For the Manmohan Singh Government, the success or failure of the winter session of Parliament hinges on the passage of the three economic bills that are expected to set the stage for the next phase of economic reforms: Pension Fund and Regulatory Authority bill, the Banking Regulation bill and the Insurance bill.
The Left is opposing these bills in their present form. The Congress-led UPA's assurance that the pension funds would be parked in public sector units and financial institutions has not found acceptance with the trade unions. The Government, on its part, finds it difficult to accept the Left's demand that an employee be assured 50 per cent of his last earnings as pension.
The Insurance bill is stuck because of the Left's resistance to raise the cap on foreign equity in this sector. The Communists are also against the entry of foreign players in the banking sector. Their demand that the bigger Indian banks bail out the smaller ones is being resisted by the former.
"Even if we manage to get one economic bill passed, we will consider the session a success," said a Union Minister who maintained that these bills are necessary to step into the next stage of economic reforms.
Failure to get any of these economic bills through would spell stagnation for a Government which has completed half its tenure and has to accelerate the pace of development and reforms so that it touches the lives of people ahead of the next round of Lok Sabha polls in 2009.
As it is, the Government has to grapple with the problems of agrarian distress, food security and continuing farmers' suicides in parts of Maharashtra and a possible shortage of wheat next year—all affecting the lives of the aam aadmi who figured prominently in the UPA's Common Minimum Programme.
The Congress had anticipated that the Left would up its ante after its victories in the West Bengal and Kerala assembly polls.
But while the Communists appear to have consolidated themselves with their resistance to such economic bills, the ruling party has not been able to counter them effectively or call their bluff so far because of their dependence on the Left for outside support.
Many feel the Congress needs to take stock of the situation. But the time for doing so would be after the UP elections, the outcome of which may, in any case, alter the political scenario.
Email Saroj Nagi: snagi @hindustantimes.com