Two days ahead of a rather short Monsoon session, MPs were much in demand. Their day began with Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar’s all-party meeting, followed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi’s luncheon meet for the allies and supporting parties and then an NDA dinner for the Opposition members.
So packed was the schedule that even Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the new Leader of the House Sushil Kumar Shinde were seen rushing from one venue to the other, hard pressed for time. Neither able to offend the Lok Sabha Speaker before the session nor their powerful party chief, Singh and Shinde had double lunches. For Shinde, both the dos were equally important as it was an initiation ceremony of sorts. When the Speaker formally introduced him in his new role, sources said, Union Minister for Renewable Energy/National Conference chief Farooq Abdullah said, “Hopefully, the new Leader of the House will keep his smile on and not lose his cool (like his predecessor Pranab Mukherjee, now the President).”
In fact, according to sources, the leaders, cutting across party lines, seemed to harp on Shinde’s affable nature and hoped that his temperament would be the climate of the House – cool.
However, the Assam violence, on which the Opposition wants a discussion on the first day of the session, is likely to generate much heat. The BJP is already taken up the Bodo-cause as against the Bangladeshi immigrants, the two groups are involved in the conflict.
Also the government’s handling of the drought and the power crisis are also likely to see some fireworks. Upset with the government’s diffidence about calling it a drought, the Opposition wants the House to evolve a definition of the term.
In Sonia’s lunch – called primarily to ensure a smooth election for UPA’s Vice-Presidential candidate Hamid Ansari – the focus shifted to Uttar Pradesh with two rival regional satraps – SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and BSP chief Mayawati – attending it.
The Congress parliamentary managers, like Rajiv Shukla had to do a bit of behind-the-scene rigging to keep the two arch rivals tables apart. While Sonia hosted Mayawati at her table, Prime Minister Singh broke bread with Mulayam.
Sonia also ensured that NCP heavyweights Sharad Pawar’s daughter Supriya Sule too was at her table. More so as Pawar and his chief lieutenant Heavy Industries Minister Praful Patel stayed away from the lunch. The Trinamool Congress MPs were present in full length. TMC Minister of State, Health, Sudip Bandyopadhyay had a hearty meal at Sonia’s table.