The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre stumps Opposition on Day One

New Delhi, Nov. 18: The ruling National Democratic Alliance pulled off a coup of sorts on the first day of what threatened to be a “stormy” winter session by admitting the CPM-sponsored adjournment motion on communal violence in Gujarat’s context without ado.

Instead of the acrimonious debates of the past, today’s discussion petered out into a ritual with the Opposition and the BJP reiterating their known stands on the issue.

Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani echoed the Prime Minister’s line of how his party and other organisations should ensure that the Gujarat election was free and fair and governance and the safety of minorities were key issues.

Well-placed government sources said at a high-level meeting at the Prime Minister’s residence yesterday to formulate the strategy for the winter session, it was decided that an “aggressive” approach would be adopted without making it apparent.

Three “problem” areas were identified — Gujarat, the just-concluded Uttar Pradesh political impasse, and disinvestment.

Instead of engaging in a confrontation with the Opposition and creating a deadlock, the government decided to oblige and accommodate the other side without making any fuss. So, when the CPM proposed to move an adjournment motion on Gujarat this morning when Parliament opened, the Speaker admitted it.

“We have a comfortable majority and our allies are with us,” asserted government sources. In the past, whenever an NDA constituent seemed belligerent or refused to toe the official line, the government would be in a spot.

Congress sources admitted that the Speaker’s ready acceptance put them on the backfoot. Like the rest of the Opposition, the Congress’ calculation was that the government would not oblige them on Gujarat, noisy scenes would follow, a walkout would be staged and the House adjourned.

The Opposition’s lack of preparedness was reflected in the empty benches seen through the debate. During the post-lunch session, the House was nearly adjourned for want of quorum.

Parliamentary affairs ministry managers got into the act and rustled up NDA MPs who were lounging in the Central Hall or the library so that the session was resumed within minutes.

“We could have exposed the Opposition by having an adjournment and made the political point that the Opposition’s attitude was non-serious. It would have helped us in Gujarat. But we decided not to because we need their help for transacting serious legislative business,” said BJP sources.

The ruling party has obliged Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s request to bring another adjournment motion on drought on Wednesday.

The Congress hoped to put the government on the mat by pointing out how funds were not released for states ruled by the party but the BJP has already marshalled its counter-points. “It is not proper to politicise starvation deaths. It is also wrong to blame the Centre for this since Congress governments have not lifted the foodgrains,” alleged BJP spokesman V.K. Malhotra.

Another adjournment motion, sought by the Samajwadi Party, to discuss the role of the Uttar Pradesh Governor during the recent political crisis may be admitted next week. However, the motion would be phrased differently from what the Samajwadi wanted since under the rules of the House, the conduct of a Governor cannot be debated, said government sources.

The government also hoped to pass important Bills during this session, including the UTI, SEBI, and Securitisation Bills, the Central Vigilance Commission, Bio-diversity, Freedom of Information, Fiscal Responsibility and Budget Management, and Competition Bills and amend the People’s Representation Act.

However, the Lokpal and the Women’s Reservation Bills were unlikely to come up in this session, said sources.

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