NEW DELHI: The crucial Budget session of Parliament began on Monday amidst speculation that a possible political realignment could bring the curtains down on the 15th Lok Sabha mid-term, forcing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to assert that his government has “the numbers that are needed” to run the show.
Just ahead of the President’s address to the joint session of Parliament, the Prime Minister issued this unusual clarification through the media that he was “confident” his government will last the full-term. It was not entirely convincing.
The anxiety could hardly be missed as the PM repeatedly appealed to “all political parties to cooperate with the government in evolving a broad-based consensus on all major challenges” that the country faces.
With his government being perceptibly challenged from both within and outside the government, he came out with an olive branch.
But an offer to allow “discussion on any issue on the floor of Parliament” was not enough to blow away the ominous clouds of a Third Front emerging out of the electoral debacle of the Congress in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab.
This became evident as the day progressed. Worried MPs, after the lack-luster and frequently interrupted presidential address in the Parliament, discussed nothing but the possibility of a mid-term poll.
No one was giving much credence to Prime Minister’s assurance that the UPA will handle all pressures from the opposition as well as the allies. Nonetheless, in an effort to building a consensus, the PM has called the UPA allies and the supporting parties to a dinner on Tuesday.
The Congress managers, meanwhile, fanned out to broker peace with various UPA constituents and the main opposition party. If Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee called the BJP top-brass, Sonia Gandhi’s political secretary Ahmed Patel got busy coaxing ally Trinamool Congress into a submission, even though Mamata Banerjee made it clear that her party will not rock the boat.
The Congress top leadership denied reports that the Prime Minister or the Finance Minister spoke to Mamata to persuade her to not go to the swearing-in ceremonies of Akhilesh Yadav in Lucknow and Prakash Singh Badal in Chandigarh.
But they held an emergency meeting at 10 Janpath – the Congress president’s residence, till late in the evening. Sources said, “lot of number crunching was done” by the party’s core group leaders.