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Cong post budget session
August, 08th 2009

It was a honeymoon cut short for the newly-elected UPA-II this Budget session, even as the fallout of Prime Minister Manmohan Singhs visit to red sea resort of Sharm-el-Sheikh brought the post-election feel good period to an end.

The Congress hubris of numbers in the Lok Sabha outlived the Indo-Pak fiasco scripted in Egypt mid-way through the session. But, by the time Parliament adjourned sine die on Friday, the figure of 314 MPs buffeting government side looked considerably emaciated.

The Yadav brethren Mulayam Singh and Lalu Prasad who are outside supporters of the Congress-led coalition seemed arraigned on the Opposition side, given the formers anti-government interjections on the RIL-RNRL gas row and the latters stinging pot shots at missing Congress ministers in the House.

Left out in the cold by Congress, which failed to deliver on the promise of a co-ordination mechanism, the out-of-power SP and RJD made their irritation with Congress amply clear even taking the uncharacteristic hard-line position on Pakistan during the debate on the Indo-Pak joint statement.

BSP, for its part, was fighting its Uttar Pradesh battles with Congress in Parliament even as any co-ordination worth its name actually took place unofficially among the Opposition BJP and the Left. On neutral issues ranging from the 2G Spectrum scam to price rise and the Judges (Declaration of Liabilities and Assets) Bill, the government was cornered. As law minister Veerappa Moily, who stood up to introduced the Judges Bill found out, Congress lack of numbers in the Rajya Sabha could easily trip up the government in a crunch situation.

The fracas over missing ministers during the moving of the Rubber (Amendment) Bill in Lok Sabha reinforced the notion that Congress ministers were not taking their responsibilities seriously even Congress chief Sonia Gandhis issued strictures against poor attendance in the Houses. The goof ups due to lack of co-ordination at parliamentary affairs level were pounced on by an eager Opposition.

Other than a handful of senior ministers, the UPA ministerial might of 70 was hard to spot. DMKs Azhagiri refuses to answer questions in Parliament, Tamil Nadus opposition AIADMK charged, even as TCs Mamata Banerjee was conspicuous by her absence at a lunch for all parties hosted by the government MPs after stormy Cabinet meeting the night before. Her party opposed disinvestment in the House and the Land Bill outside.

The answer to where things started to get difficult for the UPA is easy to spot: In the innocuous-looking two lines in Indo-Pak joint statement, one debracketing terrorism and the dialogue process and the other mentioning Balochistan. It became the pivot around which other issues coalesced. BJP, which was until then battling its own demons of in-fighting after the debacle of the Lok Sabha elections, happily embraced the opportunity to fight the PMs surrender of Indias interests.

But it was Congress which queered the pitch further with its resolute silence on whether it backed the PMs new Pakistan initiatives. Ms Gandhi spoke up in favour of the PM finally, but not before Mr Singh signalled against the resumption of the dialogue process.

All in all, what began as a chance to build on a handsome election mandate for Congress turned out to be a missed opportunity for the UPA government.

 
 
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