Pandemonium in the Rajya Sabha over Lokpal Bill
But this time round, it may be Congress which may be cheering the self goal she scored through her lieutenants in
by stalling the Lokpal legislation in the upper house of Parliament. Delhi
First, was the Teesta pact with Bangladesh, which she scuttled by disagreeing with a very basic and simple sharing of river waters in order, so say Congress leaders, to arm twist the centre into giving more funds to her cash strapped state government.
Her brash and extremely un-diplomatic act at the penultimate hour, left Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and
India as a whole, red faced on the Prime Minister’s maiden visit to Dhaka.
The Teesta river which starts out as a mountain rivulet in Sikim flows down as a broad river through North Bengal to enter
Bangladesh as a tributary feeding into the mighty Brahmaputra.
The deal promised water sharing on an equitable 50:50 basis at Gajoldoba barrage near Siliguri in
West Bengal. With the deal falling through, despite Singh’s other gifts for Bangladesh – duty free garment exports, border enclave swaps which gave Bangladesh large tracts of Indian land etc. - was painted a fickle friend. India
Her second, was to force the ruling alliance to place in cold storage Commerce Minister Anand Sharma’s move to bring foreign direct investment in retail. She left a loophole in her protest against the move, by uttering something about doing what was good for farmers. Again a signal, Congress Mandarins say, that she wanted more funds.
In a sense, the Congress was not really unhappy with her tantrums that time as it gave them an opportunity to cold store a necessary but unpopular move which would have hit millions of mom and pop stores ahead of key assembly elections to Uttar Pradesh state,
’s most populous province. India
The move to open up to the Walmarts and Tescos of the world would surely have been used by opposition parties such as the pro-trader Bharatiya Janata Party and regional outfit Bahujan Samaj Party to accuse the ruling alliance of selling out to transnationals and turning the issue into an election trump card.
The Congress rather cleverly used this stalling as a chance to tell farmer-voters of how mindless opposition had nixed a chance to bring a legislation which could have helped them sell produce at better prices.
This time round Mamata’s party, after making noises of unhappiness with the Lokpal bill ended up supporting it in the Lok Sabha or the lower house of India’s Parliament by not seeking divisions on amendments moved by it.
Later, on her express instructions, Trinamool Congress MPs in the Upper house or Rajya Sabha made it clear that they would seek a vote on their key amendment to the bill which seeks to set up an independent Ombudsman.
The bill suffers many defects, but as one Central Minister said at least it was being enacted and later Parliaments would have the luxury of improving upon it. Trinamool’s amendment in the name of defending federalism, sought to keep out a clause which would have allowed states to set up their own Ombudsmen to be called Lokayuktas.
Trinamool’s stand, encouraged a clutch of parties such as Mulayam Singh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal, which had earlier in the week walked out in the Lok Sabha or lower house making it easy for the ruling alliance to pass the bill, to decide to stay and vote against the bill.
This meant the ruling coalition did not have the numbers to pass the bill, forcing the Congress to stall for time and take the cover of an ensuing chaos in the house to put everything on the backburner and prepare for another day.
Congress did not specifically blame its ally but rather pleaded helplessness as some 189 ammendments had been brought by lawmakers from among opposition and allied parties which needed study nd scrutiny.
But the Congressman on the street is already whispering `Mamata does not want any oversight body to look into the affairs of her government.’ Till now, they had little ammunition to attack her. Her popularity seemed teflon coated and every little thing they said against her seemed petulance on the part of an ignored partner in a stale marriage.
Mamata’s honeymoon period after her landslide victory earlier this year will soon be over. People at large and newspapers in particular will soon start asking more critical questions. Who slept over lack of safety measures at AMRI hospital? Why are farmers unable to get announced support price for their grain?
At the same time, repeated bids to trash the Congress while asking for more money, may see the Congress coming up with more procedural wrangles which reduces the flow of mullah through the federal pipeline.
Turning an uneasy ally into a hidden enemy may not exactly be a great strategy for Trinamool in the long run. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) learnt that the hard way in the last elections.
See Also: Anna Checkmated
See Also: Anna Checkmated