On the eve of the Bharat Bandh called by the Opposition and supported by some of its own allies, the Congress appeared to be confident of managing the crisis that followed the Trinamool Congress’ decision to withdraw support to the UPA Government.

The Opposition said the fact that the Trinamool Congress has pulled out of the Government and the DMK and Samajwadi Party (SP) have decided to support the bandh, protesting against FDI in retail, diesel price hike and cap on LPG cylinder supply, has made it clear that the Government is in a minority.

The CPI (M) has demanded a special session of Parliament to discuss the recent decisions of the UPA Government. The National Democratic Alliance is also likely to make such a demand soon. The BJP said the Prime Minister had assured Parliament that FDI in retail will not be implemented without a consensus among States. The Congress has made it clear that there was no going back on the reform steps taken. The Finance Minister, P. Chidambaram, said all decisions were taken after consulting the alliance partners, including the Trinamool Congress. “These issues were taken up after the most careful consideration. They stand,” he said.

A core committee of the Congress also discussed the scenario. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held separate discussions with Congress President Sonia Gandhi. It is learnt that the majority of Congress leaders is against reversing the announcements.

The party leadership has also considered stray voices from party leaders, including Food Minister K.V. Thomas and Minister of State for Agriculture, Harish Rawat, on putting a cap on LPG cylinders. The Congress’ chief spokesman, Janardan Dwivedi, told reporters here that the party president has written to Congress-ruled States to raise the number of subsidised cylinders from six to nine for each household.

Opposition stand

The Opposition parties were non-committal about bringing a no-confidence motion in Parliament. The BJP said there is no need to ascertain votes in Parliament as the majority in both Houses of Parliament is protesting against the Government. The CPI (M) said the Government has no right to continue in office unless it rolls back the “anti-people measures”.

The SP is in no mood to withdraw support even though it has started preparations for the next general elections. The party’s leaders will finalise the strategy at a meeting here on Friday. The Bahujan Samajwadi Party will hold a meeting on October 9 to chalk out its move on the pro-reform measures.

jigeesh.am@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on September 19, 2012)
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