New Delhi: The face-off between the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and the opposition on the first day of Parliament over the government’s reform initiatives has triggered fears that the winter session may be a washout.
The government, however, has initiated fresh attempts to ensure that Parliament takes up the legislative agenda scheduled for the month-long session.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday sought the support of all parties for a “cohesive, collective action” to resolve the country’s economic problems, even as a former ally called a no-trust vote against his government and Parliament had to be adjourned repeatedly amid chaos on the first day of the winter session.
Singh hosted a dinner, which was earlier scheduled for Saturday but was deferred because of Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray’s death that afternoon, for senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani, leaders of opposition Sushma Swaraj (Lok Sabha) and Arun Jaitley (Rajya Sabha) on Thursday night.
The government has also convened an all-party meeting on 26 November to work out an agreement on the demand for a debate and a vote on foreign direct investment (FDI) in multi-brand retail.
The Prime Minister called on all parties to let Parliament function after the last session was almost entirely lost because of protests over charges of irregularities in the coal block allocation. Lok Sabha had wasted 77% of its time and Rajya Sabha 72% in the last monsoon session.
“We need to create new jobs on a large enough scale to provide gainful employment to our youth. We need to increase investments in infrastructure sectors and social services like health and education to accelerate the tempo of economic growth,” Singh said in a statement outside Parliament.
“Our government is committed to these tasks but success thereof requires cohesive, collective action on the part of all segments of our polity,” Singh said. “I seek cooperation from my colleagues in the House to come together and address the issues and challenges that we face as a nation. We are ready to discuss all issues on the floor of both the Houses.”
Getting rival parties to cooperate is essential for the government if it wants to pass the 25 Bills it has listed and the 10 new legislations it plans to introduce during the month-long session.
In the Lok Sabha, speaker Meira Kumar rejected a notice by the Trinamool Congress (TMC) seeking to move a no-confidence motion against the Congress-led government as it could not garner the support of 50 members of Parliament for the vote.
Differences surfaced among the opposition parties over the debate on FDI.
While the BJP and the Left parties are keen on a discussion and a vote on the matter, the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), on whom the Congress-led government is relying on support to bail it out, disrupted the Parliament by protesting against the cap on subsidized cooking gas cylinders and Scheduled Caste/Scheduled Tribe reservation issues.
The SP, which opposes FDI in retail, said it will not “piggyback” on the BJP over its demand for a discussion on the issue under a rule that entails voting.
The BSP has indicated that it could extend its support to the government. However, BSP chief Mayawati said: “First, government has to decide; then we will make our stand clear on the floor of the House.”
Janata Dal-United, an ally of the BJP, said it is keen to see that Parliament functions.
BJP leaders pointed out that the government had assured the House earlier that it would not decide on FDI in retail without consulting all parties. But the government has argued that it will only set a framework policy and the states are free to accept or reject it.
The government says executive decisions are not discussed in Parliament.
The Congress party-led government has the support of 243 members in the 544-member Lok Sabha.