Opposition to ‘work the house floors’, avoid no-win boycott

The Congress and several other opposition parties have decided to focus on ‘working the floors’ of both Houses of Parliament from Wednesday instead of stretching their protests and boycott against suspension of 12 Rajya Sabha colleagues. The change of strategy follows the calculation that the protest could cause overall tactical losses than gains, vis-a-vis the government, it is learnt.

The collective opposition feeling, after two days of protests in the Houses, including Tuesday’s ‘boycott’ of the Rajya Sabha – and cost analysis by certain quarters on the Pegasus protests in the monsoon session – means the opposition parties will go for a realistic division of labour from Wednesday.

Twelve suspended MPs will daily stage dharna outside the Gandhi statue (where the two Trinamool Congress MPs too will hold a separate protest, perhaps with sites demarcated), demanding revocation of their suspension and by asserting they will not accept the Chair’s and government’s demand for their apology for readmitting them. Inside the Houses, opposition MPs plan a two-way positioning:

They will register symbolic protest in solidarity with colleagues on dharna and move on to the real work of raising many issues/demands, including farmers’ demands, spiraling inflation, unemployment, Covid-19 issues and participate in debates and legislative agenda.

The strategy was firmed up at Rajya Sabha floor leaders’ meeting held after Chairman Venkaiah Naidu rejected opposition floor leaders’ appeal (LoP Mallikarjun Kharge also wrote to Naidu and highlighted procedural flaws in suspension) to revoke suspension. Naidu had demanded that the MPs’ apologise.

Many in the opposition realised that suspension of 12 MPs – and subsequent opposition protests – resulted in the government managing to shift focus from repeal of farm bills without debate and opposition support to farmers’ demand for legal guarantee for MSP. Congress and regional parties of poll-bound states are keen to highlight bread and butter issues, while some opposition parties from the south want to raise issue of floods and seek compensation from the Centre.

The opposition will now submit notices for discussion and government’s response on the issues. Besides, the opposition wants to oppose some proposed bills, and raise their objection against session-eve ordinances.

“The opposition parties have a whole range of issues to pin down the government and we will do it effectively and collectively. Equally, we will also foil the government trap to keep opposition out of the House so that the government can have a free run on the floor, walk away with contentious legislative agenda and foil House debates on a series of issues on which the government is on the backfoot,” Congress deputy leader Anand Sharma said.

The ‘back to House business’ approach of the opposition means papering divisions that followed AITC’s parallel show of ‘boycotting’ Congress-led parties boycotts and protests. In the Lok Sabha, where most opposition parties are keen to return to work, a tea hosted by the Speaker for some floor leaders provided the platform for formalising the ‘truce’.

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