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BJP’s political influence diluting in West Bengal?

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Kolkata, June 29 (IANS) Intense factionalism, a perceived tilt towards the Trinamool Congress and a flop show in civic polls threaten to confine the BJP to its traditional role of a fringe player in West Bengal – a far cry from the promise it held out after the Lok Sabha election.

Buoyed by its 2014 Lok Sabha performance when it nearly trebled its vote share to 16.8 percent from 6 percent in 2009, the BJP had been talking big about winning next year’s assembly polls in Bengal.

The BJP scored another success in September when its candidate Shamik Bhattacharya became only the second BJP legislator in the state – 15 years after Badal Bhattacharya entered the assembly by winning the Basirhat (South) seat in a by-election.

BJP president Amit Shah and other leaders had since been claiming that the countdown for Trinamool’s departure had begun.

Amid a clamour to project it as the only viable alternative to the Trinamool, the BJP got a rude jolt in the municipal polls when it won just four percent of the state’s 2,090 wards, failing to take control of even a single municipality out of 91. It won only seven of the 144 wards in the Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

The BJP garnered nearly 25 percent of votes in Kolkata and took clear leads in 23 assembly segments, including Mamata Banerjee’s constituency Bhowanipore, in the Lok Sabha polls.

Even as BJP leaders blamed the rout in the civic polls to rigging and violence by the Trinamool, political analysts say that the BJP seems to have squandered the opportunity it got to emerge as a major force in the state.

Political commentator Biswanath Chakraborty attributed the BJP’s diluted stand on the Saradha scam as one major reason for its dipping appeal.

“It was the Saradha issue that led to the BJP emerging as an alternative. It is the same scam which has played a lead role in the BJP losing its significance as well,” Chakraborty, a political science professor of Rabindra Bharati University, told IANS.

“BJP’s USP has been its anti-Trinamool stand. But its decision to hobnob with the Trinamool has dented its image,” he added.

While the Central Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the Saradha scam led to the arrest or interrogation of many Trinamool leaders and MPs, of late very little is heard about the progress of the case from the central agency, fueling speculation about a “deal” between the BJP and the Trinamool.

The BJP’s strategy of only harping on Trinamool’s failings has backfired, analysts say.

“Unlike Narendra Modi who came to power on the twin planks of development and good governance, the state BJP has failed to harp on any constructive issue. Relentlessly attacking Mamata could be productive only in the short run,” insisted Chakraborty.

Political analyst Anil Kumar Jana said that the BJP central leaders’ silence on the Saradha scam, about which it was so vocal earlier, reflected their keenness to win over Mamata Banerjee to pass key bills in parliament.

“Moreover, the BJP realises that unless its base reaches the rural belt, it can never be in the reckoning in Bengal. So it is hoping to ride on a tacit understanding with the Trinamool until it has the requisite organisational might,” Jana told IANS.

West Bengal’s ruling party apparently returned the favour by helping the BJP-led NDA pass a number of bills in the Rajya Sabha apart from maintaining a stoic silence when the opposition has been going hammer and tongs over External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s alleged links with former IPL chief Lalit Modi.

In addition, the run up to the municipal election brought out factional feuds in the state BJP into the open as leaders dissatisfied with the selection of candidates created a ruckus outside the state headquarters.

The bickering continued after the polls, with new entrant, actress Rupa Ganguly, attacking central Minister Babul Supriyo for praising the Chief Minister at a time her party workers were under attack by the Trinamool.

The BJP leadership rubbished such allegations.

“The BJP government has been endeavouring to strengthen the federal structure. How can anyone expect Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the home minister to rake up political issues during official visits?” argued BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh.

Singh told IANS that the CBI would soon bring the probe into the Saradha scam “to a logical conclusion ensuring punishment of the guilty”.

(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

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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