Left gives notice for adjournment motion on high prices

The government on Tuesday resorted to luncheon diplomacy with the Left leaders hoping it would ward off an otherwise inevitable standoff that could lead to the ruling dispensation being censored through a vote on an adjournment motion on prices.

Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee invited Left party leaders — Sitaram Yechury and Basudeb Acharia (CPI-M) and Gurudas Dasgupta and D. Raja (CPI) — for lunch after the Lok Sabha saw a couple of adjournments and no business following the Left notice for an adjournment motion on high prices.

Mr. Mukherjee is believed to have cautioned the Left leaders on the perils and “consequences” of a vote following the adjournment motion that could end up censuring the government. What remained unsaid, but clearly understood by those at the meeting, was that the Manmohan Singh government would not countenance a censure that would make its continuance morally untenable.

It is not quite certain how the political theatre will play out in the Lok Sabha on Wednesday. But, there is a clear indication, both from the government and the Opposition, that a discussion on prices flowing out of the statement of the Finance Minister in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday would and could resolve the tangle.

The government's hopes are based on notices given by Mr. Dasgupta and Mr. Acharia for a simple short duration discussion on prices. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal has jumped on this suggestion, telling journalists: “We will have this discussion on prices tomorrow [Wednesday].”

The clear hope, though not articulated, was the adjournment motion would then become redundant. But, of course, the government has yet to deal with the certainty that the day after the BJP would bring another adjournment motion on black money, which could also lead to a government censure if put to vote. For now, the government's managers want to look at one day at a time.

On the record, the CPI(M) did not sound at all relenting. “The government should answer why it is not taking steps [to control prices] and since it is not doing so, we want a discussion that entails voting in the Rajya Sabha and adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha … our focus is price rise in both the Houses,” Mr. Yechury and Mr. Acharia told a press conference.

Despite two parliamentary resolutions, one moved by the Chair and adopted by the two Houses and the other during August this year asking the government to take steps to control prices, there has been no change in the situation. Among the steps suggested by the Left are end of deregulation of prices of petroleum products and rollback of price hikes, ban on forward trading and universalisation of public distribution system for essential commodities. Mr. Yechury said the CPI (M) would like to force a vote since the government was not paying any heed to parliamentary resolutions. He rejected Tuesday's statement made by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee on the subject.

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