The passage of the crucial Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill and the Mines and Minerals (Development & Regulation) Amendment Bill, 2015 by Rajya Sabha has thrown up broad hints about the contour of changing political equations in parliament.
The voting pattern suggests that Modi government has finally succeeded in creating fissures in opposition unity that was proving to be a big headache for BJP in the upper house.
Interestingly, the Congress and the Left were totally isolated in Rajya Sabha today on both these bills. Most of the other opposition parties, who till yesterday were talking of opposition unity to checkmate BJP in the Rajya Sabha, decided to support the government on these two bills. The Coal Mines bill was passed with 107 members voting in favour and 62 against in the 225-member Upper House where the ruling BJP-led coalition is in a minority,
Those who supported the govt on both these bills included Trinamool Congress, Bahujan Samaj Party, Biju Janata Dal, Nationalist Congress Party, Jharkhand Mukti Morcha, Samajwadi Party and AIADMK. Even the JD (U) and RJD decided not to support Congress and walked out of the house when the bills were put to vote.
How did the government manage to isolate Congress and the Left in parliament?
Actually, Modi govt was left red-faced when the opposition forced am amendment to the Motion of Thanks over the President's address in Rajya Sabha. And this was a wakeup call for the saffron government.
There was a clear signal that the opposition will not allow any bill to be passed in Rajya Sabha easily. Initially, these parties had decided to delay the passage of all important bills by sending them to Select Committee taking advantage of their numerical superiority in the Rajya Sabha.
An alarmed govt decided to leave no stone unturned in its efforts to break opposition unity. The govt decided to approach opposition leaders directly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself taking the lead.
According to a report published in Sambad, a prestigious daily from Odisha, a secret meeting took place between Modi and Naveen Patnaik at 7 Race Course Road on March 8 night that paved the way for BJD MPs voting in favour of both the coal mines and mining bills in the upper house.
The meeting was kept secret and all precautions were taken to prevent anybody from getting any clue about Patnaik's visit to PM residence.
According to the Sambad report, Naveen Patnaik went to 7, Race Course Road in an unmarked car sent to him by the Prime Minister's Office, and was closeted with Modi for nearly 2 hours, during which they had dinner. Patnaik later returned to his residence at Aurangzeb Road. The meeting was said to have been arranged by Dharmendra Pradhan, the union minister who belongs to Odisha.
The report further states that Coal Minister Piyush Goyal came to meet Naveen Patnaik carrying a message from Modi at Odisha Bhavan on March 9. Obviously, the govt was leaving nothing to chance.
Obviously, the govt may have used similar tactics to win over the support of non- Congress, non-Left opposition members.
As far as SP and BSP are concerned, their political opponents have always accused them of siding with the Centre on crucial matters because of a plethora of CBI cases their leaders are facing. In case of SP, the new found bonhomie after Modi attended Mulayam's grand son's marriage with Lalu's was unmissable.
The passage of Mining and Minerals bill with a comfortable margin (116 in favour and 63 against) will encourage the govt to adopt the same strategy on the much-awaited land acquisition bill although it won't be easy for the opposition parties to come out openly in support of the bill, given the fact that it has been portrayed as going against the interest of farmers.But the govt may advise these parties to abstain in case they are not willing to come out openly in support for the bill.
The fact that the land acquisition bill was largely favoured by non-BJP state governments cannot be ignored. As Modi had pointed out in parliament, many Chief Ministers belonging to different political parties had raised reservations over the land bill that was passed during UPA rule. It leaves enough room for Modi govt to carry out political manouvres.
In any case, the passage of both the Coal Mines and Mining and Minerals bills has created new avenues for a battered government which was, hitherto, in a hopeless and helpless situation in the Rajya Sabha.