Parliament awash in light during the all-party meeting on Wednesday. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, March 20: The Centre’s assertion that it wasn’t worried about stability and hadn’t become any weaker after the DMK’s exit didn’t reflect in the handling of the Sri Lanka resolution.
Its wobbling over a resolution in Parliament through the day and confusion on amendments to be moved to the US-piloted resolution at the UN rights panel betrayed intense worries on the domestic political front.
Little clarity emerged on whether a resolution would be brought in Parliament, as demanded by the DMK, till an all-party meeting called by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar overwhelmingly opposed any such country-specific move, particularly against a friendly neighbour.
The government might have itself intended to get the proposal defeated by other parties while showing its positive intent to the DMK. But some sections of the Congress felt such ambiguity on foreign policy was self-defeating.
On the amendments, too, sources said the government was willy-nilly undoing its own efforts to weaken the US resolution at the last minute.
Although expressions like genocide and international investigation were ruled out, there was a proposal under consideration on demanding an “internationally-accepted” probe. The Congress core committee discussed the matter this afternoon.
The government was giving utmost importance to the China factor and was firm in its belief that emotions won’t be allowed to override strategic interests, but the late decision to move amendments to strengthen the US resolution came as a shock to many.
Finance minister P. Chidambaram, speaking at a news conference this morning, said India would move amendments to the resolution to send a “resolute message” on Sri Lanka’s human rights and insisted this had nothing to do with the DMK or politics.
“It has nothing to do with the DMK pullout. The question is whether the anguish of the Tamil people has to be reflected,” said Chidambaram, briefing reporters along with parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath and information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari.
Other Congress leaders echoed the line, contending that the Centre could not show insensitivity to the people of a state only because there is no pressure from an alliance partner. The government is also concerned about protests in Tamil Nadu.
The government did not show any signs of worries over its survival, even though the Congress doesn’t expect the DMK to return.
Irritants like steel minister Beni Prasad Verma’s reckless remarks against Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, whose party’s shaky support is now as good as a lifeline, did not seem to rattle the leadership.
It seemed business as usual for the Congress. Rahul Gandhi continued his meetings with party leaders, entreating MPs from Uttar Pradesh today to redouble efforts to strengthen the party.
Asked about crutches, instability and uncertainties at the news conference, Chidambaram described it as a “wrong perception”. “The government functions through legislation and executive actions and we will continue doing that. We haven’t become weaker. We are in the government. It is our duty to steer the ship through the maelstrom and our hands are firmly on the wheel.”
Colleague Nath ruled out bringing a trust vote but dared anyone questioning the government’s majority to do so if they wished.
The finance minister, asked about possible policy paralysis and the effect on the country’s investment climate after the DMK’s exit, dispelled the apprehensions and sought to delink yesterday’s stock market slide and the RBI’s rate cut from the pullout.
“Fiscal consolidation is a path we shall never waver from. Yesterday’s market trends were a reflection of what happened in Cyprus and the RBI’s decisions and had nothing to do with the DMK’s exit. The bills we want to pass are necessary for the country and they stand on their own merit. And executive decisions we will continue to take and you will see investments flowing in.”