Post-U.P., Congress and BJP in conciliatory mood in Parliament


Congress open to Opposition suggestions, BJP drops ‘boycott Chidambaram' protest

Chastened by their drubbing in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections, both the Congress and the BJP appeared sombre and even conciliatory on the opening day of the budget session of Parliament.

Gone is the bluster and finger-pointing which dominated several sessions since the 2G scam broke out in the latter half of 2010. After the customary floor strategy meeting of National Democratic Alliance leaders on Sunday, the BJP announced the end of its ‘boycott Chidambaram in Parliament' strategy, under which it had not allowed the Home Minister to speak on the plea that after his alleged involvement in the 2G scam, his continuation as Minister has become untenable.

On Monday, the BJP sought to explain its new position by saying its protest was meant only for the last session and that the party could ill-afford to let the Home Minister “off the hook” on sensitive internal security issues, including the controversial National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC).

The government, on its part, walked the extra mile in reaching out to the BJP. UPA trouble-shooter and the Leader of the House in the Lok Sabha, Pranab Mukherjee, invited the three top leaders of the BJP, including the former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, to help the government in passage of three Bills aimed at meeting India's international commitments before Parliament adjourns for its recess on March 30. These pertain to money-laundering and narcotics.

Interestingly, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was in the Rajya Sabha during the day, lingered on in the House after it had been adjourned, chatting with not so high-profile Opposition MPs. Signalling the government's new approach, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal made it clear that the government was willing to consider all suggestions from the Opposition for subjects to be discussed in this session.

The Prime Minister, who is holding a dinner for all UPA constituents on Tuesday, himself told journalists: “We are willing to discuss and debate all issues on the floor of the House. I appeal to all political parties to work together and cooperate in meeting the challenges and opportunities the country faces.” He also said the government has “all the numbers” it needs in the House.

According to sources, the Prime Minister has said the interests of the Trinamool will be taken care of in the budget. Last weekend, the Congress had sent one of its general secretaries to Kolkata for an interaction with Trinamool leader and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. There are reports suggesting the government will not go ahead with the proposed hike in the price of petroleum products without getting the Trinamool on board.

Also on Monday, Mr. Bansal made it known that the government had an open mind on the amendments proposed by the Opposition and other parties, including the UPA ally, Trinamool Congress, on the Lokpal Bill, which could not be passed in the Rajya Sabha in the last session.

Some fireworks on the Lokpal Bill may still be witnessed in the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, as Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley has given notice for suspension of question hour to take up the draft law. Mr. Mukherjee is believed to have requested Mr. Jaitley not to press for suspension of question hour and instead raise the issue during zero hour.

“We want to know why the Rajya Sabha was adjourned and subsequently prorogued without completion of the voting process. Let the government explain. As for the argument that the amendments are deemed lapsed after the House was prorogued, we can always table fresh amendments,” Mr. Jaitley said.

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Printable version | Dec 12, 2019 7:13:20 PM |

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