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Pranab calls Opposition leaders for consultation on budget session
January, 28th 2011

The government will try to make one more attempt to break the parliamentary impasse at a luncheon meeting called by Leader of the House Pranab Mukherjee on February 8.

In letters sent out to Opposition party leaders here on Thursday, Mr. Mukherjee invited them for mutual consultations at Parliament House Annexe in relation to the coming budget session.

The winter session was a wash-out barring the very first day. With a heavy financial agenda and the fear of a constitutional breakdown in the event of the budget not being passed within the stipulated time the Finance Bill has normally to be adopted by May 1 the government wants to explore every possibility through consultations to ensure that the Budget session is not a repeat of the winter fiasco.

The Left parties have indicated as have some others that they would like Parliament to function normally. However, while some leaders have interpreted this to mean that the government should concede the Opposition demand for a joint parliamentary committee to probe the 2G spectrum allocation scandal, others see in this a softening of the Opposition stand.

Smita Gupta reports:

In her address to the nation on the eve of the Republic Day, President Pratibha Patil had stressed that it was the joint responsibility of all stakeholders to ensure the smooth functioning of Parliament.

The government, which has made it clear that it will not yield to the Opposition on the JPC issue has, however, offered some face savers. At the last round of discussions, convened by the Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, on the two closing days of 2010, Mr. Mukherjee had renewed the offer of a special session of Parliament to discuss the 2G spectrum scam. Another idea that is being considered in government circles is that the Opposition could be encouraged to debate the subject when the President's Address to Parliament in the coming budget session is taken up for discussion, given that the speech may well include references to corruption: the President's Address on Tuesday touched on the subject.

Hopeful

Government sources told The Hindu that they were hopeful that the Pranab meeting would yield a compromise, as the last round of discussions had broken the ice. After two consecutive days of concerted talks with Opposition leaders, even though Ms. Kumar did not succeed in breaking the parliamentary deadlock, both the government and she were satisfied with the progress made.

One, most of the non-BJP Opposition leaders, while not abandoning the demand for a JPC, had accepted that the budget session should run. As for the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders L.K. Advani and Sushma Swaraj, who had participated in the discussions, neither had issued any negative statement thereafter. Indeed, government sources said Ms. Swaraj had admitted that there was need to find a way to end the impasse. Taken together, these were interpreted in Congress circles as signs of softening on the part of the Opposition.

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