The Congress on Thursday hit out at the Opposition for thwarting suspension of its own MPs from Andhra Pradesh and those from the Telugu Desam Party, who have been disrupting the Lok Sabha since the start of the session, and thus making it impossible to create conditions in which the Food Security Bill could be discussed and passed
But the Opposition contends that it does not want to be party to the suspension of MPs, as it would create a precedent; besides, as a senior Biju Janata Dal MP put it: “If the government’s priority was to pass the Food Security Bill, why did the Congress Working Committee announce Telangana before the session? Anyone with political acumen would have known that there would be fallout in Parliament.”
Indeed, a section in the Opposition believes that until the Congress leadership either convinces TDP supremo N. Chandrababu Naidu to ask his vociferous MPs to stop occupying the well of the House or spells out the division of resources between Telangana and the remaining Andhra and Rayalaseema regions of the State, the Lok Sabha is unlikely to run.
“The solution to the problem,” an Opposition MP said, “lies not in the House, but outside Parliament — in Seemandhra.” Indeed, Mr. Naidu has already objected to the demands of Andhra and Rayalaseema being addressed by an all-Congress committee headed by Defence Minister A.K. Antony, and not by an all-party panel.
The Congress has thus far limited its efforts to floor management rather than addressing the matter politically.
In this particular instance, at a meeting with Speaker Meira Kumar and Parliamentary Affairs minister Kamal Nath on Tuesday, the question of the chair “naming” the offending MPs — as a deterrent — came up. Most of the Opposition MPs, led by Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj, raised objections.
Ms. Swaraj, however, said her party MPs would stand up, protest and walk out, and that would be that. The Shiromani Akali Dal and the Shiv Sena, the BJP’s allies, also agreed. At this stage, it was expected that “naming” would have a salutary effect on the MPs. But Ms. Kumar, Opposition sources say, after hearing that most parties were opposed even to the idea of “naming,” decided against it. Her position, the sources said, was that her job was to run the House, not sit in judgment.
It was then that Kamal Nath came up with the idea of moving a suspension motion. This, according to Opposition sources, was not formally discussed with the major parties — at best with the CPI and the Janata Dal (United). So when Mr. Nath moved the motion, it came as a surprise to most of the Opposition.
Indeed, Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit, when asked what was discussed with Opposition leaders, sounded very circumspect. “I do not know what happened between the Speaker, the Minister and the senior Opposition leaders but certainly it is quite clear the government would have brought a motion like this only when there was a broad understanding among all parties.”
Evidently, the “broad understanding” related to “naming” MPs by the Speaker, not passing an all-party resolution to suspend them.
For the Congress, the fate of the Food Security Bill and Telangana is intertwined. The Opposition knows that the passage of the Bill and the creation of a new State could help to determine the results of the 2014 general election — and so it is in no mood to cooperate with the government. But the Congress, too, needs to play its cards right — unless it thinks it can win an election by telling people that the Opposition does not want to pass the Food Security Bill as it is anti-poor.