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee has not yet called on the Prime Minister or opened her cards vis-à-vis the Centre. Even if the Trinamool Congress opts to stay neutral or opposed to the BJP, the AIADMK and BJD have a joint tally of 57 seats, well above Congress’s 44, though the tradition is to recognise a single party as the main Opposition if it meets the constitutional requirements.


The BJP-led NDA however needs numbers in the 245-Member Rajya Sabha, where it has only 58 seats, with BJP supplying the bulk of 42 and the rest from the TDP, Shiv Sena, Sikkim Democratic Front, Shiromani Akali Dal, Republican Party of India (A), Nagaland Peoples’ Front and Mizo National Front. The Congress has 67 seats in the Rajya Sabha, but with allies and friendly parties like the Bodoland Peoples’ Front, BSP, National Conference, JMM, Kerala Congress (M), Nationalist Congress Party, RJD and Samajwadi Party it could command a formidable 101 seats. The Janata Dal (U) with its 9 members may go with the Congress in return for support to its government in Bihar. But Sharad Pawar’s NCP and Mulayam Singh’s SP may not go along with the Congress entirely.


The NDA will clearly need the support of the AIADMK and BJD which have already conveyed issue-based support. Their combined strength in the Rajya Sabha is 14. The Trinamool Congress has an impressive 12 seats in the Rajya Sabha. But with Mamata Banerjee proving implacable so far, the NDA may seek help from the DMK, INLD, TRS and Independents who make up a total of 16. The House has 10 nominated Members and some may support the regime. At present, the House has 13 vacancies, hence the Government needs 117 MPs to pass any legislation.


Technically, if Bills are held up in Rajya Sabha, joint sessions of the Parliament can be convened to clear them, but it is not certain if the President will like this to evolve into the methodology of the new regime.  

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