UPA gears up to face cut motions

Cong may seek support of smaller outfits

With “friendly parties” such as the Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and the Janata Dal (Secular) (JD-S)joining hands with the Opposition, the UPA tally stands at 271 while it needs the support of 273 members to cross the majority mark in a House of 545 members.

However, the government is seeking the support of independent and unattached MPs, suspended members such as Digvijay Singh, Jaswant Singh, Jaya Prada and non-UPA, non-NDA parties apart from other smaller outfits. If these members support the government, then the ruling coalition will be able to cross the majority mark comfortably.

The 88 members of the 13 parties—the Left, SP, RJD, JD-S and the Telugu Desam Party––and the 116 BJP members add up to 204. The Janata Dal (United) with 20 MPs and the Shiv Sena’s 11 MPs are also part of the NDA. The Bahujan Samaj Party, with its 21 MPs, is yet to spell out its stand. The 13-party combination has decided to bring several cut motions on issues such as the fuel price hike and amendments to the Finance Bill. Though there is no formal floor coordination between the Left and the BJP, their views are similar on fuel price hike, cut in fertiliser subsidies and the increase in customs duty.

A senior minister told Deccan Herald on Tuesday that the government’s first priority is to ensure that the figure crosses the 273-mark. “It is morally important that we cross this figure because it will prove that we command majority in the House. However, we will also bank on some members abstaining from the House at the time of guillotine”, he remarked. He added that though the Opposition wanted to bring cut motions, they did not want to defeat the government at this stage because of the lack of a credible alternative.

The government is taking the passage of money bills seriously as a defeat here means it will have to go. The UPA was saved from an embarrassment last month as it withdrew the Nuclear liability Bill at the last minute as it found itself in a minority in the Lok Sabha.
While the Rajya Sabha began discussion on demands for grants on Monday, the LS started the debate on external affairs ministry on Tuesday. Both Houses are likely to discuss four ministries each while the rest will be taken up for guillotine without discussion.

The government plans to complete the process of passing financial matters by April 30.

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