New Delhi, Aug 10 (IANS) Parliament, in its first session after the Lok Sabha elections, not only created a record in passing the highest number of Bills in 67 years, but it also witnessed how the Bharatiya Janata Party-led NDA government broke opposition’s unity in passing major legislations — like scrapping of Article 370, reorganization of Jammu and Kashmir, Triple Talaq and the RTI Bill.
How it happened was a matter of surprise as opposition parties, which had displayed unity on many fronts in the run-up to the recently concluded 17th Lok Sabha elections, failed to maintain similar unity against the BJP in Parliament. The result: the BJP, which is in majority in the Lok Sabha with 303 seats, easily broke opposition ranks in passing key Bills — some of them pending for long and some recently moved.
In the beginning of the session — which registered over 100 per cent productivity — the opposition was seen united, but failed in maintaining it.
Some opposition parties supported and a few did not participate in discussions and chose to walk out of the Lok Sabha when the BJP moved these Bills. The Congress with 52 seats — it is the main opposition party in numerical terms — tried its best to confront the government, but could not stop the treasury benches from passing Bills easily.
The major opposition defeat and its diversity was seen when the Centre came with a resolution to abolish Article 370 on Monday and moved a Bill to divide the state into two Union Territories — Jammu and Kashmir with an Assembly and Ladakh without one.
The BJP’s strength of 303 in the House was enough to get the proposed legislation through. But, it also showed how the opposition ranks split on the issue.
The move was supported by Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), Biju Janata Dal (BJD), YSR Congress Party (YSRCP) and Bodoland People’s Front (BPF). The Trinamool Congress Party staged a walkout from the Lok Sabha, saying it did not want to be part of the discussion of the Bill.
Despite being an NDA ally, the Janata Dal-United (JD-U) said that it would not support the Government’s Kashmir provisions and staged a walkout from the Lok Sabha after participating in the discussion over the Bill. However, it later showed its unity with the government when Pakistan downgraded diplomatic ties with India over the abrogation of Article 370.
JD-U spokesperson and General Secretary K.C. Tyagi said: “Pakistan for long has been sponsoring terrorism in India. A number of times our security forces have foiled their plans and gave them a befitting reply.”
“But now they have adopted a new strategy over Article 370 which shows Pakistan’s desperation as it is not getting support on international platforms,” Tyagi said.
NDA constituents Shiv Sena, AIADMK and Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) supported the government move, which was vehemently opposed by the Congress which termed the revoking of Article 370 a “catastrophic step”.
Despite its accusation against the BJP of taking the decision “for votes” and declaring the government’s move a “black day” in the constitutional history of India, they could not put up satisfactory argument on how Article 370 was helpful for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
Notwithstanding controversy, the resolution to scrap special status under Article 370 — which gives special status to Jammu and Kashmir — and Bill for bifurcation of the state into two Union Territories were passed in a little over seven hours.
Similar disunity were seen when the government moved Triple Talaq Bill to criminalise the practice. The Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill — the most debated in the just-concluded session of Parliament — was pending for long since the Modi government came to power in 2014 and made its multiple attempts to pass it.
The decision was opposed by the Congress, the Trinamool Congress, DMK, PDP and Vaiko’s MDMK. The slogans such as ‘We want justice’ and ‘Don’t divide Kashmir’ were shouted in Parliament. But, Samajwadi Party members did not join the opposition parties.
The Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 met with similar fate when YSR Congress Party, TRS and BJD stood in support of the Bill proposed by the Modi government.
The Rajya Sabha passed the Right to Information (Amendment) Bill, 2019 by a voice vote amid a walkout from the Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), TMC and the other opposition parties. The legislation was passed after the Opposition’s proposal to send the Bill to select committee was defeated with 117-75 in the Upper House.
(Rajnish Singh can be contacted at [email protected])