Delhi: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday said that his
government has all the numbers required to remain in power. "We have
absolute majority," said the confident prime minister before the beginning
of budget session.
However, a demoralised government is bracing for difficult days in the
Parliament budget session beginning on Monday, though the Congress feels
the continuance of the UPA is not in doubt as the majority of Lok Sabha
members are not willing to face snap polls now.
"We will endure," said a senior Cabinet minister on the eve of the
session, admitting that the path was strewn with daunting challenges after
the poor show by the principle player in the ruling combine at the recent
The remark clearly betrayed a crisis of confidence and the government's
inability to take tough decisions to put governance and the economy back
While vital decisions like FDI in retail, tax and insurance reforms and
education-related legislation are in cold storage, a new tormentor has
popped up in the form of "federalism" to confront the central government
that has been battered for unilateralism and arrogance by friends and foes
The stalemate over the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) embodies
the spirit of the new flashpoint on the question of federalism.
The Congress leadership realises the emotive value of this eternal debate
and fully understands that its weakened position leaves no scope for
confrontation with the states.
Sonia Gandhi herself set the tone for reconciliation by stressing the need
for keeping the allies on board on every issue, and both Prime Minister
Manmohan Singh and leader of the Lok Sabha Pranab Mukherjee are expected
to send out unambiguous signals of a consensual approach in the coming
the Congress still expects a hostile round as the BJP has been fishing in
troubled waters, going to the extent of establishing floor co-ordination
with UPA allies such as the Trinamool Congress. Sources in the government
concede that only minimal attempts would be made to pass controversial
legislation, further affecting governance.
"They will now certainly be tempted to treat us like a minority
government," a senior Congress leader said, asked if the country was
already dealing with a lame-duck regime.
The political downslide has come at a time the government is required to
summon greater courage to meet the fresh bouts of economic slowdown and
deliver on promises made to the common people.
With price rise still being identified as one of the causes of the ruling
party's rejection by the people, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will
again be tempted to adopt a middle path while presenting the budget
instead of demonstrating fiscal prudence.
The Union budget will be presented on March 16, two days after the railway
budget. The Economic Survey outlining the government's assessment of the
economy will be tabled on March 15.
The first part of the budget session will conclude on March 30, resuming
after the recess on April 24. The session is expected to conclude on May
Corruption may also come up again in a big way with both Anna Hazare and
Baba Ramdev threatening to resume their agitation.
The government is drawing some solace from the fact that over 300 MPs
would not like to face fresh elections now as against parties controlling
around 200 MPs, which are not averse to going to the polls again.
At the same time, the UPA allies and the Congress fear that it would be
difficult to carry on in this manner till 2014 when the next general
election is due. Sources say this session of Parliament will shape the
future as much depends on the behaviour of the Samajwadi Party and the BSP
in the changed political ambience.
- The Telegraph, Calcutta
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