Post the assembly poll results, a weakened Congress will have to counter a strong Opposition in the Budget Session of the Parliament that begins today, as the NDA has decided to take up the issue of “assault” on federalism by the UPA government and press for early passage of the Lokpal Bill.
The NDA meeting, which took stock of the parliamentary agenda at a meeting in New Delhi, has decided to throw its weight behind issues that are causing friction within the ruling side, which is why passing big-bang reforms in Budget 2012 is not going to be an easy task for Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
The BJP-led Opposition is all set to corner the government from issues like price rise and corruption to National Counter Terrorism Centre, FDI in retail, the ISRO controversy, quota politics and the fishermen killing incident involving two Italian naval personnel.
“In every bill, legislation or every order coming out of the government UPA is increasing its power and curtailing the powers of the states. We want to discuss this assault on federalism on a priority basis,” senior BJP leader SS Ahluwalia said yesterday referring to the formation of NCTC.
But not just the BJP, even government allies like Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress has a hard stand against NCTC, price rise and retail FDI. Moreover, post the UP elections passing the bill on allowing FDI in retail is going to be an even more difficult task for the government as the Samajwadi Party manifesto had said that it will not allow FDI in the retail sector.
Mamata has already said that her party cannot be expected to back pension or insurance reform. Although the BJP is supporting this legislation, the Congress may not find itprudent to push ahead with the bills without the support of its key allies.
Even Senior BJP leader LK Advani on Saturday said black money will be the most pressing issue in the Budget Session, adding that he wants to know what action has been taken to get back the black money stashed abroad.
The Left will also take on the government on price rise among other issues.
“The election mandate should tell the Congress that people are not in favour of its anti-people policies and they should not push for such agenda,” said CPM leader Brinda Karat on Sunday.
Sensing trouble, the government has already put the ban on cotton exports on hold as BJP threatened to disrupt proceedings if the ban was not lifted by 12 March.
The first indication that the government may be forced to go soft this Budget Session came with the Parliament’s standing committee on direct tax code recommended people-friendly measures like raising income tax exemption up to Rs 3 lakh, special rebates for senior citizens and women and deductions for individual tax payers to be focussed on long-term needs like social security. The government is likely to adopt these recommendations in the Budget.
The political downslide has come at a time when the central government t is required to meet the fresh bouts of economic slowdown and deliver on promises made to the common man.
The government is likely to call an all-party meeting soon to discuss contentious issues. The first part of the budget session will conclude on March 30, resuming after the recess on April 24. The session is expected to conclude on May 22.
This Parliemantary Session is extremely important as much depends on the behaviour of the Samajwadi Party and the BSP in the changed political ambience, but the key question is whether the government can deliver on the much-awaited reforms or not.