NEW DELHI: As the Budget session of Parliament nears, Congress floor managers fear that the entire session may be under spell of the ‘rahu kaalam’.
It was quite evident when a senior Congress minister, quite bushwhacked with the turn of events, said in an incredulous tone that minutes before the special Cabinet meeting on the President’s speech last week, a certain Congress poll manager had “assured” them that “the party will get around 80-100 seats in UP”! The Cabinet, thus taken in, had ended up endorsing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s pet, rather jaded, “9 per cent growth needed to break the shackles of poverty” line of thinking.
The matter had to be revisited on Saturday. But, the President’s speech is the least of the UPA government’s troubles in the coming session beginning Monday, when it’s faced with the prospect of getting a tough budget passed.
Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee who has little legspace to operate, may end up conceding to their demands to earn peace and a smooth passage for his budget. This despite the financial acrobatics he has to do to cover the huge fiscal deficit. Not to mention the other 39 Bills, that have to be considered and passed. The Lokpal and Lokayukta Bill, for instance, which will now have to be passed in a form that has the approval of the states, which have been up in arms on the Center’s encroachments on federal rights.
In an indication of what may be in store, West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee told her party MPs on Friday that the “Trinamool Congress may not withdraw its support to the UPA, but it will fight for the rights of the states and for issues of national interest — that there will no compromise on the NCTC and on price rise”. The possibility of increasing fuel/petrol prices by `4.50 is, therefore, bleak.
The coalition of CM could just be expanding and taking the form of a viable Third Front, minus the Left though.
Little wonder, the FM reached out to the Left, CPI’s Gurudas Dasgupta and CPI-M’s Sitaram Yechury. Mukherjee confided to them that the government was not expecting any problem from the Samajwadi Party.
However, a senior AIAMDK leader told Express, “Why should the SP support the Congress in the Centre, after Rahul Gandhi called Mulayam Singh’s regime gunda raj. What, if he returns the compliments?” Singh’s legacy too would be at stakes. He may have to agree to an overhaul of the Nuclear Safety Regulatory Authority Bill.
The Standing Committee recommendations may have to be swallowed. As economic reforms and governance, they may well take the back seat. So would the pension regulation and banking reform Bills.