NEW DELHI: On Tuesday, a well-coordinated strategy saw the opposition scoring an amendment that deeply embarrassed the government in the Rajya Sabha. Sources say a ban on phone use was part of the plan.
Opposition leaders, say sources, decided not to use phones at all to communicate with each other as they did not want to take a chance; what if the phones were being tapped?
The Samajwadi Party and the Nationalist Congress Party took the longest to come on board; the NCP abstained from the house to avoid a vote. Leaders of both parties have recently been seen in public functions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Operation shame-the-government was a success in the upper house, where the ruling BJP is in a minority. The government’s motion of thanks to President Pranab Mukherjee’s speech at the start of the session will now include: “…regret that there is no mention in the address about the failure of the government to curb the high level corruption and to bring back black money.”
This is the fourth time that a government’s motion of thanks has been amended. It previously happened in 1980, 1989 and 2001 and always in the Rajya Sabha.
The opposition’s victory came shortly after PM Modi defended his government’s policies while replying to the debate on the president’s speech. Making a pitch for his government’s controversial land acquisition bill, Mr Modi said the opposition should not make the land bill an issue of politics or arrogance.
Sources say opposition parties are next planning to block key legislation in the Rajya Sabha, including the coal and insurance bills.
But sources say the parties do not want a situation in which the bill is introduced and then rejected, as it would lay open the option of a joint session, which would favour the government.
“There is an opportunity for a joint session if the Insurance bill is defeated in the Rajya Sabha,” said Minister of State for Finance, Jayant Sinha, after the bill was passed in the Lok Sabha.