New Delhi(DNA): Ahead of the monsoon session of Parliament commencing on Tuesday, rival fronts could be seen reinforcing battlelines, indicating disruption in the timeline for government’s legislative business.
As a belligerent Congress spelt out its “sack the scam tainted or face hurdles for bills” stand, the BJP armed itself to “aggressively” counter the Opposition.
Senior BJP leaders held a series of high-level meetings to prepare the treasury bench to brace itself for the likely storm in Parliament. With the Opposition gearing up to corner the government on the Lalit Modi row, Vyapam scam and other issues, BJP chief ministers – Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj Singh Chouhan – were in Delhi to meet party president Amit Shah and other leaders. The meetings were aimed at laying the groundwork for fortifying the government’s house strategy to brazen it out, party sources said.
The Opposition has been gunning for Raje for her links with Lalit Modi and Chouhan over the Vyapam scam in Madhya Pradesh, but the BJP has been shielding its leaders. The two chief ministers presented their side of the story before senior BJP ministers and other leaders at Shah’s residence. Among those present at the meeting were Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Nirmala Sitharaman and some party leaders. The leadership wanted to be doubly sure of facts in the cases before retaliating to the Opposition, the sources said.
“We will aggressively counter the baseless allegations of Congress,” BJP leader Shrikant Sharma said. Party leaders said there was no question of giving in to the opposition demand for resignations.
The BJP would also be explaining the leaders’ stand to its allies. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has convened a meeting of NDA constituents on Monday, on the eve of the monsoon session. Modi, while sharing dais with Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad in Jammu at birth centenary of Girdhari Lal Dogra two days ago, had himself said recently that there would be a “muqabla” soon.
The mood in the Opposition was evident from Congress leader Digvijay Singh’s tweet and Azad’s news conference. “Amit Shah summons Vasundhara Raje and Shivraj. Would Modi and RSS have guts to ask for their resignation,” Singh had asked. Azad said if the Prime Minister announced resignations of scam-tainted ministers, passing bills would be easy.
Besides Raje and Chouhan, the Congress has also been demanding resignations of Sushma Swaraj, over her links with Lalit Modi, HRD minister Smriti Irani, facing allegations of giving false information about her educational qualifications, and Maharashtra minister Pankaja Munde over a Rs206-crore scam in chikki tenders cleared by her department.
In the case of the Vyapam scam, the BJP’s argument would be that Chouhan himself had taken the lead in ordering a probe while in the Lalit Modi case, the party’s line of defence was that there was no illegality involved. The court has established that the Dholpur palace belonged to Raje’s son Dushyant. As part of its strategy to hit back at Congress, the BJP is likely to raise charges against Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh of being involved in a disproportionate assets case.
Caught in the face-off between the government and Congress are 32 legislations, including the pro- reform Goods and Services Tax (GST) and land acquisition bills. The government, which has a comfortable majority in Lok Sabha, is in a minority in Rajya Sabha.
There is acknowledgement in the BJP that the spate of allegations against its leaders has hurt the government, but there were apprehensions that succumbing to opposition pressure would only further complicate matters for it. While the government is reconciled to disruption in Parliament amidst a standoff with the Opposition, it would have to be seen who blinks first in the war of nerves. The Congress, which had been at the receiving end of corruption allegations, has been attacking Modi for his silence and is likely to put the onus of running parliament on the ruling side.