UPA to face tough Budget Session of Parliament



New Delhi: The Congress party's drubbing in the recent assembly polls, talk of mid-term elections, key alliance partners pulling in different directions on federalism and price rise...the going for India's ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) appears tough as parliament meets from Monday for considering and passing the budget for fiscal 2012-13.

The session, which will last till May 22 with a three-week break from March 31 to April 23, is expected to witness heated debates over what some opposition-ruled states see as centre's efforts to usurp their powers through the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC).

This issue is likely to bring together unlikely bed-fellows from both the opposition, led by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and ruling benches, as key allies of the UPA such as Trinamool Congress are opposed to the idea of giving up the state's police powers to fight terrorism to a central agency under the country's home ministry.

The ruling party from West Bengal led by Mamata Banerjee is also likely to give headaches to the UPA on other fronts too. It has expressed its opposition to a cut in fertiliser subsidy, and has spoken against the hike in the prices of petroleum products.

With the Congress most vulnerable following humiliating defeats in key states such as Uttar Pradesh and Punjab, apart from Goa, the opposition parties are likely to go in for the kill - by attempting to forge floor coordination with some recalcitrant constituents of the UPA to embarrass the government on critical issues.

The ruling party leaders including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chief Sonia Gandhi face an uphill task, as the biennial polls to 58 Rajya Sabha seat from 15 states will be held on March 30, even as the parliament is in session.

During the three-month session, which will begin with the customary address by President Pratibha Patil -- her last as she retires in July -- to the joint sitting of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, the government will try and get the 2012-13 budget passed.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee will present the budget March 16, and the country's Economic Survey will be tabled on March 15.

The rail budget will be presented on March 14 by Railway Minister Dinesh Trivedi, whose remarks on the possibility of midterm Lok Sabha polls will find an echo in parliament, though he later made it clear that his party did not want to pull down the UPA government.

After the budget is presented, parliament will take a break to enable debates of demands for grants of various ministries by the respective standing committees.

BJP's Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj has already complained during an all-party meeting convened by Speaker Meira Kumar about the short duration Budget Session's first phase when her party and other opposition want to raise several issues of national concern.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, though, informed that the government will be ready to debate any matter that the opposition may want to bring up on the floor of the two houses of parliament.

The budget session, usually held from February, got delayed this year due to the assembly polls and the election code that was in place.

The BJP is confident that even Congress' allies will side with it when it corners the government on the issue of federalism, farmers' issues such as move to ban cotton exports, and price rise.

The government is dependent on its allies, and partly on the opposition benches, if it has to get the crucial Lokpal Bill, after the Lok Sabha rejected it, passed in the Rajya Sabha. Another key UPA legislation to provide food security is with a parliamentary standing committee.

Opposition is readying to put the government on the mat over a host of other issues such as the action against space scientists, including G. Madhavan Nair, in vew of the controversial spectrum deal between Indian Space Research Organisation's Antrix and private sector Devas.

It may also raise the delays in operationalising the Kudankulam nuclear plants project in Tamil Nadu that has faced protests from non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Manmohan Singh had recently charged the NGOs with getting foreign help in their protests against the nuclear plant.

The BJP will also rake up its pet issue of illegal money stashed in tax havens abroad and may demand a white paper on the issue.

It may also move a calling attention motion to discuss the situation arising out of Norway's decision to put two Indian kids in foster care after separating them from their parents.

IANS