BUDGET 2000-2001 |
March 10, 2000
Naidu, Sharad Yadav hold key to passage of Finance Bill
Tara Shankar Sahay in New Delhi
"There are two dozen-odd parties in our NDA and it is natural that disagreements will crop up amongst ourselves," explained BJP general secretary Narendra Modi. "But to say that our allies will pull down the government because of their disagreements is stretching things a bit too far. No such thing will happen. The government will last its full, five-year term," he pointed out.
BJP vice-president K Jana Krishnamurthy dismissed the prospect of the NDA allies jeopardising the government in the event of passage of the Finance Bill without any rollbacks.
" I am afraid I have bad news for those praying for this government's demise. Such fervent hopes have been expressed ever since it assumed office. Agreed that occasional disagreements occur among us, but does that mean we are going to fall apart?" he queried. "The truth is that the Opposition parties are getting increasingly worried on the government's achievements so far. That is why they see a ghost behind every nook and corner," Krishnamurthy pointed out.
BJP spokesman M Venkaiah Naidu said, "You see, the Opposition lacks any coherent or credible issue. They latched on to the RSS issue in Gujarat but we have settled it now and so they are agitating over the NDA government in Bihar.
"And now again they seem to imagine that our allies are angry with us on some issues and that they will vote against the government on some important issues including the Finance Bill. This is preposterous because all differences are going to be ironed out amicably and grievances, if any, will be sorted out."
However, NDA coalition partners have shown that they will not go along with the government on controversial issues, especially those which affect their electorate.
On March 7, almost a dozen allies of the BJP-led government served an ultimatum on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee to roll back the prices of wheat and rice distributed through the public distribution system or PDS. These were hiked after the February 29 Budget announcement.
The irate ruling coalition partners voiced their grievances through a memorandum to the prime minister. Vajpayee suggested that they should meet Finance Minister Sinha the next day to sort out the issue. But Sinha reportedly not only stuck to his guns but let it be known that he would not roll back the price increase in urea, PDS rice and wheat.
The main grouse of the ruling coalition partners is that Sinha bypassed them while finalising Budget 2000. They conveyed to the prime minister that his party should not take their support for granted and that their patience should not be tested.
Deputy Leader of the Janata Dal (United) Parliamentary Party, Devendra Prasad Yadav, who is considered close to party chief Sharad Yadav, recently threatened to pull down the Vajpayee government by voting against it on crucial issues. He underlined that his party had voted against the government on the Uniform Civil Code and would repeat the act if the BJP leaders remained unflinching on vital issues.
TDP Lok Sabha MP Yerran Naidu pointed out that the erstwhile United Front coalition government headed by H D Deve Gowda had always consulted its allies before raising the prices of essential commodities. He said the Vajpayee government should do the same. "Otherwise, you cannot clap with a single hand," Yerran Naidu warned the BJP leadership, indicating that the TDP, like the other allies, would not tolerate "unlilateral decisions " by the saffron party.
The Trinamul Congress of Mamta Banerjee, the railway minister, had on Wednesday warned the government to have the Gujarat government order, enabling its employees to join the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, rescinded. That was done but the allies have now mounted pressure to reduce the recent price hike.
Should the BJP's allies decide to vote against the government on vital issues, the Vajpayee government may fail yet again on the floor of the Lok Sabha.
In the Lok Sabha's total strength of 545 members, there are two vacancies.
The BJP has 183 members, TDP 29, JD(U) 22, Shiv Sena 14, Dradiva Munnethra Kazhagam 12, Biju Janata Dal 10, Trinamul Congress 8, Indian National Lok Dal 5, Pattali Makkal Katchi 5, Marumalarchi Dradiva Munnethra Kazhagam 4, National Conference 4, making up the National Democratic Alliance constituents' combined strength of 296 in the Lok Sabha, the lower house of India's Parliament.
On the Opposition benches are the Congress with 113 seats, the Communist Party of India-Marxists with 33, Samajwadi Party 25, Bahujan Samaj Party 14, Rashtriya Janata Dal 7, Nationalist Congress Party 8, th eCommunist Party of India 4, Rashtriya Samajwadi Party 3, All India Forward Bloc 2 Majlis Ittehadul Muslameen 1, the Communist Party of India Marxist-Leninist 1, Janata Dal (secular ) 1... in all 212.
The rest belong to smaller parties and Independents.
Thus in the house of 543, the NDA would be needing a strength of at least 272 seats for a simple majority.
However, were the NDA constituents to carry out their threat of pulling down the Vajpayee government, it would take only the TDP with 29 seats and the JD(U) with 22 and to withdraw support on any crucial parliamentary issue.
This is the scenario the BJP leaders want to avoid at all costs. The BJP's vice-president Jagdish Prasad Mathur pointed out that for the BJP and its allies to reach a meeting point on the issue of the recent price hike, both sides would have to make partial climbdowns from their positions.
"This is the only honourable way out," Mathur underscored.
It is learnt that Sinha may after all agree to some partial rollbacks, if matters reach a boil. So too would the NDA allies, giving up their demand for a complete rollback.
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