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Manmohan seeks wisdom at Raisina Hills

August 22, 2013 22:07 IST

Manmohan seeks wisdom at Raisina Hills

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Anita Katyal

Faced with one crisis after another, the beleaguered ruling alliance desperately needs a seasoned politician like Pranab Mukherjee to bail it out, says Anita Katyal

After Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s luncheon meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee last week, it was the turn of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to call on the President on Thursday.

The two meetings come at a time when the United Progressive Alliance government is facing its worst ever crisis: the country is confronted with a serious economic slowdown, the rupee is sliding, there appears to be no let up in the confrontation between Indian and Pakistani armies at the line of control, corruption scandals continue to haunt the ruling alliance and the Lok Sabha is paralysed while the government’s “game-changer” legislation, the Food Security Bill, is still awaiting passage.

All these issues are learnt to have figured in the conversation between the President and Dr Singh on Thursday afternoon.

As former Lok Sabha leader and the UPA government’s trouble-shooter, Mukherjee had helped the ruling coalition tide over many crises.

Even after he took up residence at the Rashtrapati Bhavan over a year ago, the Congress top brass invariably turns to Mukherjee for advise when it finds itself in trouble.

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Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde, who succeeded Mukherjee as Lok Sabha leader, has not been able to deal with the day-to-day problems which keep surfacing during the session.

It was, therefore, left to Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath to deal with the opposition and ensure the smooth functioning of the two Houses.

Nath got off to a flying start. He came in for fulsome praise when he delivered the numbers needed by the UPA government to win the vote in the contentious FDI debate last winter.

Having lived up to his reputation of being an excellent political manager, Congress circles were convinced that Kamal Nath was the right man for the task entrusted to him. After all, he was known for his negotiating skills and had forged excellent personal relations with leaders from across the political spectrum.

Nath’s legendary skills were on test in the ongoing session as Congress President Sonia Gandhi’s pet welfare measure -- the Food Security Bill -- was to be passed.

Having failed to deliver on this, questions are now being raised about Nath’s handling of the situation. He is clearly at his wits end as the BJP has changed its strategy. Instead of opposing the government’s key legislations, they have been delaying them on some pretext or the other.

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Image: Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath


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Manmohan seeks wisdom at Raisina Hills

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Many Congress leaders privately maintain that though he started off well, the Parliamentary affairs minister appears to have lost his touch. Faced with one crisis after another, the beleaguered ruling alliance desperately needs a seasoned politician like Mukherjee to bail it out.

It is, therefore, not surprising that Sonia and Dr Singh often turn to Mukherjee when they find themselves floundering in the deep end.

Faced with incessant disruptions in the Lok Sabha and unable to replace the food security ordinance with a Bill, the UPA government is mulling the option of extending the monsoon session till September 4.

An ordinance has to be converted into a Bill within six weeks of the opening day of a Parliament session. The Centre has, therefore, to complete this exercise by September 15, failing which the ordinance will lapse. In such a situation, the government will have to re-promulgate the ordinance and then push for its passage in the winter session.

The passage of the food Bill apart, the UPA government has also been singed by coalgate once again following reports that several key files on coal allocations have been missing.

Both Houses were disrupted as the opposition insisted that the Prime Minister should make a statement on this issue as they were not satisfied with Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal’s clarification.

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress president Sonia Gandhi with President Pranab Mukherjee


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Manmohan seeks wisdom at Raisina Hills

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After a prolonged stand-off between the opposition and the treasury, the government finally agreed on the former’s demand for a statement on the missing files from the Prime Minister as it is desperate to pass the food security bill. The discussion on the subject has been slated for tomorrow in the Rajya Sabha.

While the Upper House has settled down, the Lok Sabha plunged into chaos when Nath moved a resolution for the suspension of 11 MPs from Andhra Pradesh -- including seven Congress members -- who have been protesting against the formation of Telangana and holding up the debate on the food bill.

This was received with howls of protest from the opposition benches as a result of which the House was adjourned for the day. This came as a surprise for the government’s floor mangers who had earlier been assured by the BJP and Samajwadi Party leaders that they would support this motion.

This issue will now be taken up at an all-party meeting convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar on Friday morning. Till the controversy over the suspension of the 11 Andhra MPs is resolved, the Food Security Bill will continue to languish.

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses media persons outside Parliament


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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh addresses media persons outside Parliament

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