It’s time the Congress recalibrated its House strategy, if at all it had one. The more it keeps stalling legislation moved by the government on silly pretexts, the more churlish it appears. The more it flaunts its number power in Rajya Sabha, the more bankrupt it looks in terms of ideas. Its position on the Aadhaar Bill, which was cleared with five amendments by the House on Wednesday, is a case in point.
The government presented it as a money bill, thus scuttling any chance of the Congress dominated Rajya Sabha torpedoing it. Five amendments were put up to the bill by the House and all of these were approved. But besides being a moral victory or ego booster of sorts for the opposition it hardly meant anything. Lok Sabha passed the original bill without considering the proposed amendments. Now that Nanadn Nilekani, UPA’s man who headed the Unique Identification Authority of India, has approved of the new bill, telling The Indian Express that it is stronger than the original bill on privacy, the opposition to it looks frivolous.
The bigger point, however, is the Congress’ strategy in Parliament or lack of it. The party is fixated with playing an obstructionist role, a tit-for-tat treatment for what the BJP did in opposition while the UPA was in power. It won’t even allow passage of the bills it introduced during its tenure, finding holes in them. Now, the question for the party to itself should be how can it challenge its own bills? It was either wrong then, or it is wrong now or it is simply confused. The GST Bill is another case in point.
The BJP sounds equally foolish when it goes on pointing to legacy issues and failure of the previous regime to deliver after almost two years in power. But the advantage with it is it has managed to portray the Congress anti-growth, anti-reform and anti-everything, generally the villain of the piece. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his cabinet colleagues have been articulating their helplessness in the Upper House effectively. The Congress does not realise that with no good argument to stall bills it’s only ending up ridiculous.
Claiming the moral high ground is critical when you are low in numbers and your ability to punch above your weight is limited. The Congress has inadvertently let the BJP claim the high ground. In the earlier sessions it punched hard, but the effectiveness of the punches is going down now. The party looks as discredited as the time it lost the general elections despite gaining some goodwill points in the intervening period.
Possibly, it has to do with the fact that the party is still unclear about what it wants. Its economic view is still muddled. Rahul Gandhi, the party’s vice president, would like the Congress to be identified with the poor, the tribals and all disprivileged sections. But the BJP-led government is cleverly usurping that space with its bills. It’s a case of damned if it does and damned if it is not.
The party has to re-think its game plan for the remainder of the session after the break. It cannot keep looking directionless and opposing for the sake of opposing.