The passage of three bills — the RTI (Amendment) Bill 2019, Muslim Women (Protection of Rights on Marriage) Bill 2019 and today's amendments to Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act — in the ongoing Parliament session reflect the growing redundancy of the Congress in the law-making process.
While poor numbers in both houses, 47 in Rajya Sabha and 52 in Lok Sabha, is a definite handicap for the party, what is worrisome is its inability to influence like-minded parties to oppose passage of critical bills. In the Upper House, it can still punch above its weight. However, the passage of the aforementioned three bills reveals that along with numbers it has lost the ability to anchor the Opposition.
This was not the case after the 2014 Lok Sabha elections when the party was reduced to a mere 44 seats. Despite the low numbers, the Congress had used its heft in the Rajya Sabha and displayed the skill to rally like-minded parties. This time, it stands totally isolated. It does not have many friends.
After days of deadlock between the government and the Opposition parties over the controversial legislation, the Rajya Sabha on Friday passed the UAPA Bill 2019. Out of total members who voted, 147 MPs were in favour of the new changes in the anti-terror act while 42 voted against it.
The Upper House also rejected a proposal moved by Opposition parties to send the bill to a select committee of the Parliament for further scrutiny after 104 members voted in the negative and 85 in the affirmative.
Home Minister Amit Shah through his logic outsmarted Congress Rajya Sabha MP Digvijaya Singh in the Upper House today, which eventually eased the passage of the UAPA Bill and rejection of opposition’s demand. That was the takeaway of the day from Rajya Sabha.
Congress struggles as Opposition
The passage of the three bills by the NDA government in the Rajya Sabha also shows Congress' failure in keeping its MPs together (and in attendance) during the passage of crucial bills, besides revealing the Opposition’s failure to act as a bloc.
In fact, in a major embarrassment for the Congress party, five Congress MPs skipped voting on triple talaq Bill on 30 July. Meanwhile, Congress Rajya Sabha MP Sanjay Singh resigned from the party and joined the BJP. He too didn’t take part in the voting process.
It’s noteworthy that the Opposition had effectively stalled the triple talaq bill in the Rajya Sabha during the first term of the Modi government. But, this time they failed because 30 of the Opposition MPs were absent during the voting on the triple talaq bill. Even with NDA allies like JD(U) and AIADMK opposing the bill, the Opposition failed to turn the situation to its advantage.
Shah paves way for BJP
During his address in the Rajya Sabha today, Shah displayed his debating skill and point by point rebuttal of the Opposition’s arguments.
Digvijaya pointed out three terror cases — Ajmer Dargah Sharif, Mecca Masjid and Samjhauta Express blasts — where the accused were declared not guilty by the court. Sing argued that the BJP government has created misconceptions targetting members of a 'particular religion' deeming them all terrorists.
He also said that the government at first chance might declare him a terrorist, and asked the home minister to assure him (Digvijaya) that it wouldn’t happen.
“If you haven’t done anything, nothing would happen,” clarified Shah in the House.
When the opposition started shouting, Shah said he had only answered the question asked by Digvijaya.
Senior Congress MP P Chidambaram also questioned why an individual should be named as a terrorist when the organisation they are affiliated to is already banned?
In response, Shah said, “Chidambaramji asked why to name an individual as a terrorist when the organisation they are affiliated to is already banned. It is because we ban one organisation, another one comes up by the same individuals."
"Till when will we keep banning organisations?” Shah asked.
Replying to Congress MPs' objections to changes in the UAPA, Shah said, “I have only brought an amendment, I didn't bring the law. We can only be one step ahead of the terrorists if we keep bringing in reforms. All the previous amendments had been brought in by the Congress. The moment they went to the other side, they changed their perspective. Why is that?"
He said that the act was introduced in 1967 and amended thrice in 2004, 2008 and 2013 — all during the Congress regime. "There should be no politics over this (amendment) bill as it is crucial and in the interest of national security," he urged.
In previous occasions too, in the ongoing session of the Parliament, Shah took to assertive communication by curtly telling the Opposition MPs like Asaddudin Owaisi, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and today Digvijaya to listen to him.
“Listen to me. I'm replying to the question you asked. We didn’t interfere when you were speaking, now it’s our turn,” Shah told Digvijaya today.
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Updated Date: Aug 02, 2019 21:20:40 IST