After DMK exit, UPA says it's business as usual

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 21, 2013 03:39 hrs

Assuring investors India's political system was still stable and the country was open for business, Finance Minister P Chidambaram on Wednesday ruled out suggestions that the government had become weaker after 18 Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam (DMK) Members of Parliament (MPs), including five ministers, walked out of the ruling coalition. "There is no uncertainty; there is no instability," he said.

However, that the government was staggering to stay firm on its feet was not very difficult to see. Congress President Sonia Gandhi had to virtually beg Samajwadi Party (SP) chief Mulayam Singh Yadav, now a principal ally of the government, not to press for the resignation of Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma over his remark referring to Yadav as a "terrorist" who sought "a commission as the price for his support to the UPA". However, Yadav stuck to his demand for Verma's apology in Parliament. The Congress' compromises to keep its friends close also became apparent when its vice-president, Rahul Gandhi, met 22 party MPs from Uttar Pradesh. Though Verma was present, Gandhi, who had been bitterly critical of SP during his campaign for the state's Assembly election, didn't even mention SP's name. Instead, he sought MPs' suggestions on the party's preparedness for the Lok Sabha elections.

At a press conference this morning, Chidambaram, with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath and Information & Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, said: "We are in the government. We have a duty to steer the ship even if there is a mild storm in the sea. We have our hands firmly on the wheel. We will continue to push legislation."

To back his statement, he said the Cabinet cleared the food security Bill yesterday and an Empowered Group of Ministers approved disinvestment in SAIL this morning.

The government tried to project it had the numbers and was comfortably placed even after the pull-out of five DMK ministers and 18 MPs

BUT, the leverage of ally Samajwadi Party that it was shoring the government up waned, as it refused to accept Beni Prasad Verma's apology for calling Mulayam Singh Yadav a terrorist

HOWEVER, the FM said the govt would not waver from its reforms plan - SAIL divestment had been okayed, India had won the respect of at least one rating agency and investment would continue to flow in

He said the food security Bill would be introduced in Parliament and "I am confident there will be enough support to pass the Bill". On other legislative reforms, he said "each Bill stands on its merit and I am sure it will be passed". This was with reference to the insurance and pension Bills, which did not have the support of all parties, including some UPA allies. "The government will continue to take executive action and push legislation in Parliament," he said. Chidambaram is to meet foreign investors in Japan, UAE, Canada and the US in the coming weeks.

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