In the face of winter session of the Parliament, which commenced from November 22, the ruling party and the Opposition have pulled their socks. In all-party meeting convened by Lok Sabha Speaker Meira Kumar, it has transpired that the Opposition is hell-bent to armtwist the ruling dispensation on corruption along with many other issues. Notably, the government has already been pushed to corner on these issues. The government has tried to contain soaring prices since the previous session of the Parliament but no avail. With forthcoming assembly elections, it is natural that the Opposition could catch attention of people by cornering the government. Alongwith price hike, corruption will be an issue for the election campaign, because Anna Hazare wants Jan Lokpal to be passed in the winter session. However, the government has attached the importance to passing the Lokpal Bill, but it has also phrased out that the Bill cannot be drafted in consonance with Anna’s Jan Lokpal. The government will face heat even outside the Parliament on this issue, as indicated by Anna Hazare. 

Alongwith enhancement in political activities increasing in the face of winter session of the Parliament, the electoral temperature in Uttar Pradesh, Uttrakhand and Punjab is soaring. Besides the proactiveness of leaders, the blame game has also started. In the run-up to the election, leaders often give such speeches that create controversies. Uttar Pradesh and Punjab have started witnessing it. Leaders do have good acumens of moulding public feeling, but when they deliver speeches ignoring the ground reality, political animosity and bitterness crop up. Recently, Rahul Gandhi during his address to a rally in Phulpur said, how long will people of Uttar Pradesh keep begging in Maharashtra. His statement has invited backlashes from all quarters, which can send ripples to the Parliament as well. This session of the Parliament will witness political headwind in the face of assembly polls in UP, Uttarakhand, Punjab as well as gung-ho over the division of Uttar Pradesh, because all parties may lose political score for this decision of Mayawati. That’s why those political parties which have been champion for smaller states are also opposing this move. Although Mayawati has moved this resolution for reaping of political benefits, the Opposition seems to be faltering in undoing her plan to earn vantage points from it. 

The Congress-led Central government appears to be improving its image through this session of the Parliament. The government is likely to table more than 30 bills in the winter session of the House. Seeing the list of bills, it seems that the government wants to budge on economic front. But the Centre does not look decisive and confident in this regard because the bills related with economic reform are still outside the government’s agenda. Of these, the Direct Tax Code and Goods and Service Tax Bills are most important. The Land Acquisition Bill does not seem to be in the priority of the government. As 16 out of 31 bills are related with economy, so the government can claim that it is going to push the second phase of economic reforms, but such assertion could be valid only when these bills are passed. Going by the stand of the Opposition, it sounds unlikely that these bills would take the form of law. The BJP alongwith the Left does have reservations for many of these bills. Both the BJP and the Left parties have pooh poohed FDI in multi-brand retails. Even traders have also jettisoned it, which has created a big problem for the government. The Opposition is also naysayer for the Pension Fund Regulatory Bill. However, it will be clear during the session what stand will the Opposition take regarding the Food Security Bill, Company Act, Mines and Minerals Regulatory Bill? Other important ones like Judicial Accountability Bill and Whistleblower Bill may be also tabled during this session. It is certain that the Opposition will also corner the government on the issue of black money, Telangana, Centre-state relation etc.

Though everyone, including corporate world, has pinned high hopes on this session of the Parliament. India Inc is of the opinion that the government has gone slow as far as decision making is concerned. Recently, top industrialists have not only raised concern over the slackness of the government but also shot off letter to the Prime Minister in this regard. It is seen that the system is not so agile and the government has become lax in taking any bold decision. Even the Prime Minister seems to be shackled with many issues. Albeit Sonia Gandhi looks hale and hearty after long treatment, she does not appear as dominant as she was during the UPA-I.

The Congress has high expectations from Rahul Gandhi, but he has distanced himself away from the functioning of the government. His motive to strengthen the Congress is quite right, but it is pertinent if the Centre continues showing its slackness, the party would not move up despite his back-breaking efforts. The ruling party cannot gain anything by passing buck for every reason. It has become palpable that senior leaders are responsible for the slackness at the helm of affairs, so nothing concrete could happen until coordination among them is established. The political pundits of the Congress have made all-out efforts to put Anna Hazare and the Opposition in the dock, but they could not succeed because the government itself is facing fire on the count of inflation and corruption. Of course, only time will say if the Central government faces the winter session of the Parliament without any hindrance or it could manage to improve its image.

(An original copy of the article published in Hindi on November 20, 2011 translated by the English Editorial. The author is Group Editor of Dainik Jagran)