The Manmohan Singh government completed half of its five-year term on Thursday as it geared itself to face the upcoming challenges, some of which would get reflected in the ongoing Parliament session both in terms of legislative business and the issues that will come up in the two Houses.
The first sign of the tough tasks ahead would come on Thursday itself. The Bharatiya Janata Party intends to put the Government on the mat on Thursday by raising the issue of the Chinese claim on Arunachal Pradesh and faulting the UPA on its foreign policy. And taken along with the Afzal Guru issue, it would paint the UPA as a government which cannot be trusted with the country’s external or internal security.
While the Arunachal matter would be raised through a Zero Hour notice in the Lok Sabha, during the discussion on the notices given by Sushma Swaraj and S S Ahluwalia in the Upper House, the party is likely to raise a demand for a parliamentary resolution stating that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India. The party is likely to draw inspiration from a resolution the House adopted on PoK during Narasimha Rao’s time.
Government sources refused to react to the BJP’s likely move. ``We will respond when they raise the issue,’’ said a minister. But in an indication that the UPA would not back it, he recalled the steps the Centre had taken after the Chinese Ambassador’s remarks raised a furore in the country. ``What more can be done?’’ he said.
During his talks with Chinese president Hu Jintao, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is believed to have said that Tawang and other parts of Arunachal Pradesh cannot be exchanged to achieve a border settlement.
According to the Left leaders, the border problem with Arunachal, handed in legacy, has to be settled through negotiations. And while there has to be give and take, it has to be without a transfer of population.
In another reflection of the challenges the government faces, this time in getting its allies to back certain crucial economic and other legislations, there will be a protest by tribals on Thursday against the Scheduled Tribes (Recognition of Forest Rights) bill which has been listed for consideration and passing.
Similarly, the government cannot proceed with the Banking Regulation and Pension Fund Regulatory and Authority bills unless the Left agrees. These legislations are stuck on the Left demand that an employee be assured 50% of his average earnings of the last three years in service (pension bill) and their opposition to 74 per cent FDI and takeover of private Indian banks by foreign banks (Banking regulation bill).
At a meeting of UPA constituents and their supporting partners, including the Left, on Wednesday, it was decided to put these legislations on hold. But the contentious Women’s Reservation Bill would be tabled in Parliament in the ongoing session and then routed to the Standing Committee.
For the Manmohan Singh government, the success or failure of the session hinges on the passage of at least one of the three bills which is expected to set the stage for the next generation of economic reforms. Failure to get any of these economic bills would spell stagnation and a setback for a Government that has completed half its term and has to accelerate the pace of reforms and development so that it touches the lives of people ahead of the next round of Lok Sabha polls in 2009.
The Manmohan Singh government’s achievements includes its foreign policy initiatives, the signing of the Indo-US nuclear deal, trying to keep the momentum on peace talks with Pakistan. Besides running the Congress’ first coalition government at the Centre, the PM also presided over a booming economy. This has, however, been marred by farmers’ suicides, agrarian distress and price rise—all of which will be debated in the House.
On Thursday, the Rajya Sabha would debate either the internal security scenario or the panchayati raj report (which will be tabled on Thursday). The other items for discussion include the sealing controversy in Delhi which is expected to be taken up in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday. The Sachar report will be tabled on Monday.
With these challenges before him, the PM recently said that while he was very satisfied with his government’s performance, there were miles to go.