Even though, Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa on Tuesday didn't commit to helping the Narendra Modi-led NDA government for the smooth transaction of business in the Parliament, the government is pinning hopes on her, on Biju Janata Dal (BJD) chief Naveen Patnaik and on Trinamool Congress' (TMC) fiesty leader Mamata Banerjee.
The NDA doesn't have the numbers in the Rajya Sabha. If Modi succeeds in roping in AIADMK, TMC and BJD, which together have 91 members, it will still fell short of another 26 MPs to form a majority to get any substantive business passed.
Odisha chief minister Patnaik commands four MPs in the Rajya Sabha, and has said he will not extend any issue-based support that AIADMK supremo Jayalalithaa promised after meeting Modi here on Tuesday. West Bengal chief minister Mamata has 12 MPs and may not lend support to Modi since it may move the Muslim votes away from her party.
The NDA will achieve a clear majority in the Rajya Sabha only in 2016 when many members retire and new members are to be elected and as such Modi may hold back controversial agenda that he wants to pursue until he has a majority in the Rajya Sabha as well.
Jayalalithaa was non-committal when asked if her party would support the Modi government in the Parliament, pointing out that he has a majority in the Lok Sabha and does not need her support. On support in the Rajya Sabha, where the NDA is in minority, she said: "We will see if the need arises." She, however, showered praise on Modi, saying the Prime Minister "is very receptive and listened to issues... the meeting was resourceful and rewarding."
Meanwhile, as a Parliamentary strategy, Modi may push for the legislative agenda left behind by the UPA government to force the Congress' hand in the budget-cum-monsoon session in July and save the BJP-led NDA government's embarrassment for being a miserable minority in the Rajya Sabha. The Congress will not be able to oppose the Bills that its UPA government had introduced during its 10-year tenure and as such Modi will be able to showcase that his government is doing business, in contrast to the perpetual policy paralysis under the UPA regime. "We don't have any such agenda which the Congress or other parties can oppose largely," said a government strategist.
Another possibility being tossed out is a bargain with the Congress by giving it the post of the leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha despite the party having just 44 members. Sources in the government, however, say, they have not yet given up hope of roping in AIADMK, TMC and BJD as NDA allies. Together, they command 91 MPs in Lok Sabha (AIADMK 37, Trinamool 34 and BJD 20).
Modi has asked the Prime Minister's Office to coordinate with officials of the Parliamentary Affairs Ministry to dig out and study all pending Bills left behind by the UPA government to suggest those that can be pushed in the budget session with or without modifications.
There are some 60 pending Bills in the Rajya Sabha and another 30-odd Bills that lapsed due to the dissolution of the previous Lok Sabha. The BJP does not have any objection in principle to many of these bills, such as the women's reservation and the 11 Bills of the health ministry and eight of the law ministry, including the Judicial Appointments Commission Bill.
The BJP currently has 42 MPs in the Rajya Sabha while its total rises to 60 with members of eight allies (TDP 6, Shiv Sena 3, Akali Dal 3, RPI(A), Swabhiman Paksh, Kerala Congress and regional fronts of Mizoram, Nagaland and Sikkim 1 each). It thus does not have the numbers — 112 in the present House of 231. In fact, the halfway mark will go up to 123, once all the seats are filled.