The United Progressive Alliance coalition at the Centre on Wednesday prepared to fight the expected onslaught from the Opposition on a variety of issues that are sure to come up in the second part of the budget session of Parliament starting on Thursday.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi began a round of consultations with senior colleagues to work out a strategy to fend off an Opposition that seemed determined to embarrass the government. Leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee, who as Finance Minister will move the Finance Bill, was among those who met her. Defence Minister A.K. Antony also met her. Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal is working to ensure that the UPA's wafer-thin majority does not get eroded by its MPs absenting themselves on critical days.

The Congress sees cut motions that the Opposition parties have said they will move as the biggest threat. But party leaders are confident of meeting the challenge successfully as neither the BJP nor the Left parties want to bring down the government before they shore up their strength in their own electoral bastions.

The government's prestige is also at stake, with the Opposition levelling charges of corruption against Minister of State Shashi Tharoor in the Kochi IPL franchisee controversy. Late on Wednesday evening, Mr. Mukherjee sent for Mr. Tharoor asking for an explanation.

On the Dantewada killings, Home Minister P. Chidambaram has already found a supporter in the BJP, despite its decision to ask for suspension of question hour on the issue.

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