With less than a fortnight to go for the crucial Budget session of Parliament, the Congress led UPA needs to brace itself for a stormy session. Opposition BJP is determined to haul up the government over a long list of contentious issues ranging from Home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's remarks on "Hindu terror" to the amendments, the CAG report on debt waiver to the the Lokpal bill.
Meanwhile Finance minister P Chidambaram in the run up to the budget, which would be the last full budget before the 2014 polls is slated to hold consultations with Congress leaders next week who have been demanding that the budget be replete with populist schemes.
Apart from the budget which will be a top priority for the government, three ordinances including the controversial Criminal Law amendment ordinance 2013 which brings in death penalty for rape will need to be placed before the house. The two other ordinances are the SEBI amendment 2013 and the Readjustment of SCs and STs in Parliament and Assembly constituencies 2013.
The government has already indicated that the Lokpal bill and the Food security bill are high on its agenda in this session. With 15 months to go for the 2014 polls, the UPA is clear that it needs to get these laws in place before it faces its toughest electoral test. The last two sessions of Parliament, have seen practically none or very little work being transacted.
However, the BJP leadership is already in the process of readying its arsenal. The party has decided to boycott Home minister Shinde for his statements on "Hindu terror" wherein he accused the BJP and the RSS of training terrorists in the country. "The Opposition by BJP will continue till the time Shinde, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi don't apologise for the statements, " said a senior BJP leader. To further build pressure on the government, BJP leadership has decided not to attend any meeting called by Shinde in his role as the Leader of the House.
The contentious Lokpal Amendment bill could also signal trouble for the ruling UPA. Not just the BJP but the Left parties too have lashed out at the government for not incorporating vital recommendations of the Select committee report which would go towards ensuring autonomy of the CBI. The opposition has made clear that the version of the bill cleared by the cabinet, will not pass muster with them.
The BJP has also resolved to rake up the issue of the CAG report on the farm loan waiver scheme. The report brings to light large scale irregularities in the scheme including how ineligible farmers got debt waivers.
What has also irked the Opposition is the unilateral manner in which the UPA issued the anti- rape ordinance just three weeks before the Parliament session. "The government had said that an all party will be called when the JS Verma committee submits its report but the government went ahead and brought an ordinance. The government will also have to answer why two solicitor generals have resigned in the last 18 months. These are important issues for the opposition and we will seek help of other opposition parties to raise these issues in Parliament," said a senior BJP leader.
Adding to the government woes is the recent reopening of the Suryanelli gang rape case with vociferous demands being made by the Left parties that Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairperson PJ Kurien step down from his constitutional post. Kurien was named in the case but has since been exonerated. Senior Congress leaders concede that it will be embarrassing for the UPA to have Kurien in the chair when the Rajya Sabha discusses the anti-rape ordinance.
However, party sources indicate that while the Congress high command is deliberating the pros and cons it is unlikely to buckle under pressure.
Union Minister Manish Tewari speaking to Business Standard said, "We hope that people realize the sensitivity of the Budget session and contribute constructively towards its success."