Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Rajya Sabha to set Modi on Fire

PM Narendra Modi in Rajya Sabha Today, But BJP Adamant He Will Not Speak on Conversions

PM Narendra Modi in Rajya Sabha Today, But BJP Adamant He Will Not Speak on Conversions
PM Narendra Modi in Rajya Sabha

New Delhi Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in the Rajya Sabha today, but the ruling BJP has decided that it will not "not give an inch", said sources, on the opposition's demand for a statement from him on religious conversions.

Top leaders in the government decided not to give in to the opposition's demand after an assessment that the repeated calls for an intervention by the PM is an attempt to build a perception that he is not in control of members of his party and the government.

There are four working days left of the Winter session of Parliament and the government needs to push a number of key legislation, including major economic reforms. For days now, a united opposition has disrupted proceedings in the Rajya Sabha or Upper House of Parliament over various issues - including the repatriation of black money, hate speech by a BJP lawmaker and lately, the conversion issue.

It has rejected statements made by senior ministers, demanding that the PM come to the House and speak.

The BJP-led NDA government is in a minority in the Rajya Sabha and needs the support of other parties to push through Bills in that House. It expects a showdown on its key reform, the Insurance Bill, which 105 of the 250 lawmakers in the Upper House are opposed to, including the Congress' 66. Less than 70 support it.

The government, said sources, is even looking at the option of pushing the Insurance Bill, which seeks to raise a cap on foreign direct investment in insurance from existing 26 per cent to 49 per cent, as an Ordinance or executive order after the session if the logjam does not end.

Ahead of the session, the government had detailed 37 bills - most of which remain pending, including the Goods and Services Bill and the one to replace the Coal Ordinance.

The Goods and Services Bill is a major tax reform that requires a constitutional amendment to be approved by Parliament. Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has worked long hours to bring states on board on the measure so that he can get Parliament's go-ahead in this session.

The union cabinet approved the GST bill last night. The government is expected to take the bill first for introduction to the Lok sabha where it is in majority.

The Opposition had made it clear at the start of the Winter session that it planned to block the government's efforts to move key legislation. It has managed to show rare unity in doing. The session ends on December 23, and most of the 22 sittings have been marred by opposition protests especially in the Rajya Sabha.

 Source: NDTV

Cong blames it all on Modi's 'arrogance'

New Delhi, Dec. 17: The Congress today blamed Narendra Modi's "ego and arrogance" for the continuing deadlock in the Rajya Sabha where key reform bills, including one on the insurance sector, are lined up for consideration.
Sources said the government this morning had unambiguously conveyed to the Congress that the Prime Minister wouldn't participate in the debate on communal harmony as "he doesn't like to be repeatedly questioned on issues on which he has already clarified his stand".
The Congress, on its part, told the government the upper House couldn't function unless the Prime Minister gave an assurance that the constitutional scheme on religious freedom would be respected.
"The Opposition's demand for the Prime Minister's assurance to Parliament is reasonable. If he doesn't respond, the Opposition will not relent," Congress deputy leader in the House Anand Sharma said.
The Prime Minister is not under any obligation to participate in a debate. But following the controversy over the recent "reconversion" of 350-odd minority slum-dwellers, the Opposition has decided to use the sensitive issue of harmony to mount pressure on the government and tell Modi that he would have to offer himself to parliamentary grilling.
Congress leaders said Modi would have to understand that he could not treat Parliament the way he had treated the Gujarat Assembly.
"Modi entered Parliament for the first time after becoming the Prime Minister and gave an emotional speech saying this was a temple for him," Congress general secretary Digvijaya Singh told The Telegraph. "Now he does not want to even commit in Parliament that he will ensure constitutional principles are honoured. He never answered any question in the Gujarat Assembly and had his way by suspending the Opposition. This will not be possible here."
Sharma said the government's "arrogance and obduracy" were "solely responsible" for the "stalemate" in the Rajya Sabha. "The Prime Minister believes in one-way communication. He doesn't like to be questioned. But the democratic narrative is never one way. He is the PM because there is a parliamentary system of governance and he will have to be answerable to Parliament," Sharma said.
"We want to make it clear that the government should not and must not expect the Opposition will salute if he comes and speaks."
Asked if the Opposition wouldn't allow the Rajya Sabha to function till the Prime Minister responded, he said: "I think we have made it abundantly clear."
Sharma, who is leading the Opposition charge in the Rajya Sabha, referred to provocative statements by BJP MPs and ministers on conversions and other issues. "We know the statements are deliberately being made to create communal disturbances to divert the nation's attention from non-fulfilment of promises and mismanagement of the economy. The Prime Minister is complicit. This is happening by design, not default. We are worried things could worsen and hence we want a commitment and some demonstrable action by the Prime Minister before the (winter) session ends (next week)."
Congress members debated Modi's record in the Gujarat Assembly after party MP Hanumantha Rao was suspended for the day for protesting in the House. They virtually challenged the Chair's ruling, arguing that the member was not even in the well when he was named.
"I was only asking why couldn't the PM come to the House as he was very much in Parliament," Rao said. "There is no question of apology. The allegation that I used foul language is false."
Modi will have to come to the Rajya Sabha tomorrow as Thursday's Question Hour relates to the Prime Minister's Office. The Opposition is determined not to allow the Question Hour till he speaks on communal disturbances first.

