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Winter session set to face chaos

Serious differences among parties over pending legislations are likely to make Parliament proceedings unwieldy.

india Updated: Nov 19, 2006 12:18 IST

A Kashmiri man ordered to hang, seats for women in legislatures, quotas for the underprivileged in educational institutions and free market reforms - the winter session of the Parliament starting on Wednesday is expected to see disruptions from day one on all these issues.

Serious differences among political parties over pending legislations could make the proceedings unwieldy, and a worried Speaker Somnath Chatterjee is holding frantic meetings with top political leaders to find out how best to run the 545-seat House.

While the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is set to put the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government in the dock over the sealing and demolitions of illegal shops in the national capital, the Left has vowed to pursue its diehard opposition to unbridled free-market economic policies.

The almost month-long session - scheduled to end on December 19 - is significant as it is expected to take up many important bills.

These include a long pending one seeking to reserve 33 per cent of seats in Parliament and state assemblies for women and to ensure 49.5 per cent seats in higher educational institutions - 27 per cent for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), 15 per cent for Scheduled Castes and 7.5 for Scheduled Tribes.

The Supreme Court's directive to exempt the "creamy layer" from among the Dalits and tribals from the reservation privileges has irked many political parties including Left and some allies of the Congress-led UPA.

"The complexity of the issue and the confusion will certainly be reflected in Parliament," said a minister who did not want to be identified.

The bill for 27 per cent OBC reservation that was introduced in Parliament is pending with the Parliamentary Standing Committee of the Human Resource Development ministry. It would submit its report in the coming session.

Speaker Chatterjee has begun efforts to ensure a smooth functioning of the House by hosting meetings over meals with political leaders. He has met leaders of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance, UPA and its supporting parties separately.

BJP leaders said they would stall the proceedings on the first day itself.

"We are planning to stall the House demanding immediate execution of Afzal Guru," the man sentenced to death for the 2001 attack on Indian Parliament, BJP MP Santosh Gangwar said.

Afzal, who is from Jammu and Kashmir, has appealed for clemency to President APJ Abdul Kalam.

"Then we have a series of issues to put the government on mat like price rise, farmer suicides, sealing and demolitions in Delhi," Gangwar said.

The government may have to face ire from both the BJP and the Left for its unwillingness to cut fuel prices in the wake of a downfall in the international prices.

"The international prices are its lowest now. We are of the view that the government should reduce the domestic prices too," the BJP leader said.

The government has rejected the demand saying the fall in international prices was temporary.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) and its three Left allies that support the UPA government have warned of protests against the economic policies in this session too.

Pointing out that the government decision to open 100 franchise postal outlets throughout India amounted to "privatisation", CPI-M general secretary Prakash Karat said: "The move is absolutely contrary to the Common Minimum Programme (CMP, the agenda of governance for the coalition). We have asked our MPs to take up the issue in Parliament."

The government may have to face another hurdle: lack of consensus over the controversial women's bill. Even many UPA allies like the Rashtriya Janata Dal and Samajwadi Party have reservations on the legislation.

Although the passage of the India-US nuclear agreement bill in the US Senate has given a boost to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government, the Left still has reservations on the deal.

First Published: Nov 19, 2006 12:18 IST