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Bihar and Delhi jolt BJP, Modi still strong


New Delhi: The AAP’s dramatic rise and the return of Lalu Prasad and Nitish Kumar in Bihar marked the first full year of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who analysts say is still going strong though his earlier sheen has worn off.

For a politician who seemed to be at the peak of his popularity when 2015 dawned, having led the BJP to a historic win in the general election and later in Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Jammu and Kashmir, Modi suffered the maiden electoral defeat of his career in Delhi in February.

It was a personal blow for Modi because the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), which swept away the BJP in assembly polls, was led by Arvind Kejriwal, who Modi crushed in the Lok Sabha election in Varanasi in May 2014.

Nine months later, Modi suffered the second major jolt — and of a far serious nature — when his personalized campaign failed to help the BJP to defeat JD-U leader Nitish Kumar and RJD chief Lalu Prasad. If the BJP won just three of 70 seats in Delhi, it got 53 of 243 seats in Bihar.

The Bihar outcome led to open dissidence in the BJP, whose four senior leaders – L.K. Advani included – publicly called for a thorough review of the defeat. The statement was seen as an attack on Modi and BJP president Amit Shah, his Man Friday.

Amid the electoral reverses, the opposition, particularly the Congress, crushed in 2014, fired salvos after salvos. Charges of corruption and wrongdoing enveloped External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and the chief ministers of Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Vasundhara Raje.

Sushma Swaraj and Raje were linked to controversial ex-IPL chief Lalit Modi while Chouhan was blamed for a recruitment scandal which also led to some reported 50 deaths. The CBI was asked to probe the scam and deaths.

Although the Congress faced a bleak year, the exception being Bihar where it was a junior partner to the JD-U and the RJD, its leader Rahul Gandhi forced the government to go on the back foot on its land bill that he said would take land away from farmers for industrialists.

Rahul Gandhi also showed more assertion and articulation after a 50-day sabbatical. No one seemed to know for sure where he was during this time.

The Congress crippled both the monsoon and winter sessions of parliament on a range of issues from “intolerance” to alleged corruption in Delhi’s cricket body DDCA.

Just ahead of the Bihar election, the brutal killing of a Muslim man in Uttar Pradesh on rumours that he ate beef led to the unprecedented surrender of awards by leading writers and artists, embarrassing the government.

Despite the BJP’s reverses, Modi’s personal popularity remained high. He continued to tour numerous countries and ended 2015 with a historic visit to Pakistan that earned him widespread praise.

And the BJP became a part of the government in Jammu and Kashmir, the country’s only Muslim-majority state, for the first time, as a junior ally to the PDP.

AIADMK leader J Jayalalithaa returned as Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister after being acquitted in a case of holding disproportionate assets, which had forced her to give up the job.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi and vice-president Rahul Gandhi faced legal trouble in a case involving the now shut National Herald newspaper – on a complaint pursued by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy.

The BJP also faced unprecedented trouble in Modi’s home state Gujarat, with a young Hardik Patel bringing thousands of Patels on the streets for job quotas. He was accused of sedition, but the BJP suffered huge reverses in later civic body elections.

The unending BJP-opposition frictions buried the Goods and Services Tax bill, which could not be passed in parliament.

The BJP had some reasons to cheer. It made gains in local body elections in Kerala – where it has never won an assembly seat – and bagged two assembly seats in Manipur.

Even the end of 2015 saw fireworks.

The CBI raided in December the Delhi Secretariat, targeting a senior official aide to Chief Minister Kejriwal charged with corruption. But the AAP leader alleged his office was searched for what he said was a file linking corruption in the Delhi and District Cricket Association (DDCA) to Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

A furious Jaitley – known to be close to Modi – filed a defamation case against Kejriwal. And the BJP suspended its MP Kirti Azad, who had been campaigning on the issue for long, leading to more disquiet among party veterans uncomfortable with the working style of Modi and Amit Shah.(Prashant Sood, IANS)

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Come April, government will be more comfortable in Rajya Sabha

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs

Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
Parliament of India is a source of interest for many people because of various reasons. Wikimedia Commons
  • In April, the opposition may lose its edge over BJP in Rajya Sabha
  • NDA led by Modi has faced many embarrassments in Rajya Sabha in past few years
  • This is expected to change soon

Come April, the opposition in the Rajya Sabha may lose its edge in the numbers game and the power to stall any government bill, as the ruling BJP-led NDA coalition is set to catch up with its rivals, though a clear majority will elude them for a while more.

