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Parliament heads for gridlock as consent on financial reform bills unlikely
May, 18th 2013

The government is entering a distinctly familiar situation: a paralysing parliamentary stand-off with the opposition over a new set of issues that include a leaked JPC report that absolves Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P Chidambaram of any wrongdoing in controversial 2G spectrum allocations and allegations of ministerial intervention in CBI investigations into the coal scam.

A combined opposition on Friday made clear its plans to haul the government over the coals in Parliament over the two financial scandals under the UPA's charge.

The DMK and the Trinamool Congress could join the efforts of the Opposition, but for varying reasons. Former telecom minister A Raja has already threatened to take his fight against the government leadership to the Supreme Court.

All these could also provide an opportunity for a belligerent Samajwadi Party that lends support to the UPA from outside to settle scores with the government. The result could see the government being pushed into a politically tight spot.

The two houses of parliament will be in session for just 13 days and signals emanating from political parties on the rival side do not augur well for government's legislative agenda. A partisan paralysis is certain to come in the way of the government's plans to use the remainder of the budget session to pass key items of the Congress' agenda that include its ambitious programme on food security and the land acquisition bill.

The growing distance between the government and the opposition could shrink the room for any constructive deal-making on the financial sector reform bills. The finance minister has been promising action on the insurance and pension reform bills in the coming session of Parliament, but this can be achieved only if the BJP plays ball.

Although the finance minister held one round of talks with the BJP leaders, the principal opposition party is yet to offer its support for the two bills. BJP leader Yashwant Sinha reminded the government in an ET interview this week that it needs his party's cooperation and this can happen only if it is sought in the right spirit by the ruling side.

The ruling party will need a successful session to arrest the slide in its job approval ratings. A failure to carry forward the legislative business will only strengthen the impression of a drift in governance and give another opportunity to Narendra Modi to ratchet up his attack on the government over the health of the economy.

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