New Delhi, March 22: The month-long budget session of parliament, packed with financial business, saw a series of ups and downs for the UPA government as the houses went into recess Friday till April 22.
President Pranab Mukherjee’s first address to the joint sitting of both houses Feb 21 was clouded by the twin blasts in Hyderabad that killed many, with the opposition slamming Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde for intelligence failure.
Shinde also created a furore in the upper house when he named the three minor victims of the Bhandara (Maharashtra) rape case. The names were later expunged from records by the chairman.
Later in the session, while replying to the motion of thanks on the president’s address, an unusually aggressive Prime Minister Manmohan Singh attacked the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), saying that nine years of Congress-led UPA were better than the six years of the BJP-led NDA.
Singh said people would judge his government on its performance and would return it to power in 2014 as they had done in 2009.
Financial business took up most of the time in the first half of the budget session which saw Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal’s first budget Feb 26 focussing on safety and amenities for passengers.
Defying speculation that he would introduce a host of populist measures keeping the 2014 general elections in mind, Finance Minister P. Chidambaram presented a growth-oriented general budget Feb 28 with a strong accent on social welfare.
The government was able to pass the appropriation bills related to railway and general budgets besides approving the budget for Jharkhand, which was placed under President’s rule in January.
After some sweet talk and hard bargaining by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath, the government finally managed to bring a diluted version of the anti-rape law under pressure from various parties and get it passed in both houses.
The government, however, found itself placed in a tight spot by an unsavoury spat between Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his friend-turned-foe Steel Minister Beni Prasad Verma. It even forced Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to apologise to Yadav, whose 22 members in the Lok Sabha are crucial for the survival of the UPA hit by the exit of ally DMK.
Eyeing to revive his political fortunes in Tamil Nadu, DMK chief K. Karunanidhi decided to pull out of the UPA March 19, a day after three Congress ministers failed to convince him over a vote against Sri Lanka in the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC).
In between, the government was hit by another crisis as Italy said it would not send back its two marines facing a trial for killing of two Indian fishermen off the Kerala coast.
Finally, the strong words of the Supreme Court, which barred the Italian ambassador from leaving the country for failing to honour his commitment, and efforts of the external affairs ministry turned the tide in India’s favour with Italy agreeing to send back the marines.
The session also saw Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi telling party MPs that it was a wrong question to put to him about when was he becoming the prime minister.