With the Monsoon Session of Parliament set to begin on April 8, Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde has been nominated as the leader of the house in the Lok Sabha. He comes in place of President Pranab Mukherjee, who resigned when he contested the presidential election.
Shinde, who just last week was elevated from Power to the home ministry portfolio, had been selected by congress president Sonia Gandhi to become the leader of the house in a decision taken at the time Pranab Mukherjee was made the United Progressive Alliance candidate for the Rashtrapati Bhawan.
Sources said that Nationalist Congress Party Sharad Pawar had certain problems with Shinde's elevation as leader of the Lok Sabha and that he wanted a meeting of the leaders of United Progressive Alliance coalition parties to take a decision on this, but the Congress appears to have brushed this aside and gone ahead with Shinde's appointment.
There are various reasons for the Shinde's elevation. While he is a Dalit, Shinde is also a known Gandhi family loyalist. Apart from that, he has an amiable nature and can get along with opposition leaders as it is primarily the job of the leader of the house to keep leaders of various parties in good humour, tackle sensitive problems and issues, keep them on board on crucial decisions and interact with them as and when required.
It is also part of the leader's duty to ensure that the opposition does not create problems for the ruling coalition beyond a point.
Pranab as the leader of the Lok Sabha was the chief troubleshooter for the government and had an authorative and commanding presence which the opposition respected.
He was also immensely knowledgeable and erudite and would answer the opposition queries in a way that Shinde might find difficult to emulate.
The government has begun preparations for the Monsoon Session, as well as the voting for the vice president's election which is to take place on August 7. While the government managers are confident of a victory for Hamid Ansari, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal has written to the general secretaries, the convenors of all parliament groups state wise as well as met up with the chief whips to ask them to ensure that no member of Parliament from the UPA votes wrongly or makes mistakes as was the case in the President's election where the votes of some MPs were declared invalid.
As she did in the case of Pranab, Congress president Sonia Gandhi is hosting a lunch for the UPA MPs on August 6, the eve of voting to ensure that all the MPs are in the capital and that they vote for Ansari.
There has been some criticism on why she is hosting a lunch when Ramzan is on and Muslim MPs who are observing Roza would not be able to eat at the convention hall of Hotel Ashoka.
Bansal replied to this by saying that they tried hard to find a venue for dinner but it was not available, and had to settle for lunch out of compulsion.
While the opposition is expected to target P Chidambaram, who will face Parliament as the new finance minister, there is no sign of the Lokpal Bill in the current session. According to the Select Committee Chairman Satyavrat Chaturvedi, the Bill is not ready and would not be brought to Parliament in the Monsoon Session.
Sources say that with the President and vice president election out of the way, and with the government having shown steely resolve in neither entertaining nor succumbing before Team Anna who have now broken their fast, the UPA is looking more confident in taking on the opposition and wants to send the signal that it is on a moral high ground and feeling better than in the last three years of UPA-II.