The United Progressive Alliance government was on Tuesday spared embarrassment in the Rajya Sabha, thanks to the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party voting with it in rejecting amendments on the issue of National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC), moved by the Opposition, which later walked out in protest.
While a UPA constituent, the Trinamool Congress, did an encore by quietly leaving the House before the voting, the BSP, whose members walked out of the Lower House on Monday, changed the script and went along with the ruling coalition in the Rajya Sabha.
The House voted 105-82 against the motion moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Communist Party of India(Marxist), the All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Shiv Sena and the Biju Janata Dal, after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the Centre would consult the Chief Ministers and work towards consensus on the NCTC and do nothing to infringe the federal structure.
Later through voice vote, the House adopted the motion of thanks to the President's address to Parliament.
Earlier, the Opposition agreed to a suggestion by the CPI(M)'s Sitaram Yechury that the amendments, which regretted that the President's address did not mention that the NCTC was being constituted without consulting the States — thus encroaching on the federal structure and diluting the rights of the States — could be withdrawn if Dr. Singh assured the House that nothing would be done without the consent and agreement of the States.
However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal said the Opposition could not dictate the outcome of the April 16 meeting of the Chief Ministers which, the Prime Minister said, has been called to discuss the setting up of the NCTC.
After the amendment was voted out, BJP's M. Venkaiah Naidu said the government's move was an “assault” on federalism, while his colleague S.S. Ahluwalia maintained that rather than winning or losing the vote, what was important was the message the government intended sending from it.
In his reply to the House, Dr. Singh reiterated that his government would do nothing to encroach on the jurisdiction of the States. While there was an acceptance of the idea of setting up the NCTC, there could be differences over how it functioned but these could be narrowed down through discussions. He assured the House of full consultation with the States before the NCTC became operational.
Referring to the recent kidnapping of two Italians by Maoists in Odisha, Dr. Singh said the incident was a “grim reminder” of the danger the country would face if it was not alert in tackling terrorism and left-wing extremism.
The Prime Minister also touched on the difficult situation the country's economy faced following the global meltdown, adding even in such an environment it recorded a 7 per cent growth.
He said “we must eschew” narrow partisanship and stand united, and expressed the confidence that the economy could return to the nine per cent growth rate that obtained before 2008 provided everyone agreed to difficult decisions which were needed to ensure that India rose as an economic power.
Sharing concern over problems in agriculture and farmer suicides, he said concerted efforts revitalised the sector with its recording a growth of 3 to 3.5 per cent during the 11th Five-Year Plan period, up from less than 2 per cent in the preceding Plan.