By Dr. Satish Misra

The markets would be watching the Winter session of the Parliament very keenly and closely, as many legislations that would impact the business environment in India are scheduled to be tabled during the period.

The expectedly one-month long winter session of Parliament, started November 22, is crucial for both the ruling combine as well as for the opposition. It is likely to end on December 20. It is one of the most crucial sessions of the 15th Lok Sabha that is going to determine the dynamics of the next general elections and thus the course of country’s politics for the next few years.  

While the UPA is striving to make a sailing, the combined opposition including the BJP and the Left would try to prevent the government from getting its legislative agenda through, as both the sides prepare the grounds for the next electoral battle. The storm and stalemate on FDI may be seen as a step in that direction.

However, it seems highly unlikely that the opposition would like to precipitate a political crisis beyond repair as the results of the two Assembly elections in Himachal and Gujarat are going to be announced on the last day of the session. Results of the two Assembly elections are going to impact the national politics in a major way. Without knowing the mood of the people, no political party would like to precipitate a crisis which may result in early general elections.

Borrowing from V S Naipaul, the country finds itself at present confronted with “A million mutinies now” which are being provoked by boundless egos of individual political leaders who are nursing ambitions of occupying the country’s top executive post irrespective of the fact whether they have the competence or skills to navigate the nation from the present phase of economic and social turmoil.      

There are contradictions galore in the political system particularly in the political parties and that is why it is not easy to guess the course of events in Parliament which would decide the fate of the ruling dispensation. Every political party outside the government has a strong desire to improve its electoral performance in the 16th Lok Sabha which would ultimately determine 
the nature and complexion of the next government in New Delhi.    

The government is working on a strategy which derives its strength from the fact that no MP barring few leaders of the opposition particularly the BJP is ready to go for elections. Despite loud words from different party leaders, chances of the survival of the government are decent. The government appears to be ready to work in the spirit of give and take and is reportedly working on conceding grounds to the opposition on the Lokpal and Land Acquisition Bills.

There may be further negotiation between the government and the opposition on other important legislations like the Banking Laws Amendment bill, Insurance and Pension bill but this is going to be a very tough exercise as raising the limit of the cap on foreign direct investment from the present 26 percent to 49 percent is a politically sensitive issue for most of the political parties.

The government would ideally like to get some of the crucial bills passed and then go for a popular budget in the budget session but it would depend upon as how it is able to play its number game. 

If the Government is able to carry the opposition along and its allies in conducting pending legislative business then the Congress led United Progressive Alliance would not only succeed in sending a message of a performing government but would also shed its negative image.

First and foremost, the Government needs enough numbers on its side to be able to avert the threat of a no-confidence motion which is being proposed by the Trianamool Congress. The government, it seems, has started working to get its act together.

Working under a plan prepared by newly appointed Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has begun a series of Lunch and Dinner meeting with important allies and leaders of the parties which are supporting the government from outside.

On Friday, November 9, the Prime Minister hosted a dinner for the supreme leader of Samajwadi Party Mulayam Singh Yadav and his son UP Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and has reportedly discussed his strategy to push the agenda of the government.

Similarly, the Prime Minister met the BSP chief Mayawati over a lunch on Sunday, November 11 and reportedly discussed ways to insulate his government from the threats of the opposition.

While Mayawati has declined to give details of the talks that she had with the Prime Minister calling it a routine meeting, it is believed that she did raise the demand for an early passage of the bill for promotions for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in government jobs, which is scheduled to be taken up in Parliament this session. The Bill had been introduced in the Rajya Sabha in the last session.  

With the no-confidence motion of TMC unable to muster the required numbers for being tabled, the government is already secured on the front. Its list of legislative agenda include Lokpal Bill, the Food Security Bill, the Judicial Accountability Bill, the Land Acquisition Bill and many others.

The BJP sounded its battle bugle by declaring that it was opposed to FDI and it would seek to unite the entire opposition parties under this battle cry. Left to it, the BJP would not mind aligning its strategy with the Left parties on this particular issue but whether the latter would like to be seen working together with BJP is yet another political dilemma which the Left front would have to resolve.

Both the ruling UPA as well as the heterogeneous opposition have to work hard to succeed in their respective objectives but nothing can be ruled out at present.

The markets have expressed their unhappiness with the development of the winter-session so far, with the BSE ending with a symbolic 10-point negative on the closing bell on Friday.

About the author: Dr. Satish Misra, a Ph. D, from Humboldt University (Berlin), has more than 40 years of active journalism to his credit. He was at the Jawaharlal Nehru University. He has worked for radio, television and the print media including Patriot, The Tribune, Amrita Bazar Patrika and Deutsche Welle.
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