The UPA is on high alert. The combine can manage the bare numbers to defeat the Opposition’s seemingly highfalutin cut motion campaign in the Lok Sabha. But its floor managers aren’t taking chances.
There’s no room for complacency: passage of a cut motion against a money bill cuts short the government’s life. Trouble-shooting this week is all the more daunting — the treasury, caught in the IPL-phone-tapping maelstrom, is likely to face tricky votes before April 30, when the Finance Bill is expected to come up.
Aware of the challenge posed by cut motions against hiked fuel prices and decreased fertiliser subsidy, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has so worked his Bhutan trip for the April 28-29 SAARC summit that he is in Delhi on April 27. The House that day will guillotine (discuss) the demand for grants of various ministries.
“There are strong chances of the Opposition pressing for a division (of votes) at the guillotine stage,” said a UPA functionary.
The Congress-led coalition’s two-pronged strategy to rebuff the Opposition includes ensuring the presence of their flock of 270-odd, besides engineering abstentions from among the Opposition ranks in the 545-member House.
“Abstentions (on quid-pro-quo basis) are possible as nobody barring a hard line section in the Left wants to force elections so early in the life of the 15th Lok Sabha,” explained a UPA manager.
The other part of the contingency is monitored directly by Congress president Sonia Gandhi with assistance of
close aides and state-level conveners tasked with ensuring party MPs’ presence in the House.
The safeguards put up by the treasury are well conceived. The likelihood of the Opposition seeking vote counts has increased with the House getting closer to approving the the Finance Bill.
The BJP and the Left didn’t insist on divisions (counts) during eight money-related votes in the first leg of the budget session. The session’s post-recess half starting April 15 had six such votes. The demand for grants for railways, external affairs, rural development and tribal affairs have since been passed.
Tuesday’s guillotine will mark the culmination of the process — the House by then also voting on demands of the road transport and water resources ministries.
The budget being their first priority, Congress managers have stopped talking about the women’s reservation Bill. But the retreat is tactical — and temporary. They’d revert to it in the closing phase of the ongoing session ending May 7 or when Parliament meets during monsoon.