President turns Congress troubleshooter
By Santwana Bhattacharya | Published: 25th August 2013 08:11 AM |
When he runs out of Allama Iqbal’s poetry for crisis situations, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh looks to Raisina Hill for ‘sage counsel’. It was a measure of how deep Manmohan felt he had sunk that he stepped out of Parliament and drove straight for an unscheduled visit next-door to President Pranab Mukherjee.
Once his man for all political difficulties, the Prime Minister must be feeling the lack of his services quite acutely at a time when he is besieged on multiple fronts - the economy refusing to look up, the hole in the current account denting its rating even further, a re-ignition of the coal fire in the form of missing files and all of them leading to a dysfunctional Parliament.
Before the PM drove down for the unscheduled meeting with the President, Law Minister Kapil Sibal and Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajeev Shukla had accused the media for taking a one-sided view on the Coal Ministry’s probe on file disappearance and for giving the Opposition a handle to demand a statement from the PM in the House.
Significantly, the meeting took place in the backdrop of this new turmoil in Parliament. It was a day before Manmohan was to intervene in the discussion on the missing files in Rajya Sabha. But before the PM met the President, there was little clarity in the Congress camp. It was a depressed Manmohan who went to meet Pranab for guidance.
But all that changed by late evening. Sources indicated a way out has been found - a compromise - which the Opposition has accepted. The Prime Minister will not make a statement, but he will intervene while the discussion on the missing files is on.
It’s another matter that Andhra angst over the decision to create Telangana came in the way of the statement. And the ‘Save Andhra’ slogan of the TDP MPs, protesting the suspension of their party members from the Lok Sabha, actually saved the PM.
It is well-known the Telangana decision was held up as long as Pranab was there in the government. He had cited the cascading effect it would have in other parts of the country. He once famously scolded protesting T-MPs, “Go ahead and resign, we’ll find other people to contest from your seats. So, don’t ask for the moon.”
Though there is no direct co-relation between the visit and Parliament function, the food security bill which has missed several deadlines may finally be taken up in the Lok Sabha on Monday and the Rajya Sabha on Tuesday.
Just as the PM rushed to Rashtrapati Bhavan in midst of a crisis that was threatening to engulf him, Sonia Gandhi also had an exclusive meeting with the President prior to the session. Both seem to have sought advice of the former trouble-shooter of the Congress.