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UPA wins face-off with Opposition for now

UPA wins face-off with Opposition for now
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First Published: Wed, Apr 28 2010. 01 15 AM IST

Staying out: Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad. Shubhav Shukla/PTI
Staying out: Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad. Shubhav Shukla/PTI
Updated: Wed, Apr 28 2010. 10 20 AM IST
New Delhi: The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) defeated cut motions brought by the Opposition against its budgetary proposals in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, but exposed the ruling coalition’s political vulnerability given its slender majority.
The cut motions were defeated after members of the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) abstained and the Bahujan Samaj Party’s 21 members voted in favour. All three political parties have a rocky relationship with the Congress.
Staying out: Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Lalu Prasad. Shubhav Shukla/PTI
If a cut motion—essentially a show of strength in the House—goes through the Lok Sabha, the government stands defeated and is morally bound to resign.
Although the SP and the RJD joined the Left parties and others in a nationwide strike against spiralling prices, they preferred not to vote in favour of the cut motions moved by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Opposition and the Left parties. They were aimed at forcing a rollback of Budget proposals that led to a hike in the prices of fuel and fertilizer.
“We do not want to vote along with the BJP,” said RJD leader Lalu Prasad before walking out of the Lok Sabha along with his five members and the SP’s 22 MPs.
A surprise voter for the government was Jharkhand chief minister Shibu Soren, who runs the state government with the BJP’s support.
The cut motion on the ministry of petroleum was negated by 246 votes against 162. According to Left leaders, the second cut motion, moved by Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta, garnered 201 votes.
It was the first time in the history of Indian Parliament that a cut motion was put to vote during the guillotine on demands for grants from ministries.
“Our purpose was not to destabilize the government, but to force the government to bring in cuts in the prices (of fuel and fertilizers),” said Communist Party of India (Marxist), or CPM’s, Sitaram Yechury.
Opposition leaders questioned the functioning of the Congress, which won 207 seats in last year’s general election, the highest by a single party in the last two decades.
“It has already started counting the numbers. It shows how this party runs the coalition,” said Yechury. The government also faces opposition within and outside the coalition against crucial legislation, including the Women’s Reservation Bill and Nuclear Liability Bill.
Political analysts say the arithmetic in the Lok Sabha exposes the vulnerability of the government.
“In the new scenario, each and every step and policies will be decided on merits. It means the policies are not taken in the kitchen cabinet, but the government has to respond to the demands of the day,” said Bidyut Chakraborty, a professor in the department of political science in Delhi University.
liz.m@livemint.com
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First Published: Wed, Apr 28 2010. 01 15 AM IST