New Delhi: The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said on Thursday that it would issue a whip to its members of Parliament to support a cut motion against the Finance Bill next week, mounting pressure on the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government.
Thirteen other parties, including the Left that are allied neither with the UPA nor with the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA), have threatened to bring the motion to protest against rising prices and force the rollback of fuel and fertilizer price increases.
A cut motion puts the strength of the government in the Lok Sabha to test and, if adopted, the government stands defeated on a money matter and has to resign.
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“Whoever moves a cut motion (on price rise) against the government, all our MPs will support (it) and the party will issue a whip,” said the BJP’s Gopinath Munde, deputy leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
The Finance Bill, passage of which will signify Parliament’s approval for the Budget presented by finance minister Pranab Mukherjee on 26 February, will be taken up by the House on 27 April—the same day the non-UPA, non-NDA opposition parties have called a nationwide general strike.
The BJP’s decision to support the cut motion adds pressure on the UPA to mobilize support in Parliament after the ruling coalition lost the backing of its allies, the Samajwadi Party and the Rashtriya Janata Dal.
Rallying cry: BJP leaders at a rally in New Delhi on Wednesday. BJP will joint 13 other parties that have threatened to bring the motion to protest against rising prices and force the rollback of fuel price increases. Pradeep Gaur/Mint
The Congress is hoping the Opposition wouldn’t go to the extent of pulling down the government, given that no party is prepared for a general election so soon after last year’s polls, but is trying to ensure that the numbers are in its favour when the Finance Bill is put to vote.
A Congress minister, who did not want to be identified, said the government would have “sufficient number” of supporters in the Lok Sabha as long as the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and some smaller parties back it.
But he added that the Congress was ensuring that all its Lok Sabha members are present in the House next week, with some ministers being asked to cancel official trips. The party has issued a whip to its members to be present in the House all of next week and asked UPA allies to do so, too.
Meanwhile, leaders of the non-UPA, non-NDA parties said at a news conference that they would go ahead with the cut motion, but said their intention was not to bring down the government. At the same time, they would insist on a division on the Finance Bill when it comes up for passage.
“The issue is not of destabilizing the government, it is aimed at bringing relief to the people” (from price increases), said Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader Sitaram Yechury.
The Congress said it would be able to defeat the cut motion. “We have the numbers,” said Sandeep Dikshit, chief whip of the party in the Lok Sabha. Still, the Opposition should consider if anyone is ready for an election at this time before it campaigns for the motion, he said.
There’s no sign of a rollback in the price increases prompted by a hike in duties announced as part of the Budget. According to a senior official in the finance ministry, there has so far been no proposal to roll back the tax increases.
Sanjiv Shankaran contributed to this story.