Wary of censure vote, government calls for discussion on prices
With the Bharatiya Janata Party “boycotting” Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram over his alleged role in the 2G controversy and pressing for an adjournment motion on the black money issue, UPA government managers on Tuesday turned to the Left to try and find a way to ward off a looming standoff on prices that could lead to the ruling dispensation being censured in Parliament.
House leader Pranab Mukherjee invited Left party leaders Sitaram Yechury and Basudev Acharia of the CPI(M) and Gurudas Dasgupta and D. Raja of the 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 from both 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 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 at this suggestion, telling reporters: “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 UPA 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.
Despite the government's optimism about the Left, 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 an adjournment motion in the Lok Sabha … our focus is price rise in both the Houses,” Mr. Yechury and Mr. Acharia said at a press conference.