Editorial: Tough times ahead for govt in 18th Lok Sabha

Editorial: Tough times ahead for govt in 18th Lok Sabha

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Monday, June 24, 2024, 10:54 PM IST
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Lok Sabha | File Photo

Even before the 18th Lok Sabha’s first session could get underway, a controversy erupted over the appointment of Bhartruhari Mahtab as the pro-tem Speaker to administer the oath of office to the newly elected members of the Lower House of Parliament. The Congress and the INDIA bloc members felt eight-time MP Kodukkunil Suresh’s claim as the senior-most member of the House had been overlooked. The BJP’s assertion is that they were going by the rules as Mahtab has been elected to the House seven times in succession while Suresh had lost a couple of elections in between. Whatever the protocol, by raising Suresh’s Dalit identity the INDIA grouping made its intentions clear. With both sides unwilling to budge, the prognosis for the first session of the new Lok Sabha is not promising. Already the INDIA bloc members who had been named to assist Mahtab in the oath-taking decided to boycott the process. The session promises to be stormy with a rejuvenated and much larger Opposition set to take up contentious issues such as the criminal law Bills passed by the last Lok Sabha, the NEET fiasco, the paper leak controversy and the caste census. The INDIA grouping wants the criminal law Bills to be re-examined by a standing committee claiming it had been bulldozed through Parliament. The first point of contention will be the Speaker’s election as the Opposition is bound to force an election. Also the post of Deputy Speaker which was ignored in the previous Lok Sabha’s tenure will definitely be hotly contested.

After a decade of its nearly unchallenged reign in the Lower House, the BJP is now faced with a tough challenge from the Opposition benches. Bills which were hitherto passed virtually without any debate or discussion will now face tougher scrutiny and parliamentary panels too will see a fairer representation of both the treasury and Opposition benches. The Modi government in its third tenure is dependent on the good graces of the Telugu Desam Party and the JD-U. Both Chandrababu Naidu and Nitish Kumar are not known to be the most reliable of allies but under the circumstances they will probably toe the line in order to keep their regional fiefdoms intact. After the Speaker’s election and the President’s address to the joint sitting of the two Houses of Parliament, the MPs will get down to business. This is when the government will face its real test from the new-look Opposition. If Rahul Gandhi chooses to take on the responsibility of Leader of the Opposition, the Modi government will face tough questions every day and the ruling party which had dismissed the Congress leader as ‘Pappu’ will now have to do business with him on a daily basis. It is unlikely that the BJP despite its diminished numbers will change its style of functioning. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pre-session appeal for a consensus on all issues while at the same time slamming the Opposition for its disruptive tendencies has perhaps set the tone for the conduct of the House. The cult worship of Modi will continue but it will be met with equally vociferous voices from the Opposition benches. The Samajwadi Party and the DMK now have strong bench strength and the addition of Akhilesh Yadav is a big boost to the Opposition side in the Lok Sabha.

Some faces that will be missed in the eighteenth Lok Sabha include Sonia Gandhi, whose dignified presence will now be witnessed in the Rajya Sabha. Seventeen former ministers lost the elections from Uttar Pradesh and topping that list is the firebrand Smriti Irani who was roundly defeated in Amethi by Congress functionary Kishori Lal Sharma. Other absentees will be the mother-son duo of Maneka Gandhi and Varun Gandhi. Another interesting prospect is the possible entry of Priyanka Gandhi if she wins the Wayanad by-election. That the Congress’ nearly 100-strong team as well as other Opposition members will be raucous in their demand to be heard goes without saying. The key to the House’s functioning lies with the Speaker. There has been some talk of the TDP insisting on having its say in the presiding officer’s election. If the BJP gets to elect its nominee, it will hope for a repeat of the previous Lok Sabha when the Opposition was virtually silenced by being expelled, evicted or disqualified. With a resurgent Opposition, however, this appears unlikely and the treasury benches will have to encounter many more challenges. It will certainly not be smooth sailing for the government.

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