'Governance day' rider

- What can we do if Atalji was born on Xmas, asks Naidu
New Delhi, Dec. 17: The Centre today said Christmas would be celebrated along with Atal Bihari Vajpayee's birthday as "Good Governance Day" on December 25 and hit out at the Opposition for trying to politicise the issue.
"What can I do if my great former Prime Minister was born on Christmas Day, which is a holiday? Can I change it?" an agitated parliamentary affairs minister Venkaiah Naidu said in the Lok Sabha after the Opposition accused the Centre of overshadowing Christmas with Vajpayee's birthday.
Naidu was replying on the government's behalf despite the presence of HRD minister Smriti Irani, who sat looking upset. At one point, she rose and shouted at the Opposition as it accused the Centre of lying and misleading the House.
"Christmas will be celebrated and Vajpayeeji's birthday will also be celebrated as 'Good Governance Day'. There is no question of changing any of these two programmes," Naidu said, reading from a circular. He asserted the government was in no way disrespecting Christmas. "There is no contradiction, there is no disrespect for Christmas."
The Opposition, however, staged a walkout, alleging that the Centre was "lying" about earlier circulars asking its educational institutions to observe "Good Governance Day".
Before that, Naidu and Mallikarjun Kharge got into a spat when the Congress's House leader alleged that the government was driven by the "RSS's" agenda, prompting a swipe from the minister at the Gandhis.
" Sangh ka saath, parivar ka vinaash (Going with the RSS will spell disaster for the family)," Kharge said, perhaps alluding to the BJP as a "family". Naidu shot back saying: "Family ka saath, Congress ka vinaash, desh ka vinaash (Going with the family leads to the Congress' destruction, the country's destruction)."
The Congress later threatened a privilege motion against Naidu and Smriti for misleading the House over the earlier HRD ministry circulars. Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia said the circulars were sent to the Navodaya Vidyalayas, Kendriya Vidyalayas and institutes like the IITs and IIMs, and accused the Centre of lying about them now.
The Lok Sabha functioned normally after the walkout, unlike the Rajya Sabha which could not, stalled by the rows over conversions and Christmas.

Sycophants or coteries, not Modi's cup of tea

New Delhi, Dec. 17: The Prime Minister has made plain his distaste for sycophants and coteries.
Addressing BJP MPs yesterday, Narendra Modi - known to be forthright with party colleagues - said he had no favourites, did not believe in encouraging hangers-on or in playing one against another, and preferred to meet people in "large" groups than in one's and two's.
Modi made it clear he was against those who were using their alleged "proximity" to him to foster their ambitions. Nobody quite figured out who he was referring to or in what context he was speaking.
Those who have worked with him for long confirmed he was a "transparent" person. "He has clear likes and dislikes and makes them obvious with just one glance," a source said.
In 2010, when the RSS began to promote the BJP's regional heavyweights as potential central leaders, one of its objectives was to undermine the "power" of an entrenched Delhi cabal helmed by veteran L.K. Advani.
For the decade or more that he headed the BJP, although with small breaks, Advani put together a team that once included Modi. But Advani denied the regional leaders the space they sought in the national arena.
The RSS first experimented by anointing Maharashtra's Nitin Gadkari as party president. But he was done in by the Delhi lobby.
Modi, who had worked for a while in Delhi and was familiar with its power dynamics, proved a different kettle of fish. He held his own against Advani, Sushma Swaraj and others and it fell on him to take the place of the cabal.
In many interviews before taking over as Prime Minister, Modi said he would break the "status quo" of "vested interests" controlling Delhi.
A source said Modi probably intended embarking on his "mission" with his own party.

