Parliament: Monsoon session may hit roadblock with Manipur violence, UCC

Parliament: Monsoon session may hit roadblock with Manipur violence, UCC

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With the Lok Sabha elections less than a year away, the increasing hostility between the ruling BJP and the Opposition threatens to derail the upcoming Monsoon session of the Parliament.

The Opposition parties are planning to corner the Union government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi over the horrific violence in Manipur as well as other issues including the controversial Uniform Civil Code (UCC).

It will also be the first meeting of the Parliament after the BJP’s rout in the Karnataka assembly elections and the stunning Maharashtra developments that have catapulted a section of the NCP into BJP’s welcoming embrace.

Also read: Manipur: Mob storms IRB camp to loot weapons, sets fire to a house; one dies

The visible belligerence of at least some of the governors is also a cause for concern for the Opposition, which accuses Prime Minister Modi of undermining the country’s traditional federal values. As the battle lines are drawn between the two sides, senior leaders of the Opposition want a discussion in both the Houses over Manipur and a debate in the presence of the Prime Minister.

Trouble expected

If the tussle between BJP and Opposition in the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice on Monday can be taken as an indication, the Parliament session can be stormy with neither side ready to concede any space to each other.

The Monsoon Session will commence on July 20 and end on August 11. The Union government said that of the 23 days of the session, there will be a total of 17 sittings of the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

Political analysts feel the Opposition move to pin down the government on Manipur, where ethnic violence has left some 120 people dead since May 3 and caused an unprecedented split between Meiteis and tribals, may not have the desired result as the issue does not affect the voter base of the BJP in northern India.

“It is true the Prime Minister has not spoken on the issue, but this does not take away the voter base of the BJP. The voters of the BJP are not affected by it,” said Sanjay Kumar, a professor and co-director of Lokniti, a research programme at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in New Delhi.

Divisive UCC

But the BJP’s dilemma will be far more serious on the UCC, with even a section of its allies uncomfortable with a proposed legislation to draft a common civil code for everyone in a country as diverse as India.

The Opposition accuses the BJP of starting a debate on the UCC, although the Law Commission had only recently said it was not necessary, only for electoral gains. The debate over the UCC can disrupt the BJP’s floor management plans as it not only has to manage the Opposition parties but also its allies who oppose the UCC.

Also read: UCC is a trap; IUML, CPM and Cong can fight it together, says Kunhalikkutty

A day after the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) made it clear that the BJP will have to take its views on UCC into consideration, another alliance partner, AIADMK, has spoken against the issue. “We have made it clear that we are against the UCC. The SAD believes the UCC will work against minorities and tribal communities. We will make it clear when the issue is taken up for discussion in the Parliament and a delegation will also approach the Law Commission to officially submit our reservation,” said a senior SAD leader.

SAD, AIADMK oppose move

In the 2019 general elections, the AIADMK manifesto said it was against enforcing UCC in the country. “It is for the BJP to decide if it wants to listen to us or not. We were against the three farm laws. We kept telling the BJP leaders it would adversely affect the SAD’s prospects but they did not listen. So, we parted ways,” the SAD leader added.

The problem for the BJP is even more severe in the northeast, where all its alliance partners in Manipur, Meghalaya and Nagaland oppose the UCC. Also, the NPP in Meghalaya and MNF in Mizoram believe the UCC will adversely affect the customs of the people of the region.

A senior BJP leader said the process of holding discussions with political parties in the northeast has not yet started. “The consultation process will start in a few days, both with political parties and other stakeholders. As of now, the Law Commission is taking suggestions and listening to the views of different stakeholders. The BJP too will reach out to its allies,” he said.

Also read: PM Modi only diverts and distracts: Congress reacts to UCC pitch

Opposition test

The Monsoon Session could prove to be the first big test for the Opposition parties as they will have to find answers to some of the more difficult questions before them.

On UCC, parties like the Shiv Sena of Uddhav Thackeray and the Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) are not opposed to the idea in principle but want the Union government to come out with a draft Bill.

Another point of contradiction is the ordinance on Delhi brought by the Centre in May to undo a Supreme Court ruling that decided in favour of the AAP’s Delhi government on the issue of “services” or bureaucracy. The AAP has already distanced itself from the Congress after the latter refused to come out openly against the ordinance. But virtually all other Opposition parties back the AAP.

“It is unfair to say that Opposition parties lack unity on UCC. There is no draft of the UCC. The Law Commission first said UCC was not needed. But just before the elections, the Modi government has started this discussion,” said Naval Kishore of the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), a constituent of the Opposition.

Some political analysts feel the Monsoon Session could prove to be a test more for the BJP-led NDA rather than the Opposition. “Most Opposition parties will have a clear point of view on UCC. They will not support it and will ask for clarification. But the problem for BJP is that it has partners who too are against UCC,” Sanjay Kumar added.

Parliament disruptions

The tussle between the Union government and the Opposition is not new to the Parliament, which has witnessed plenty of confrontations, disruptions and adjournments in recent times due to lack of consensus.

The developments in Maharashtra and the Centre’s refusal to supply subsidised rice and wheat to the new Congress government in Karnataka will contribute to the expected slanging match in parliament. And so will the role of governors including RN Ravi of Tamil Nadu who seems to be at war with the state’s ruling DMK.

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