PM’s dinner diplomacy with opposition tonight
In a bid to soften the mainline opposition against the government on the eve of the Winter session of Parliament, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has reached out to the BJP and invited its senior leaders, BJP Parliamentary Party chairman L K Advani and Leaders of Opposition in the two Houses of Parliament, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, for dinner on Saturday.
The meeting assumes significance, as the BJP prepares to corner the government over issues like FDI-in-retail,corruption, hike in diesel price, cap on subsidised LPG cylinders, among others,during the session, beginning on November 22. Sources close to Advani and Swaraj told Express that they would be attending the dinner at 8 pm on Saturday, at the Prime Minister’s residence. This is unlike some past occasions, like in July 2010, when the main Opposition party had chosen to turn down the Prime Minister’s invite.
The monsoon session of Parliament was washed out, as the mainline Opposition had cornered the government on corruption charges and insisted that the Union Government cancel the contentious coal block allocations and order an impartial probe into the matter. The BJP had also demanded the Prime Minister’s resignation over the matter. The government is keen that a similar situation is averted at all costs. “This Parliament session has a very heavy legislative agenda. We are reaching out to various political parties to carry through the proposed legislative agenda in the four weeks that we have for the session,” Union Finance Minister P Chidambaram said on Friday.
On Saturday, the Prime Minister is expected to solicit the Opposition’s cooperation in the smooth running of Parliament. The Prime Minister is also expected to seek the Opposition’s support in passing the financial legislation, including the ones related to pensions and insurance reforms, besides key bills on land acquisition and food security.
Singh may also broach the issue of FDI-in-retail, against which the BJP has shown stiff resistance. The BJP has already announced that its Parliamentary Board would meet on November 20 to thrash out its position on FDI-in-retail for the coming Winter session. The BJP is coordinating with Opposition parties like the Trinamool Congress and the Left on the issue.
The Prime Minister has already hosted Samajwadi Party supremo Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for dinner and BSP chief Mayawati for Sunday lunch last week. Both parties provide outside support to the government.