Bracing for a heated winter session of Parliament, urban development minister Kamal Nath, who had recently been given the additional charge of parliamentary affairs, said he had started contacting different parties.
“I have spoken with Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, Mayawati and Mulayam Singh Yadav,’’ the minister told HT, adding, “it is my effort to have a renewed engagement with all political parties.”
“We will try and persuade them,” he said, if the Opposition insists on discussions on FDI.
He said if the Opposition insisted on discussions — followed by voting — on 51% foreign direct investment in the retail sector that the government had already allowed through an executive decision, “I'm confident that there will be a resolution. I'm not pessimistic.”
“Remember, FDI in retail is optional for the states. We are willing to have a serious discussion, but when it’s not binding on the states, what will we be voting on?"
The monsoon session, marked by protests and walk-outs over Coalgate, led to 151 of Parliament’s 206 work hours being wasted. With the winter session set to begin next week, the UPA government is preparing to contend with a belligerent opposition.
Apart from Coalgate, the BJP is planning to raise the heat on the FDI issue and the allegations against Robert Vadra, son-in-law of Congress president Sonia Gandhi.
Asked how he hopes to build consensus in the face of so many allegations, Kamal Nath was quick to retort: “But let’s remember there is also Gadkarigate. The politics of accusation and denigration is very dangerous.”
The minister, in fact, issued what can be termed a veiled threat: “We don’t come to Parliament to make noise. If this becomes the norm, then this will be the norm for all political parties. The shoe can also be on the other foot.”
Aware of the fact that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Bannerjee is garnering support for a no-confidence motion, Kamal Nath appears to be speaking with the SP and the BSP to ensure that SP chief Mulayam Singh Yadav does not side with Banerjee, who recently withdrew support from the UPA.
Asked if he was worried about Banerjee’s attempt at bringing a no-confidence motion, Nath said, “Let her move it,’’ and then immediately added, “why are we talking about ifs?”
Refusing to concede that social activist Arvind Kejriwal and India Against Corruption are making his job tougher, the minister said, “Kejriwal is raising issues not out of any investigation, but only out of information.”
In the run-up to the winter session, Kamal Nath said he would talk to various ministers to prioritise the pending bills. If business is, indeed, transacted and Parliament is allowed to function, the government can choose from 100 bills that are already pending. Even in the last session in August, only four of the 30 bills listed for passage could be passed.