The UPA government is likely to be on the backfoot during the monsoon session of Parliament not because the Opposition is cohesive and strong enough to put it on the mat but due to its own contradictions and limitations. The government has given enough fodder to its adversaries to trip it up.
Even though the price rise is a significant issue that touches the aam aadmi the most, it will be surprising if any meaningful debate on the subject will be held since the Opposition as well as the treasury benches may spend more time deliberating on other matters. This will be a sad commentary and unsatisfactory responses from both sides on such an important subject will certainly have its implications when the elections are held.
As things stand, Parliament is expected to be more occupied with disclosures of financial scams, corruption, the Bhopal gas leak case, the failed talks in Pakistan, the problem in Kashmir, railway mishaps, illegal mining in Karnataka, the Bihar polls and the impending Commonwealth Games fiasco. In addition, there will be heated exchanges on how various government functionaries have made it routine to pass comments on their colleagues while their own performance in some instances leaves much to be desired. One case in point could also be that of Foreign Minister SM Krishna lashing out at Home Secretary GK Pillai for his ‘avoidable and uncalled for’ remarks on the eve of the foreign ministers’ meet in Islamabad recently.
Pillai appears to be determined to go down in history as the most talkative home secretary given that none of his predecessors has been too eager to please the media with statements and left the talking to the political heads.
The Bhopal gas tragedy debate is likely to focus more on how Warren Anderson, former Union Carbide chief, was allowed to leave the country rather than on what happened to the $470 million deposited in the Reserve Bank of India in two separate accounts in February, 1989, under the operation of the Registrar of the Supreme Court.
Similarly, there may be questions on how A Raja is continuing as a minister despite allegations of irregularities against him. His name may figure during the mention of illegal mining in Karnataka where the Reddy brothers may feature and, in retaliation, the BJP will talk about alleged corruption at the Centre.
There is likely to be a ruckus in the House with the Bihar parties sparring on the floor in the run-up to the October elections in the state. Lalu Prasad and Ram Vilas Paswan will not allow Nitish Kumar and the BJP to get away unscathed. Similarly, business may be stalled with the Left parties baying for Railways Minister Mamata Banerjee’s blood and holding her responsible for the increasing accidents.
The Maoist issue could pit Home Minister P. Chidambaram against some others and it is possible that the support he expects from his colleagues may not be as strong given the criticism of the Centre’s Maoist policy by Congress general secretary Digvijay Singh whose claim that his views were those of the party has not been contested by anyone so far.
The government’s desire to introduce the Women’s Reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha and several other important legislative matters may not be fulfilled. The budget session where the government was forced to solicit support of even its adversaries to get the cut motion through is likely to be replicated as far as poor political management by the Congress goes both on the floor of the House and outside. This will take place in the backdrop of speculation that relations between the government and the Congress are not as cordial as they used to be.
The session will also lead to the celebration of Independence day when PM Manmohan Singh, while unfurling the tricolour for the seventh time, will become the longest serving head of government after Nehru and Indira. But the monsoon session will be a huge disappointment. Between us.