|There are only three working days left of the winter session of Parliament and hardly any constructive business has taken place. According to PRS Legislative Research, 15 draft legislation currently pending in Parliament were listed for consideration and approval. And 17 were listed for introduction. Two crucial Bills related to the economy have been introduced and passed by the Lok Sabha, but are hanging fire in the Rajya Sabha. These are the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008, which allows up to 49% of foreign equity in insurance companies, and the Coal Mines (Special Provisions) Bill, 2014, which will replace the ordinance that permits the Union government to re-auction coal blocks, after the Supreme Court annulled the previous rounds of auctioning en masse. But the opposition, which has a majority in the Rajya Sabha, is in no mood to consider passing any Bill. In fact, proceedings in the Upper House have been repeatedly suspended, since the Opposition wants only to discuss what it calls the communal agenda of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and wants Prime Minister Narendra Modi to appear in Parliament and make a statement on what specific steps the government wishes to take on this issue. Finance minister Arun Jaitley has been planning to introduce the goods and services tax Bill in Parliament during the winter session but has not yet been able to do so. Stalling Bills and creating enough commotion to get proceedings suspended in Parliament has, over the years, become business as usual for the opposition, regardless of party alignments. When the BJP sat in the opposition from 2004 to 2014, it too indulged in similar tactics. However, for the current impasse, which is hurting the economy, both in real and perceptual terms, the BJP and the government it leads cannot avoid their share of blame. In the seven months the Modi government has been in power, at least one minister and a bunch of MPs (usually clad in saffron robes) have triggered a series of completely unnecessary controversies that are utterly irrelevant to governance, forget good governance, which is the platform on which Modi won the elections. Human resource development (HRD) minister Smriti Irani shoved Sanskrit as a third language down the throats of Kendriya Vidyalaya students in the middle of an academic year. It was an act of sheer bloody-mindedness. Spread the study of Sanskrit by all means, but why impose it? And why in such a tearing hurry? After all, do we have an adequate and competent Sanskrit education infrastructure? Where are the teachers who can excite a student about Sanskrit’s beautiful structure, subtle nuances and the wisdom embedded in the language? And when most students—and their parents—already believe that this is a needless imposition? She has hurt the cause of Sanskrit immeasurably. Then she wanted schools to celebrate 25 December as Good Governance Day because it is Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday. If Vajpayee had been well enough to speak, he would have certainly condemned this useless young citizen-building exercise. Christmas is a festival that is celebrated by Indians of all religions—a day of truly secular good cheer. Which child would want to spend Christmas Day writing an essay on how the country should be governed? Let the kids have a holiday, for God’s sake. Then there’s the saffron brigade. Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, who very few had heard of till then, suddenly took centrestage by dividing Indians into raamzaade and haraamzaade. Apologists explained this to her backward caste origin and that naturally, she had an earthy turn of phrase. Others called what she had subaltern humour. Sakshi Maharaj―another saffron-clad parliamentarian―set off the love jihad brouhaha by saying that Muslim bodies were offering cash to Muslim youths to marry Hindu girls. Recently, he described Nathuram Godse as a patriot; his party and his government quickly distanced themselves from the remark, but the damage had been done. Then there were the conversions in Agra. Now, as far as one knows, conversions are perfectly legal, unless coercive methods are used, and the Roman Catholic Church has been pumping in millions of dollars into India to help missionaries convert people of other religions to Catholicism. But does BJP MP Yogi Adityanath, a perennial loose cannon, have to declare that he plans to run conversion programmes all over the country, beginning with an event in Aligarh on Christmas Day? Millions of Indians—cutting across religion, caste and creed—voted for the first time for the BJP in the last Lok Sabha elections. They voted for a better government, a better economic future and certainly not for this sort of needless crass public behaviour. This is something that a government can totally do without. It distracts the government and saps its energy, gives the opposition an opportunity to block important policy moves, and most importantly, sows the seeds of doubt in the hearts of millions of BJP voters who do not have any radical Hindutva agenda, and are not even interested in inter-religious issues. Modi obviously understands this. At the BJP parliamentary party meeting on 16 December, he told his flock not to cross the lakshman rekha and not allow “negative things” to divert attention from the government’s agenda. He was quoted in the media as saying, “Our party agenda is development and good governance and we should not dither in it. Nor will we allow anyone to dilute or deviate us from our commitment.” But will this warning be enough? The sadhus and sadhvis in the BJP have quite a different view of development from one that is normally understood. But if Modi cannot get them to fall in line, the consequences could be serious both for the government and for the economy. Modi cannot allow the first stirrings of disquiet among his millions of perfectly secular supporters to grow stronger. He came to power riding a wave of hope, and hope betrayed is a dangerous thing, politically.