He offers to meet leaders thrice a week and more

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, along with his deputies and Congress whips, will, through the current session of Parliament, meet leaders of the UPA's allied parties thrice a week at 10 a.m., on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to plan floor strategy.

And, Mr. Bansal added, in case, any of the allies felt the need to meet on any other working day, they could speak to him and a discussion could be arranged on a Monday or Friday too. The object is clearly to keep all allies in good humour.

The UPA may have sailed through the President's Address debate, despite the amendments moved on the controversial National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) and the Sri Lanka issue in Parliament, but it is now going to be on red alert, with voting on the Railway budget and Union budget to contend with in the coming days. Hence, the need to keep in constant touch with the allies, as well as those extending outside support — viz. the Samajwadi Party, the Bahujan Samaj Party, the Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Lok Jan Shakti Party and the few Independents as well.

In the Lok Sabha, the UPA has 267 members, just five short of a majority, and with the parties that support it from outside, it has a strength of 317 in the 543- member House.

In the Rajya Sabha, on the other hand, it is woefully short: with its 97 members it is 27 short, and with the parties that support it from outside, it just touches 124, one more than the halfway-mark in the 245-member House. In short, a determined Opposition can defeat the UPA in the Rajya Sabha.

This week, the UPA managed to defeat the amendments to the President's address in the Lok Sabha with just 227 members, 45 short of a majority, only because the Opposition votes only added up to 146.

And on Tuesday, in the Rajya Sabha, the UPA scraped through with 105 votes, as the Opposition mustered just 82 — an indication that the latter too is not serious about defeating the government.

Of course, while a defeat on the President's address would have only been an embarrassment, a defeat on the impending Vote-on-Account for the two budgets could bring the government down. Mr. Bansal, therefore, will also be writing letters to Congress MPs — including some Ministers — who were absent during the voting on the President's address. He will also ask leaders of the allied parties to do a similar exercise with their MPs. The rest is management.

Keywords: UPA allies

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