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Wrecked honeymoon: Modi is doing what Manmohan did

June 27, 2014 21:27 IST contributor Anita Katyal on why Prime Minister Narendra Modi's lament about his government not having the luxury of 'honeymoon' period, is paradoxical.

Presenting a report card on completion of 30 days in office on Thursday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi rued that he did not have the luxury of 'honeymoon' period as a "series of allegations" were levelled against his government in less than 100 hours.

His statement is indeed ironic as a look back on the developments following the formation of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in 2004 will show that the defeated Bharatiya Janata Party was on the warpath from day one and did not allow Parliament to transact any business in the maiden session of the new regime.

In fact, Modi appears to be echoing his predecessor's words as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh often lamented that his government was denied the usual honeymoon period.

The BJP took to the streets soon after Manmohan named his council of ministers. The BJP first led a delegation to the President to protest the inclusion of ‘tainted’ ministers in the new dispensation.

The angry protests continued when the United Progressive Alliance government's first Parliament session was convened.

Manmohan was not allowed to introduce his council of ministers because of the ceaseless disruptions by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance.

The opposition's confrontationist approach further ensured that Manmohan was not allowed to reply to the debate on the motion of thanks to the President’s address to Parliament.

Next, the BJP again defied convention when it boycotted the parliamentary standing committees to protest what was described as Manmohan’s angry response to the Opposition when it went to his chamber to submit a memorandum of demands to him.

Upset at the BJP's continuing obstruction of the UPA government’s budget session, Manmohan had told off the BJP delegation, saying they should raise these issues during the course of a parliamentary debate.

The formation of the standing committees was consequently delayed because of this stand-off. It also meant that the ministers to place their views on the demands for grants and nor did the opposition allow a debate on the budget.

As a result, the UPA government was forced to announce that the Budget should be taken as adopted.

There was no let-up in the BJP’s stand even after the UPA government’s first Parliament session failed to conduct any business. Then leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha L K Advani steadfastly maintained that the BJP would keep up its protests against the inclusion of “tainted ministers”. 

"This government has started its tenure by criminalising not just politics but criminalising the government. None of the governments in the past have done so," he had said.

The BJP’s continuing obstruction of Parliament always rankled Manmohan. As late as last year when he was under attack on the coal blocks allocation, an angry Manmohan had pointed out: "Have you ever heard of a situation in any parliament where the prime minister is not allowed to introduce his council of ministers?”

He had further maintained that if the record of last nine years is looked at, “The principal opposition has never reconciled itself that it was voted out of power in 2004.”

It was against this backdrop that Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala on Friday questioned Modi’s comment on being denied a “honeymoon period.”

“How can Modi now talk about being denied a honeymoon period? The BJP has forgotten that it did not allow Manmohan to introduce his council of ministers or reply to the debate on the Presidential address in 2004,” Surjewala reminded Modi.

Having donned the mantle of opposition, the Congress also raised a series of questions in its response to Modi’s blog.

A two-page written questionnaire, the Congress asked about the ‘centralisation of power’ in the new government, the rise in prices of essential commodities such as sugar, the recent rail fare hike, the delay in the implementation of the Food Security Act, mismanagement of the power sector and its “unconstitutional and unwarranted” interference in the appointment of Supreme Court judges.

Having flagged all these issues, it is now to be seen if the Congress will be able to put the Modi-led NDA government on the mat in the budget session of Parliament commencing on July 7.

The grand old party is severely handicapped as its strength in the Lok Sabha has been reduced to 44 seats. Moreover, there is no sign of any floor coordination among the Opposition parties which, so far, appear to be pulling in different directions.

Anita Katyal in New Delhi