For the opposition, the chopper scam could not have surfaced at a better time. “Corruption has been, and will always be, a core issue for the BJP. And we don't have to go and find them. You turn a page, and there is a new one,” said BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy, MP, confirming that his party would take up the issue in the Budget session of Parliament.
That almost assures turbulent times ahead. Arun Jaitley, opposition leader in the Rajya Sabha, will press to get to the bottom of the scam in the session. “Who got paid? That is the only limb of the case that remains to be investigated. Everything else is in public domain,” said Jaitley.
The left parties are determined to stall the proceedings as they are determined to push for the resignation of Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P.J. Kurien for his alleged involvement in the Suryanelli sexual exploitation case. Adding fuel to this will be issues of corruption from spectrum band to coal allocation and the price hikes of petrol, diesel and LPG. “We don't disrupt the house for the sake of pleasure. We are as interested in people's welfare as we are responsible to them,” said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.
Four bills are expected to be introduced in the session, including the crucial Finance Bill 2013, the budget. “The government is ready for discussion on any issue to ensure that the house functions smoothly,” said Kamal Nath, minister for parliamentary affairs. But it does not look that simple, considering that the government will seek approval for many programmes that are likely to get them votes in the Lok Sabha elections due next year.
Among the important businesses of Parliament this session are the National Food Security Bill, 2011, Criminal Law (Amendment) Bill, 2013 (will be introduced after the recently notified ordinance on the safety of women is tabled), Pension Fund and Development Authority Bill, 2011, Lokpal Bill, and the SEBI Amendment Bill. There will also be the railway budget.
Part of the listed business are five Constitutional amendments, of which the Women's Reservation Bill is the oldest. The most recent one, on reservation in promotion, is crucial for the government.
The Companies Bill, passed by the Lok Sabha, is slated to be considered by the Rajya Sabha. The upper house will also take up FDI in multi-brand retail. “The government is prepared to face the FDI debate,” said Kamal Nath. Also pending for vote in the Rajya Sabha is the Whistle Blowers Protection Bill, 2011.
There is bound to be unanimity among non-Congress parties should the railway minister propose fare hikes. “The government's failure to halt inflation and corruption are the core issues for us,” said Rudy. “I am confident that no political party will say the contrary.”