New Delhi: The Budget session in Parliament had many firsts. Prime Minister Narendra Modi faced persistent and determined heckling on the floor of the House for the first time. The opposition, which had held its fire to survive and fight another day, came out all guns blazing. And perhaps NDA allies, who have been biding their time, reminded the BJP that it was time they are heard, counted.
During the two Parliamentary party meetings this session, the BJP leadership clearly told its MPs to gear up for battle. Party president Amit Shah insisted MPs get more active on social media for 2019 as "two-thirds of the electorate would be covered" by the internet.
General Secretary Ram Lal is working actively with party whips to ensure that lawmakers are well and truly online.
The Prime Minister, whose recent publication which guides examinees is set to be released in Hindi, is going to address a town hall on February 16. MPs have been told to make the best use of the occasion to reach out to people in their respective constituencies.
Those organising a ‘Satyanarayan Puja (worship of Lord Vishnu)’ aren’t the only ones to be blessed, the MPs were told, other participants also get their share of the Punya (good credit).
Some BJP allies, like Shiv Sena, have already opted to go solo. Others, like TDP, are weighing their options. Even smaller parties like Jitan Ram Manjhi's Hindustani Awam Morcha (HAM) and Upendra Kushwaha’s Rashtriya Lok Samta Party (RLSP) are increasingly growing restless. Worryingly, Ram Vilas Paswan had maintained a conspicuous silence but he generally tends to take decisions much closer to the polling date.
The Congress Party has also begun chalking out its plan for Lok Sabha elections. Calls have started going out to potential candidates. In fact, a ticket aspirant from Bihar was asked to list two options if allies need to be accommodated.
Maratha strongman Sharad Pawar last month led an opposition march in Mumbai. Post the Bhima-Koregaon violence, NCP-Congress are also attempting to mobilise Marathas, Muslims and Mahars to take on the BJP.
There are even signs that Arvind Kejriwal, hitherto a persona non grata, is being accommodated in the opposition ranks. Newly elected Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh has been seen accompanying UPA leaders to President House.
Silence among all of this is coming from Mayawati and the Bahujan Samaj Party. The political outfit has decided to forge an alliance with the JD(S) in Karnataka, ahead of the Assembly elections in the state.
These two, along with Naveen Patnaik’s BJD, were the major parties to not take part in the opposition delegation, led by Rahul Gandhi, to push President Ram Nath Kovind to seek a probe in Justice Loya’s case.
The Mahayagna (ritual sacrifice), to elect the next government at the Centre, has well and truly begun. What remains to be seen is, who will get ahuti (offering), and from which side of the fence.