Winter session will generate heat for UPA (Curtain Raiser)

November 20th, 2011 - 5:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party New Delhi, Nov 20 (IANS) The Lokpal bill, uncontrolled inflation, corruption… a slew of issues will play out in the month-long winter session of parliament beginning Tuesday and the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government will be hard put to put up a strong defence of its omissions and commissions.

Political circles are keenly awaiting developments on the Lokpal bill. Team Anna has threatened to launch another agitation if a “strong Lokpal bill” is not passed.

Inflation is likely to lead to fireworks, with the opposition - both the Left and the right - closing ranks. An adjournment motion will be moved on the opening day, Communist Party of India’s Gurdas Dasgupta has said.

Lok Sabha opposition leader Sushma Swaraj has said that her Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) wants a discussion on price rise and black money.

The government will also face heat over corruption.

A leader of the Janata Dal-United, which is part of the NDA, said on condition of anonymity that the opposition alliance has “collected a lot of material to expose the government on the 2G (spectrum) issue, especially the role of Home Minister P. Chidambaram when he was finance minister”, as well as black money stashed away in foreign countries.

“UPA-II has been on the defensive on issues of corruption and inflation for more than a year. The winter session will test whether the alliance can recover ground and move forward,” Mridula Mukherjee, professor in New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), told IANS.

For firefighting, the Congress-led UPA is expected to field its key troubleshooter, Finance Minister Minister Pranab Mukherjee, who is leader of the house in the Lok Sabha.

Though the Lokpal bill is listed as the first among 31 bills for “consideration and passage”, the Congress is adopting a cautious approach saying the bill is before the standing committee.

Congress president Sonia Gandhi has said her party favoured “an effective, strong Lokpal bill”.

Indications from the standing committee are that it will finalise the bill by Dec 7.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, chairman of the committee, has said that the committee had reached near consensus on 10-12 major issues but did not comment on reports that there were differences on bringing the prime minister under the Lokpal.

Political circles feel the government will try to avoid a confrontation with Team Anna, which has threatened to campaign against the Congress in the assembly polls next year if a “strong Lokpal bill is not passed”.

Two other key bills to fight corruption - the whistleblowers bill and the judicial accountability bill - are also scheduled for passage.

But another key bill - the land acquisition bill - will not be taken up. The standing committee could not reach a consensus on it.

The companies bill, the pension regulatory and development authority bill, and the mines and minerals development bill will also come up for passage.

The women’s reservation bill, passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2009, is listed for business in the Lok Sabha. But this may just be a ritual.

Some regional issues expected to find an echo in the session include the demand for a Telangana state, the Mayawati government’s decision to divide Uttar Pradesh into four states and the blockade-hit Manipur.

(George Joseph can be contacted at george.j@ians.in)

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