Congress in a huddle to break Parliament logjam
With the Opposition stalling Parliament for the second day over the US-mandated lobbying disclosure report of Walmart and the SP-BSP tug-of-war over the SC/ST quota in job promotion, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a meeting with UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi and the Congress top brass on Tuesday.
The meeting -- attended by Union Home Minister and Leader of the House in Lok Sabha Sushilkumar Shinde, Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath -- largely focused on the ways to break the logjam in the Parliament.
Earlier in the day, Nath readily agreed to the Opposition’s demand for a probe into the Walmart disclosure in the US that it had employed a firm to lobby for its case in India, which the latter alleged implied ‘bribery’ at India end to open the domestic retail sector to foreign direct investment (FDI).
Nath’s probe offer did little to douse the agitation in the Opposition camp, where members asked for a joint parliamentary probe to a judicial probe.
On the other side, the SP and the BSP were warring over the issue of SC/ST quota in promotions in government jobs.
The Centre’s legislative agenda this session, including banking and insurance reform Bills, will have to be sacrificed if these two disruptive issues on hand are not tackled at the earliest.
At the meeting, Nath is also believed to have briefed the Congress top brass on the status of pending Bills on financial matters.
While the PM is keen to get the next set of reform Bills off the ground, the main Opposition BJP is in a mood to bail the government out on the economic reform agenda.
Finance Minister Chidambaram’s failed attempt to get the banking Bill taken up in the Lok Sabha on Monday speaks volumes for this.
In any case, the rest of the House is too keen to prove their left-of-the-centre politics and is unlikely to come to the Centre’s rescue on any of these big-ticket reform Bills.
CPM leader Sitaram Yechury accused the Congress and the BJP of ‘fixing matches’ to get these Bills passed in the House, which he said would pave the way for privatisation of the nationalised banks from the back-door.
Post-core committee meeting, Chidambaram met Opposition leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitely to find a way out of the logjam.
But they stuck to their ground and insisted that the banking Bill be again referred back to the Standing Committee, as the government altered it beyond recognition, by proposing to allow the banks to get into futures trading.