Budget session: It's now time for Maya to flex her muscles

The closure of the first half of the budget session would be comforting for the ruling Congress. The month-long recess gives it the much required breather from the controversy over the Sri Lankan Tamil issue and further explaining on the misuse of the CBI among a host of other prickly issues.

If a day ago the entire Congress leadership had a difficult time explaining CBI raids on Stalin, there was a certain aura of confidence about it today after it managed to win over Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and finally secured the return of the two Italian marines to face murder trial in India.

The coming Karnataka elections, scheduled for 5 May, may give the Congress additional reason to indulge in a bit of smugness. Thanks to the state of affairs in the BJP and Yeddyurappa, the Congress has an advantage here. A victory in the state would give the party an ideal opportunity to vouch for Rahul Gandhi's charisma and his ability to mobilise voters. That too, when BJP's undeclared prime ministerial challenger, Narendra Modi would also be campaigning.

Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati. PTI

Bahujan Samaj Party supremo Mayawati. PTI

After all, it was only a fortnight ago that Rahul Gandhi spoke of his intention not to marry, not to have children and not to be in the race for prime ministership. It was hugely disappointing for the vast mass of Congress leaders and workers. Good poll results in Karnataka would give party leaders the opportunity to reaffirm their faith in his leadership and raise a fresh clamour for 'Rahul for PM'.

That’s the brighter side of the recess and the post-recess period for the Congress. But then the fact remains that the wounds that have been inflicted on its body in the past few days are deep and fresh, any further assault on this injury could aggravate the political situation. If for the past days the Bahujan Samaj Party and its Czarina Mayawati had been quietly watching the unfolding games of political brinkmanship first by the DMK and then by her arch rival Samajwadi Party, they would like to have their turn to be in the focus of attention.

In the first half of the Budget session, she allowed the UPA leadership to fully devote its energies to constitutional obligations such as presentation and passage of the general and railway budgets and time-barred legislations such as ratifying the three ordinances, including the one on criminal law amendment (anti-rape bill). At the beginning of the budget session, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, in his media briefing, had listed Mayawati’s pet issue, the Constitution (117th Amendment) Bill, 2012 – Reservation in services to SCs/STs, as passed by Rajya Sabha on the Number 1 for consideration and passage in Lok Sabha.

In last Winter session, bowing to Mayawati’s pressure the government pushed the bill in Rajya Sabha and got it passed but it could not be passed in Lok Sabha despite UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi taking a pro-active position in the party and an aggressive posturing inside the House. It seemed that Sonia and Mayawati had found common cause on the issue against the Samajwadi Party.

Mayawati is sure to push hard for the bill in the second half of the Budget session, which would open on 22 April. But then this time around Sonia Gandhi can’t show the same aggression against Samajawadi Party (which has 22 MPs) that she displayed in the Winter Session in December last year. After exit of DMK (18 MPs) and earlier of Trinamool Congress (19) the government survives on outside support of two Uttar Pradesh parties. If the Congress again joins hands with the Bahujan Samaj Party on the quota issue it will run the risk of pulling the trigger by the Samajwadi Party. But then if it does not push the bill the way it did few months ago then it would surely make Mayawati very angry. An angry Mayawati would not be very predictable.

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