PM peps up team to do 'image control'

- BJP arms to stub out rival 'theories'

(From left) BJP MPs Niranjan Jyoti, Sakshi Maharaj, Savitri Bai Phoole, Yogi Adityanath and Uma Bharati. Pictures by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Dec. 17: Narendra Modi today told some of his senior ministers "we have done nothing wrong" in a pep talk that sources said was aimed at spurring them into action to counter the Opposition's "propaganda".
The meeting came in the wake of controversies over "reconversions", abusive comments about minorities and calls to declare the Bhagvad Gita a "national text" that, the sources said, had coalesced to foster a perception that the BJP-led regime had allowed sectarian issues to overwhelm governance.
The Rajya Sabha, where the ruling NDA is in a minority, remained paralysed today as the Opposition insisted the Prime Minister make a statement that constitutional freedoms would be respected.
The morning meeting of the BJP and the Centre's core political group came in this backdrop.
"We have not committed a sin. We have done nothing wrong, so we need not worry," Modi was quoted as telling Arun Jaitley, M. Venkaiah Naidu, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari - the ministers who heard him out.
BJP sources privy to the interaction - that routinely takes place every morning before Parliament starts - said they were "given to understand" that Modi appeared "concerned" about the potential damage to his image as well as that of his government's and, therefore, their political reflexes ought to kick in.
"The Opposition is making a concerted effort to project a picture that India is obscurantist, that communal forces have gained an upper hand after the regime change," a minister said.
The sub-text of the collective anxiety that a number of BJP seniors and ministers shared was that the international press, particularly the western media, would lap up such "negative" projections "to vindicate the half-truths and lies it had peddled about the BJP and Modi all these years".
Sources said what the government fears more is that the "soft power", disseminated through the "Left-Liberal" portrayals of the government, particularly in its ramped-up social media posts, might eventually revive the "biases" of western establishments against Modi after they had "just about warmed up" to him.
In the prelude to the summer elections, Modi's fans had created hash-tags on Twitter that pitched him as India's only hope to save the country from the Congress's "ruinous" clutches.
The tables have turned since. Modi's cheerleaders, such as author activist Madhu Kishwar, have become defensive and even combative over certain ministerial appointments while his foes have a field day on social media.
Coupled with the Hindutva themes, gingered up with disputed statements from saffron-clad "sadhus" and "sadhvis", Modi's neo-converts from a space that was anti-Congress but uncomfortable with the RSS-VHP's "extremism" have been getting increasingly restive with the government's "lethargy" on implementing big-ticket economic reforms. A recent in-camera meet of industry body CII heard many business leaders complain how their expectations weren't even close to being met.
With the insurance, GST and coal bills hanging in mid-air because of the Opposition's and the ruling party's intransigence over breaking the deadlock in the Rajya Sabha, the view of a go-slow on reforms could gain strength, sources said.
Among the government's first moves was persuading the RSS's Dharam Jagran Samanwaya Vibhag to call off its "reconversion" ceremony on December 25 when the Sangh offspring had planned to "reconvert" Aligarh's Christians to Hinduism.
Sources said the government asked senior RSS officials to prevail upon the Samanwaya Vibhag's organisers to cancel their show.
"We had no choice but to obey the orders from the top," Aligarh convenor Brajesh Kantak said. "We erred in not presenting our arguments properly. We are not people who trample over the Indian Constitution, we are patriots who hold the book on our heads."
On Monday night, the outfit decided to call off the programme.
Source: Telegraph

...and I am Sid Harth

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