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The UPA guide to surviving on thin majority

india Updated: Mar 27, 2010 00:36 IST
Vinod Sharma
Vinod Sharma
Hindustan Times
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The ruling UPA has figured a way to survive without the support of Lalu Yadav and Mulayam Singh Yadav: persuade amenable opposition MPs to stay away from the House, specially during voting.

And postpone the controversial women’s reservation bill to hold on to the Yadavs as long as possible. The bill is likely to be brought up in the monsoon session, now.

“The other (and the third) part of the game plan is ensuring full attendance of our MPs,” a UPA official told HT.

The ‘no-show’ strategy will be in play in the second half of the Budget session that resumes on April 16 — to ensure the government’s survival by preventing the fall of a money bill, a legislation seeking the House’s approval for an expense.

The loss of committed support from Mulayam Yadav’s SP and Lalu Yadav’s RJD has left the Congress-led coalition
with a wafer-thin majority at 276, just four more than the half way mark in the 545-member Lok Sabha.

In the Rajya Sabha, the UPA can’t count on the support of more than 100 against the Opposition’s 130-plus in a 250-strong House with an effective strength of 239.

“We can’t take chances with the kind of numbers we have,” remarked a Congress MP, explaining the UPA’s new floor strategy.

The alliance will target individuals and groups in all parties, notably those without firm policy alignments with the BJP-NDA, the Left and SP-RJD, he said. Such entities including the BJD, TDP, TRS, MDMK and Haryana Janhit Congress have 30-odd MPs in the Lower House.

It’s in the hope of such support that the government is determined to introduce in the LS — and send for scrutiny by a parliamentary committee — the controversial civil liability for nuclear damage legislation resisted by the Left and the BJP.

But despite the principal opposition and the Left’s support, consideration of the women’s reservation bill is almost certain to be delayed till Parliament’s Monsoon session starting in June-July.

By deferring the women’s bill, the government hopes to ensure the smooth passage of the financial business and provide room for inter-party consultations led from the Congress side by Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

In return for its support, the BJP has put the rather difficult pre-condition of House debate without use of force against its opponents.

In UPA circles, the BJP stand is perceived as “incentive” for rowdy conduct — persistent disruptions, walking into the well of the House and sloganeering.

The Bill’s passage in the Rajya Sabha had necessitated suspension and physical ejection of its opponents who were in a clear minority.

Many formulae are in circulation to strike a meeting ground with opposing parties. But an early breakthrough appears remote.

“Keeping the status quo is the option the Bill’s opponents will accept without demur,” said a senior Parliament staff, with a chuckle.