BJP to soon get more comfortable in  Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia commons
BJP to soon get more comfortable in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

As 58 MPs, including three Nominated and one Independent, are set to retire in April, the Rajya Sabha math is going to change. It is set to favour the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), and the trend may continue in the elections to the Upper House later too with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) having solid majorities in a number of state assemblies, especially the ones it won after the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.

With this, while the Congress-led opposition’s numbers will come down to around 115 from the present 123, the numbers of the BJP, its allies and sympathisers together would climb to around 109 from the present 100-odd members.

And the gap, once wide enough to let the opposition invariably have its say, will keep narrowing further in the coming months.

Of the 55 retiring members (excluding those Nominated), 30 belong to the opposition camp while 24 belong to the BJP and allies. Of them, a large number of NDA candidates are set to return while the opposition will lose a chunk of its members.

As things stand now, the Congress-led opposition has 123 MPs (including 54 of the Congress) in a house of 233 elected members (apart from 12 Nominated), while the NDA has 83 members (including 58 of BJP) plus four Independents who support the BJP (these include MPs Rajeev Chandrashekhar, Subhash Chandra, Sanjay Dattatraya Kakade and Amar Singh).

Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.
Rajya Sabha or the Upper House can often be a game changer while passing of the bills is in process.

Also, for all practical purposes, the All India Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), that has 13 members in the Rajya Sabha, is also with the NDA. This means the NDA’s effective strength in the upper house of Parliament is 100.

The gap was wider till just a few months ago. This meant that during any battle between the government and the opposition in the Upper House over bills and major issues, it was the opposition that invariably had its way. The recent example was the triple talaq legislation that the opposition stalled in the upper house, demanding that it be referred to a Select Committee.

For over less than four years, the Narendra Modi government had faced quite a few embarrassments in the Rajya Sabha thanks to the majority of the opposition, forcing it often to take the money bill route to avoid a clash in the house. Under the Constitution, a money bill needs to be passed only in the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha cannot stall it.

Also Read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

However, after April, the NDA will be in a far better position.

Of the 100 BJP-allies MPs, 24 are retiring. Which means, the government will be left with 76 MPs (including AIADMK). But at least 30 from the NDA are set to get re-elected. So the number will rise to 106. Add three members that the government would nominate to the upper house and the final NDA tally will roughly be 109 MPs.

Further, there are fence-sitters such as the Telangana Rashtra Samiti (TRS), the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD) and the YSR Congress, which are not virulently against the BJP and would not oppose the government unless for very compelling reasons.

Now, for the Congress and the rest of the opposition, they are set to lose 30 MPs (including one Independent, A.V. Swamy) through retirement and would be left with around 93 members. The Opposition may win roughly 22 seats, which means that its final tally after April is likely to be around 115 members.

Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.
Government can now expect some smooth sailing in the Rajya Sabha, coming this April.

The gap has clearly narrowed and the government may not be at the mercy of the opposition during crucial votes and can have its way in the Rajya Sabha if it musters its numbers by deftly wooing “floater” MPs.

The three newly-elected Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) members may remain equidistant from both the BJP and the Congress, though the party is friendly with some of the major opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress.

Also Read: BJP MP Seeks Amendment to the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Bill

In an interesting development recently, the AAP actively participated in the opposition’s walkout and the day-long boycott of the Rajya Sabha over long intra-day adjournments of the Upper House by Chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu.

The AAP, which was not welcome at any opposition meetings earlier, particularly those held in Parliament House, was invited to speak at a joint opposition media interaction on the day. But nobody can be sure as to how long this bonding would last.

Partywise tally of those retiring in April-May from the opposition’s side include 13 from the Congress, six from the Samajwadi Party, three of the Trinamool Congress, two each of the Nationalist Congress Party and Biju Janata Dal and one each of the CPI-M, the Bahujan Samaj Party and the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha.

NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons
NDA has to face many embarrassments in past few years in Rajya Sabha. Wikimedia Commons

From the ruling side, 17 MPs of the BJP, three of the Janata Dal United, one of the Shiv Sena and two of the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) are retiring.

In terms of state-wise vacancies to be created in April, the highest number is from Uttar Prdaesh (9), followed by Maharashtra (6), Madhya Pradesh (5), Bihar (5), Gujarat (4), Karnataka (4), West Bengal (4), Rajasthan (3), Odisha (3), Andhra Pradesh (3), Telangana (2), Uttarakhand (1), Himachal Pradesh (1) and Chhattisgarh (1). IANS