Left to mobilise support for cut motion on fuel hike

Left to mobilise support for cut motion on fuel hike

They also gave clear signals that the government should give up its "neo-liberal" policies like disinvestment and legislations relating to civil nuclear liability and foreign education providers if it wants their support.

CPI(M) General Secretary Prakash Karat, who called the shots in UPA-I when the Left gave outside support and is seen as the one who pushed for its withdrawal on the Indo-US nuclear deal, says "it is not our job to see whether the government (stays or falls) ....

"We are telling the government, you have enough time to take a considered decision and withdraw this (hike). There is still time. There are a few more weeks left."
While maintaining that it was up to the government to muster numbers, he told PTI in an interview that "our effort is not to destabilise the government. Our effort is to ensure pressure on the government to withdraw this increase. That is our focal point."
The cut motion would be against the government's decision to hike customs duty on crude and excise duties on petrol and diesel. If a cut motion is adopted in Lok Sabha, the government of the day would have to quit.

All the other major opposition parties, including BJP, have given notice that they will bring cut motion on the petro products' price hike issue.

The entire opposition and outside supporters of the UPA like RJD, SP and BSP, had staged an unprecedented walk out from the Lok Sabha when Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee presented his budget and made the announcement about the duties on petro products. The opposition unity was, however, broken by the Women's Reservation Bill.
If the entire opposition and the outside allies of the government get together on the cut motion, then the government's numbers could be put to severe test as the support for the treasury benchers is expected to be just above the half-way mark of 272 in the 545-member House.

Asked if the Left would support the government in case of threat in return for passage of the Women's Reservation Bill, Karat said "after all the government is having a majority so far. It's not a question of numbers, it's a question of politics. As I said, as far as we are concerned, our aim is not designed to topple the government. Our aim is to fight the government on policy matters"

 Karat said if there was a situation in which the Left parties were working to destabilise the government, then "we will make a political statement, we will make it a goal and do it. We don't believe in any conspiratorial method."But, the Marxist leader said, the UPA government "must come to terms with the reality that they won the elections without getting a majority. They should recognise that they cannot push through neo-liberal policies."Karat said the Left parties would be talking to all other secular opposition parties so that they could go for a bigger all-India action.

"We hope that before Parliament session resumes on April 15, we are planning to have a meeting of all the opposition parties and there we will chalk out the next stage of the movement which will be all-India," he said, adding this would be the first effort after the Lok Sabha elections for a re-grouping of the Left and other secular opposition parties outside Parliament.

Asked if this meant that CPI(M) would not do business with BJP on cut motion in the Lok Sabha, Karat said "well, we know what their stand is. They have said that they will move a cut motion.

"We are aware of what their stand is. Irrespective of that, our stand will be there. And we are mobilising and coordinating with parties with whom we are always having floor coordination."

However, he said once the cut motion is there on the floor of Parliament, it becomes the property of the House and anybody can support it, anybody can press for a division.
"We have to express our opposition and try to get this provision cancelled."
To a question whether the strategy on cut motion would attract criticism that the Left would be tying up with BJP, Karat said "it's not a question of who moves the motion. I would not look to see 'Oh, BJP proposes, so I will oppose it'".

The CPI(M) General Secretary also spoke of the strong opposition of the Left parties to the proposed Civil Nuclear Liability Bill, which, he said, was being brought to fulfil a commitment to the US during the nuclear deal negotiations. "We are totally opposed to the strategic alliance with the US."

On the proposed legislation, he said it was "really surprising" that the government brought a bill "which so flagrantly goes against the interests" of the people.
"So I am sure that you will see that when this bill is introduced, many who supported the deal are going to come out against it," he said, demanding scrapping of the measure. Karat said "the (civil nuclear liability) bill seems to be only meeting the demand of the US administration and a commitment obviously made that we will bring such a legislation. ... This is the type of a bill which should not be passed for any reason, whether it is for the US or for anybody else."

He said the bill exempts the foreign nuclear suppliers totally from any liability, puts a cap on the operators' liability and has provisions that severely restricts citizens' right to make compensation claims and places it outside the jurisdiction of courts.

Asked if he regrets the decision to withdraw support to UPA-I and about reported criticism in the party against his forcing the issue, Karat said the Central Committee had discussed the matter and "it's a closed chapter".

"We have decided that it was a correct decision for us to have withdrawn support on the (nuclear deal) issue and there was some criticism in our party that we should have withdrawn support earlier. But overall, the CC thinks that it was correct to have withdrawn support. It's not a question of regret. In politics, we are governed by our political stand." 

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