New Delhi: The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government has listed 35 legislation, including banking and insurance laws, for the month-long winter session beginning on 22 November, even as its erstwhile ally the Trinamool Congress (TMC) party is preparing to move a trust motion against it.
While the Congress is mobilizing the numbers to face a no-trust vote, if it is taken up in the Lok Sabha, the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which has been gearing up to give a tough time to the government, seems to be caught in yet another crisis of its own making, with Yashwant Sinha seeking the resignation of party chief Nitin Gadkari.
To corner the government, a meeting of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) decided to move a resolution with a vote against foreign investment in supermarkets, but did not commit to back TMC’s no-trust motion. “However, we will explore the possibilities of a no-confidence motion in the future,” BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad told reporters after the meeting.
Prasad said the government had reneged on its promise of consulting other parties before allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail. “The government did not honour its words,” he said. “NDA believes that it (UPA) has failed on all fronts and the time has come that the government should go.”
Political observers say a debate under rule 184 that entails a voting on the motion—the Left Front plans to seek this—would make the situation complicated for the government as some of its allies such as the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and so-called friendly parties that support it without being part of it, like the Samajwadi Party (SP), would find it difficult to oppose the resolution. Both parties are not in favour of FDI in supermarkets.
The Congress has 206 lawmakers and the UPA 243 in the 544-member Lok Sabha. The BJP has 115, the DMK, 18, the SP, 22, and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), another party on which Congress is banking on for support, 21.
TMC, which has 19 members in the Lok Sabha, announced that it would give a notice for moving a no-confidence motion on the first day of the winter session. TMC leaders have not disclosed the details of the other parties that will support theirs—a notice seeking a no confidence motion has to be signed by at least 50 lawmakers.
All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) chief and Tamil Nadu chief minister J. Jayalalithaa said on Tuesday that her party would take a decision on the proposed no-confidence motion later. “If the no-confidence motion comes, it has to be successful. So far nobody has approached us for support. If it comes up we can decide only after knowing how many (parties), and who all, are supporting it,” she said.
The government is confident that it has the numbers. “We are a government of majority. We will prove it on the floor of the House as and when it is required... We are not counting the numbers now,” parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath said on Tuesday.
Pointing out the government is looking forward to a “constructive and fruitful” session, Nath said he has already sought the cooperation of all political parties. “Parliament does not belong to one party, but all the parties. Our endeavour is to look for as much consensus as possible,” he said.
At least two Congress leaders said the government does not expect a debate with a vote on the issue as allowing FDI in retail is an executive decision and does not need Parliament’s approval.
Still, there have been executive decisions that have been debated in Parliament. In 2001, for instance, the NDA government discussed the issue of divestment and even allowed a vote on it. Nath defended the government’s position of not seeing the need for a debate with a vote, by saying that its “FDI decision is a framework,” not a policy.
Among the 25 bills listed for consideration are the Banking Laws (Amendment) bill that seeks to strengthen the Reserve Bank of India’s regulatory powers (the central bank has made its passage a pre-requisite for issuing new banking licences), Insurance Laws (amendment bill) seeking to increase the FDI limit in insurance to 49% from 26%, the Pension Fund Regulatory and Development Authority (PFRDA) bill and the anti-graft Lokpal bill.
Nath said the government is still working on the food security and land acquisition legislation, which are also likely to come up during the session that is scheduled to end on 20 December.
Meanwhile, the BJP faced embarrassment with former Union minister Sinha publicly attacking Gadkari. “Whether our party president is guilty or not is not the issue today. The issue is that all of us in public life should be beyond reproach,” he told news agency PTI.
Sinha’s demand revived the campaign initiated by BJP Rajya Sabha member Ram Jethmalani and his son Mahesh seeking the party chief’s resignation in the wake of reports alleging that Gadkari’s Purti Sugar and Power Group were funded by a complex web of shell companies with fictitious directors. However, the party talked tough to Sinha. “The party feels it is not appropriate to air views publicly and he should reconsider his views,” Prasad said. “There are various forums available in the party to express opinion.”
PTI contributed to this story.