Narendra Modi government's reform agenda is under threat of a washout, Archis Mohan reports.
Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi could be the only man standing between a monsoon session of Parliament that the Narendra Modi government could utilise to pursue its reform agenda, or one that is a complete washout because of the Congress demand that the ruling party dismiss External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje for their reported help to and business links with Lalit Modi.
The Congress has threatened to disrupt the session, while the Bharatiya Janata Party is unyielding in its stand that Swaraj and Raje’s actions were not “illegal”, and that it would rather have an unfruitful session than surrender to Congress demands.
A disrupted session will dent the Modi government’s reform agenda, particularly delay the GST (Goods and Services Tax) Constitutional Amendment Bill.
The BJP hopes to isolate the Congress and Left parties by reaching out to regional parties like the Trinamool Congress, All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and Biju Janata Dal.
All three have significant numbers in the Rajya Sabha and have yet to make a common cause with the Congress on the Lalit Modi issue.
But the BJP is also likely to reach out to Congress leaders, particularly to convince Rahul, to appreciate how Lalit Modi has been making "baseless" allegations, which have now involved Rahul's cousin and BJP MP Varun Gandhi and Congress President Sonia Gandhi's sister.
However, Rahul might not be amenable to this line of argument. He wants Congress leaders to pursue the issue of Raje and Swaraj to the hilt.
Rahul has been upset with some of the senior leaders for being too accommodating towards the government during the first half of the budget session.
With Rahul absent for the entire first half from February 23 to March 21, the Congress had supported the bill to increase foreign equity in the insurance sector to 49 per cent.
According to sources, Rahul later told a bunch of younger Congress MPs how the older ones shouldn't have been so eager to support a Bill that the BJP didn't allow the UPA to pass for 10 years.
After Rahul returned, the Congress was more determined in opposing the government in the second half of the session from April 20 to May 13.
While the Congress heeded Prime Minister Narendra Modi's request to support the India - Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, the ruling coalition had to agree to refer the GST and Land Bills to parliamentary committees.
Today, BJP sources rubbished reports that the party will agree to any 'deal' with the Congress to ask Swaraj and Raje to quit in return of a productive session.
A party source pointed out that such 'deals' can come unstuck because of unforeseen developments and dynamic nature of parliamentary proceedings.
The BJP's assessment being that the Congress will expect the Modi government to keel over in every crisis if it were to give in on the Lalit Modi issue.
"We see this (the Congress demand) as an attempt to distract us from our avowed agenda of development, and we will see to it that this does not happen," BJP spokesperson Sanjay Kaul said.