"Sudip, the doors are closed. But keep the windows open." This was parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath's advice to Trinamool Congress leader Sudip Bandopadhyay, weeks after Trinamool had withdrawn support from the UPA government.
As the going gets tough for the central government before Lok Sabha polls, Kamal Nath has been doing his bit to balance the delicate equations with not just Trinamool, but other opposition parties, such as the Left and BJP.
While several key challenges remain, his latest success came when the government managed to pass the motion to form a Joint Parliamentary Committee on the helicopter scam. The motion has created a rift in the opposition ranks.
His skills, however, will be tested when key legislations come up in Parliament. Nath has his hands full with 35 bills slated for passage in Parliament during the ongoing session.
His predecessor Pawan Kumar Bansal had initiated thrice a week meetings with UPA allies for better floor coordination. When Nath took over last October, he retained most of the Bansal's staff but stopped this practice.
Instead, he started special meetings with select parties of the opposition camp such as the BJP, Left, Trinamool, JD(U) and the two volatile outside supporters of the UPA-the Samajwadi Party and the Bahujan Samaj Party. These meetings -- coupled with exclusive chats with key opposition leaders-- are the hallmarks of his new style of floor management.
"I don't even inform all top leaders while talks are on with other parties. Once, just before the voting, I told Prime Minister what is likely to happen," Nath recently said at an informal gathering. He, however, persuaded the Left to tone down its opposition to Rajya Sabha deputy chairman PJ Kurien with a rider that Kurien will not preside over the House when women-related bills are discussed.