The Opposition parties, particularly the Congress, were unconvinced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s outreach to them to practice politics of consensus, as also his appeal to all to declare a 10-year moratorium on communal violence.
Congress spokesperson Shakeel Ahmed said Modi should remember that the politics of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was “based on communalism”. “On ground level his party is instigating all riots and conflicts. The Prime Minister himself climbed the ladder through communal conflicts,” Ahmed alleged.
On Thursday, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had told a gathering of college students that there was a “systemic increase” in cases of communal violence since the party came to power and accused it of using Hinduism as a badge of political identity to fit its “political agenda”.
“The communal violence debate in Parliament from the last couple of days was a serious attempt by my party to highlight the fact that in last 11 weeks since they (BJP) have come to power…We have seen a systematic increase in communal violence, an increase in polarisation of communities, particularly acute in places in UP which are going for by-elections. This is clearly a political agenda,” he said.
Congress sources said there was little effort at consensus by the BJP in the Lok Sabha, where it has consistently argued against giving Congress the status of the Leader of Opposition, and that efforts at consensus were only a reflection of its lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha. They said the BJP, if number had allowed it that luxury, would have pushed through the Insurance Bill rather than eventually agreeing with rest of the opposition to refer it to a Select Committee.
The BJP has 42 members, and 57 along with NDA, in the Rajya Sabha. The Congress has 69 MPs in the 245-member Upper House. The current strength of the House is 242 MPs, with the majority mark being 122. BJP is way short of this and can hope for favourable numbers only after the next biennial elections to the Rajya Sabha where the House would elect one third of its members. The biennial elections are scheduled for early 2016.
However, government sources dismissed Congress charge. They said the government agreed to Congress’ demand to a discussion on communal violence in the Lok Sabha, while in Rajya Sabha it held an all party meeting where it offered to accommodate minor modifications that the Congress wanted in the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill.
The Congress was also critical of Prime Minister Modi’s announcement to do away with the Planning Commission. Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said scrapping of the plan panel was a big step and should be done carefully. “We need to see what the constitution of the commission is and whether it will have experts or the entire power will be vested in one person. The primary fear at the moment is that the entire power will be vested with the PM. The Planning Commission was conceptualized by (Jawaharlal) Nehru and had been working fine but if Modi wants to modernize it then we need to ensure that he doesn’t get all the power,” Azad, the leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha, said.