he Winter Session of Parliament started Monday amid some gains and some losses for the Treasury as also the Opposition benches. The Modi 2.0 government passed through the first session of the current Parliament with relative ease and this was termed as the “most productive” session – vis-à-vis successful conduct of legislative business. The Opposition, fresh from a loss of face in the LS polls in mid-2019, cooperated with the government greatly to in clearance of bills, against a scenario of confrontation being of the order of the day in previous terms.
By now, some six months past the ministry-formation, the NDA has lost its initial aura of success and its government is seen to be on the defensive on most critical fronts, like the steep fall in economic growth for one. This is affecting every individual and the government seems to be getting more and more helpless by the passing day. It kind of is throwing its hands up. The nation is faced with a serious liquidity crisis, and there is hardly any cash left with anyone to give a boost to the ailing economic situation. India was a nation which boasted a few years ago of having a huge middle class with copious purchasing power. The fatal blows the economy received from crazy steps like Demonetisation hurt the markets and created a worsening scenario of joblessness. Manufacturing suffered as Chinese goods flooded the markets as never before. To get an Indian-made product is difficult today. The scenario is such that if there is no China, there will be no India. The government’s failures in the handling of the economy are bound to occupy the attention of both the Houses.
While the political system in Orissa is keen to have its Legislative Council Bill passed in this session of Parliament, the BJP government is probably spending sleepless nights trying to pass each sitting day as quickly as possible. The government’s abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir and the change of status of the state to Union Territory, as also its bifurcation into two with Ladakh becoming another UT, happened in the interim on August 5. That was another eye ball catcher for sure and it did give the government some respite from the chilling effects of the freezing economic situation but the euphoria seems to have passed. Now slowly while the nation sits back and adjusts its focal points, facts will sink in gradually. J&K’s 370 ending has certainly created a whole new military situation on the Indo-Pak-China border. This is bound to have forced already cash strapped India to pour in billions regularly from August 2019 onwards into simply maintaining military status quo in that northern border state. This excessive deployment can only drain the resources drastically.
In Parliament, the first day of the session saw a huge Opposition outcry, asking “Where is Farooq Abdullah?” This signified a protest against the massive arrests and detention of top political leaders and other activists in the immediate aftermath of the August 5 changes. The lockout in most areas in Kashmir continues, and railway services were partially restored two days before the start of the Parliament session. The issues relating to the human rights violations in Kashmir for the past three months will be another major subject for discussion. The government is already on the mat in many other issues.
The exit of the Shiv Sena, a long-time partner of the BJP in the ruling alliance, has weakened the Treasury benches and strengthened the Opposition even as the BJP is seen in a mind to woo back the Sena. The NDA had earlier lost another principal ally, the TDP from Andhra Pradesh. At the same time, there could be some relief for the ruling side that it somehow managed to have its way in Rajya Sabha with improved numbers, unlike the Modi 1.0 term that saw the Congress-led Opposition calling much of the shots in the Upper House.
The failure of the BJP-led NDA to win majority support in two states which it ruled for five years, namely Haryana and Maharashtra, is also bound to have its echo in Parliament. This would tame the spirits of the ruling benches.
These shortcomings clearly showed the political scenario in the country has already started changing substantially from the time of the Lok Sabha polls – which saw a windfall for the BJP and its allies. Assembly polls are expected soon in Jharkhand and Delhi, and the ruling party at the Centre is approaching these with considerable caution and palpable anxiety. Jharkhand, for sure, is set for an Opposition onslaught but the BJP may scrape through. Delhi, however, could be an entirely different story. The failure of the BJP in both Haryana and Maharashtra, considered strongholds of the saffron group, is believed to be a result of the widespread discontentment of the farming community – the mainstay of rural economy – in both these agrarian states. Economy in general and farmers’ issues in particular, hopefully, would engage serious attention and discussions in this Winter Session 2019 of Parliament.