The Centre on Monday received a shot in the arm from reports that the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal were retreating from their decision to go along with the Left in voting against the government on cut motions to be moved on Tuesday.
The Bharatiya Janata Party as also the Left parties have firmed up their plans to independently move cut motions when the demands for grants to the ministries of Petroleum and Natural Gas and Chemicals and Fertilizers are put to the guillotine.
The CPI's Gurudas Dasgupta said the Lok Sabha Speaker accepted the opposition leaders' proposal to allow them to do so, although for 33 years cut motions have not been allowed on demands of grants of ministries, which are not discussed in detail in Parliament.
Apparently, both the Left and the Right intend using the cut motions to make the political point that they do not support the government's economic policies, especially those that contribute to price rise and hurt the common man.
At a meeting in the chamber of Leader of the Opposition Sushma Swaraj on Monday afternoon, National Democratic Alliance leaders decided to issue three-line whips to their MPs, asking them to be present and to vote for the cut motions and against the government. Arrangements were being made to ensure 100 per cent presence.
The Left parties had their own meeting where it was decided to move the cut motions, and ask for a division and vote.
Despite this hectic activity, BJP leaders privately conceded there was no danger to the government, especially after reports that the Congress had arrived at some sort of an arrangement with the Bahujan Samaj Party, by which its 20-odd MPs would rather walk out of the House than vote against the government — which has a wafer-thin majority — giving it the much needed cushion.
Both BJP and Left party leaders are on record that their intention is not to bring down the government.
It was against this backdrop that Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal stated self-assuredly that “cut motions will be defeated” and the government will smoothly complete the financial business of passing the budget. The Congress exuded similar confidence, but its parliamentary managers are busy contacting party leaders to ensure adequate numbers to defeat the cut motions.
The corridors of Parliament House were abuzz with speculation that the SP and the RJD were less than enthusiastic about the cut motions. The BSP, the SP and the RJD have said they would take a decision on their strategy at meetings ahead of the start of proceedings on Tuesday. But leaders of the BJP and the Left parties conceded that Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad might be “dithering” and “retreating.”
Ms. Swaraj said when she met Mr. Prasad in Parliament and asked him whether the RJD would issue a whip to its MPs to vote for the cut motions, he talked about the Bharat bandh called by a 13-party grouping of non-NDA and non-UPA parties. Some Left leaders also feared that the “SP and RJD may be retreating” on the cut motions.
Ms. Swaraj made clear her party's limited political objective: “Our intention is to ensure that the votes of all of 115 BJP MPs and all 153 MPs of parties that constitute the NDA are registered in favour of the cut motions.”
The BJP and the Left have made it plain that it would not matter, which cut motion is taken up. For what is important is the content, and not the name of a party MP moving a cut motion.
The motions are expected to be related to cuts in fertilizer subsidies, especially urea, and the increase in the price of petroleum products as a result of the rollback of fiscal stimulus given earlier in the form of a cut back in excise duties. The government says it has done nothing except restoring the pre-stimulus duty rates.