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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
05NEWDELHI3736 2005-05-18 12:12:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy New Delhi
Cable title:  

PARLIAMENT CONCLUDES A STORMY YET PRODUCTIVE

Tags:   PGOV ECON PINR IN 
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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 NEW DELHI 003736 

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/18/2015
TAGS: PGOV ECON PINR IN
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT CONCLUDES A STORMY YET PRODUCTIVE
SESSION

REF: NEW DELHI 3652

Classified By: Charge Robert O. Blake, Jr. for Reasons 1.4 (B, D)



1. (C) Summary: Despite BJP disruptions and a boycott of
Parliament, the UPA and the Left Front (LF) passed crucial
legislation and the budget during the session which ended May


13. Growing animosity between the BJP and the UPA underlies
the inability of the parties to cooperate in Parliament,
which is leading to popular dissatisfaction with these
antics. The BJP is getting most of the blame and lawmaking
will suffer if the two coalitions cannot work together in
Parliament. End Summary.

Return to Boycott


--------------------------





2. (U) The 2005 budget session of Parliament (February
25-May 13) was marred by the discord and opposition walk-outs
that have characterized the Lok Sabha since the UPA took
office in May 2005. Loud conflicts on the floor brought
business to a standstill, and rancor continued from the
session's opening day until the opposition announced a
boycott and walked out on April 27.



3. (U) Divisive issues included:

--the NDA demand that the UPA dismiss Railway Minister Lalu
Prasad Yadav, as he faces mounting legal pressure for alleged
corruption;

--Yadav's call for the dismissal of Gujarat Chief Minister
Narendra Modi, after Lalu was attacked by BJP activists while
conducting Ministry business in Gujarat;

--Yadav's condemnation of the Election Commission for alleged
impropriety in a Bihar by-election;

--UPA demands that the GOI reject the Tehelka Committee
Report absolving former Defense Minister George Fernandes of
corruption charges, on the grounds that the Committee
Chairman had accepted rides on Indian Air Force planes prior
to his ruling on the case.

--BSP leader Mayawati's condemnation of a GOI investigation
of her "unexplained" wealth allegedly obtained through the
"Taj Corridor" and fraud in Uttar Pradesh; and

--BJP attacks against PM Singh as "the weakest Prime Minister
ever," and accusations that he tried to prevent a meeting
between former PM Vajpayee and Pakistani President Pervez
Musharraf.

Growing Discord


--------------------------





4. (U) When the NDA walked out on April 27, it accused the
UPA of "setting new and absolutely unacceptable norms of
political conduct," and "gagging the voice of the
opposition." Opposition leader LK Advani subsequently
rejected the PM's appeal to end the boycott, claiming that it
had been called not merely to demand Yadav's ouster, but to
"convey the anger and anguish" of the opposition. The NDA
also objected to a remark by Congress leader and Sonia Gandhi
confidant Ambika Soni, calling on the NDA to "apologize"
before returning to Parliament, as well as a statement by PM
Press Adviser Sanjay Baru that the PM would make no more
appeals to win NDA participation. Advani claimed that "the
message is loud and clear that the opposition is not needed."
Although NDA MPs returned for one day to debate the budget,
the opposition boycott continued throughout the remainder of
the session.



5. (U) As the boycott dragged on, there were signs that NDA
unity was cracking. The press reported that former PM
Vajpayee, Jaswant Singh and Yashwant Sinha argued in private
for a return to Parliament, while LK Advani, George Fernandes
and Janata Dal (U) leader Nitish Kumar were bent on staying
out. By May 4, the Telegu Desam Party (TDP) of Andhra
Pradesh announced that its support for the NDA was only
"issue based."



6. (U) After TDP MPs returned to Parliament, BJP leaders VK
Malhotra and Sushma Swaraj dismissed the move as
insignificant, claiming that the party was "free to choose
its own course."

Smooth Sailing


--------------------------





7. (U) Without the opposition present, the Left Front
stepped into the role of "constructive opposition" abandoned
by the BJP, and the UPA and LF got down to business. In his
wrap-up May 15, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ghulam Nabi
Azad claimed that the session was among the "most productive
of the past five years," pointing out that its 38 sittings
were the highest number since 2002, and that the session had
passed 26 pieces of legislation, including: the Patents
(Amendment) Bill, the Prevention of Money Laundering Bill,
the Right to Information Bill, the Weapons of Mass
Destruction and their Delivery Systems (Prohibition of
Unlawful Activities) Bill (reftel), the Finance Bill, and the
Credit Information Companies (Regulation) Bill, in addition
to the Budget.



8. (U) Parliament also approved the establishment of a
Coastal Aquaculture Authority, and Special Economic Zones.
In addition to approving the General and Railway Budgets, the
MPs discussed the budgets of Goa and Bihar (currently under
President's Rule), the functioning of government ministries,
relief and rehabilitation of tsunami victims, agricultural
issues, and reforming the education and criminal justice
systems.



9. (SBU) Parliament's passage of the Private Security
Agencies (Regulation) Bill, which regulates the ownership and
operation of privately owned security agencies, could
directly impact Embassy operations. Article Six of the Bill
appears to indicate that such companies must be majority
owned by Indian citizens. Since the Mission retains a
British-owned company, the Bill's impact is not yet clear.


The Last Laugh


--------------------------





10. (U) The Congress and its UPA allies capitalized on the
NDA boycott, appearing conciliatory and magnanimous. At the
conclusion of the session, the PM commended UPA
parliamentarians while calling on absent members to return
for the next session so Parliament could resume "the normal
tenor" of its work. "Once again," said the PM, "we end the
session with a sense of regret and concern" as MPs had
"ignored" the people's concerns by staying away from
Parliament. The Parliamentary Affairs Minister invited the
opposition MPs to come "in full strength" to the upcoming
"monsoon session," saying "Parliament does not belong only to
the ruling party. If any political party boycotts the
proceedings, it does not enhance the prestige of the
Parliament."



11. (U) Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi was the most
partisan. Deriding the NDA for "spreading canards against
the Prime Minister in crude and offensive language," she
praised him for "going out of his way" to persuade the
opposition MPs to return, saying "not even our most bitter
critic can accuse our Prime Minister of being arrogant,
subjective and or inconsiderate, yet this is what the BJP has
done." Mrs. Gandhi also blamed the BJP boycott for
Parliament's failure to pass the Rural Employment Guarantee
Act, a crucial component of the UPA's Common Minimum Program,
saying that the absence of BJP MPs prevented the bill from
passing out of committee.

Comment


--------------------------





12. (C) Indian politics has always been nasty and
acrimonious, but we cannot recall a Parliament session that
has been so bitter. Personal animosity increasingly colors
interaction between the rival parties. The Gandhi family
loathes George Fernandes, much of the BJP leadership cannot
stand Laloo Prasad Yadav, while Yadav has a personal vendetta
against Narendra Modi. The antagonism has become so fierce
that it prevents the orderly functioning of Parliament.
Wiser heads within the BJP realize that a boycott is not an
effective opposition strategy, and are urging the party to
step back from the brink and return to a more constructive
role, but appear incapable of convincing the party
hardliners. Congress has benefited from this, but cannot
conduct parliamentary business in a credible manner over the
long term without opposition participation. BJP performance
at the July/August session of Parliament will confirm whether
the party has learned its lesson from the outcome of the
Budget session.
BLAKE