With Shinde issue behind, Congress hopes for a smooth budget session

Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Leader of the Oppositon Sushma Swaraj, NDA Convenor Sharad Yadav and other leaders attend the all party meeting in New Delhi on Wednesday. Photo:R.V. Moorthy   | Photo Credit: R_V_Moorthy

The government is hoping that Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde’s carefully crafted public expression of regret on Wednesday evening to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) for saying that the two were responsible for promoting terror camps will pave the way for a smooth session of Parliament.

With the BJP threatening to boycott Mr. Shinde, who is also the Leader of the House, and disrupt the budget session that commences on Thursday, the government conceded the principal Opposition party’s demand for a public apology — its text was earlier approved by the BJP — as the price for peace in Parliament.

Within minutes of the Home Minister’s statement, BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said: “We accept the retraction and regret expressed by Mr. Shinde and hope the attention will now shift to other important pending issues.”

Through the day, a series of meetings paved the way for this truce — an all-party discussion followed by another attended by Mr. Shinde, Union Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, his deputy Rajiv Shukla and Leader of Opposition Sushma Swaraj. The Congress core group too had a pre-Parliament sitting, and in the evening the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) convened a meeting.

At the all-party sitting convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, Mr. Shinde first discussed the “clarification” with Ms. Swaraj, who made the point that if there was any truth in the Home Minister’s remarks she had “no right to be the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament.”

For the beleaguered United Progressive Alliance, the BJP’s acceptance of Mr. Shinde’s apology came as a huge relief — it is one issue out of the way. Now it will have to brace itself to deal with the tainted AgustaWestland helicopter deal — on which it has already promised a discussion and any form of investigation acceptable to the Opposition — and, in the Rajya Sabha, the allegations against Deputy Chairperson P.J. Kurien in the Suryanelli rape scandal.

With less than 16 months left for the general elections, the government hopes to enact key laws on its legislative agenda, Congress sources stressed, especially the Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 — that will replace the ordinance against women — the Lokpal Bill, the Food Security Bill and the Land Acquisition Bill. But this will be an uphill task as the Opposition, having smelt blood, looks unwilling to concede too much space to the government.

Relief to BJP too

Muralidhar Reddy reports:

Mr. Shinde’s action, gives the principal Opposition greater leeway in enlisting the cooperation of other parties, including the Left, to corner the government on a range of issues.

Though the BJP had succeeded in convincing the NDA allies to join it in protesting Mr. Shinde’s remark, not all constituents in the alliance were comfortable with taking an aggressive posture on this question at the expense of other important issues.

Some NDA constituents had also made known their displeasure at repeated disruption of Parliament and have been pressuring the BJP to ensure normal business in both Houses.

Now indications are that it is at the behest of some Opposition parties that both the government and the BJP agreed to resolve the standoff over Mr. Shinde’s remark.

After a pre-budget strategy session of the NDA on Wednesday, its convener Sharad Yadav said despite differences with the government on several issues, the Opposition wanted Parliament to run. “We have made this request to the Lok Sabha Speaker… and we will talk to other parties also on this issue.”

Earlier in the day, the BJP, led by party president Rajnath Singh, staged a protest on Parliament Street against Mr. Shinde. Its leaders accused the Congress and the Minister of practising vote-bank politics, maintaining that Mr. Shinde’s comments were part of a conspiracy to divide the nation.

Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley asked how Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi allowed such a Home Minister, who “is giving Pakistan a reason to say that India is running terror camps,” to function.

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Printable version | Mar 7, 2021 3:09:11 AM |

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