Will it be another unproductive parliament session?
The United Progressive Alliance (UPA) is hoping that parliament's winter session Nov 22-Dec 20 would function normally so that it can pass important bills, especially those related to economic reforms, even as the opposition plans to corner the government on allowing 51 percent foreign equity in multi-brand retail.
Knowledgeable sources said the UPA government has identified around 35 bills for the winter session, including some carry-overs from the previous session.
Among the important bills being pushed by Finance Minister P. Chidambaram are amendments to the Insurance Laws Bill to raise the foreign equity cap to 49 percent from 26 percent, the Banking Regulation Amendment Bill and the Direct Taxes Code Bill.
The opposition parties are planning to corner the government on FDI in retail. The Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) wants a debate and a vote on FDI during the session and has appealed to others in the opposition to join the issue.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), supported by the trader community, is also opposed to FDI though it did not shy away from toying with the idea during the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) rule in 1998-2004.
Within the UPA, the stand of the DMK is not yet clear on FDI though all allies are together on major issues.
The month-long monsoon session Aug 8-Sep 7 was washed out after the BJP did not allow parliament to function over faulty coal block allocations, demanding Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignation.
The government could get only six bills introduced and six passed by either house of parliament in the monsoon session, which lost 13 out of 20 working days to disruptions.
The month-long winter session too will have 20 working days and a heavy agenda.
Keeping that in mind, the prime minister has already met UPA allies. Both the Samajwadi Party (SP) and the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) are supporting the UPA from outside. The prime minister has even reached out to the BJP.
In September, Mamata Banerjee's Trinamool Congress quit the UPA over economic reforms, making the government dependent on the SP and the BSP.
The Trinamool Congress is also planning to bring a no-confidence motion against the government and to rope in the Left parties and the BJP over it.
Chidambaram Friday said the government was reaching out to the political parties to let parliament function smoothly.
"The parliament session has a very heavy legislative agenda. We are reaching out to various political parties to carry through these agendas in the four weeks that we have for the session," Chidambaram told reporters.
"We sincerely hope that the forthcoming session will be a productive one and many bills will be passed. My suggestion is that not one issue (FDI) should be blown out of proportion. There are many very important issues that concern the welfare of the people and the future of the country", he said.
The government's point is that a state can choose not to allow FDI in retail but should not block the way if another one wanted it.
(Amit Agnihotri can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)