India govt defiant amid parliament deadlock
NEW DELHI: India's embattled coalition government on Thursday rammed another spending bill through parliament in defiance of a deadlock over corruption scandals that has slowed the passage of major reform legislation.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government voted through a bill for $227 million additional spending for the railways amid loud shouting from opposition lawmakers the likes of which has stalled debate and shut down parliament daily for three weeks.
It was the second day running in which the government has pushed through bills, overriding opposition attempts to halt the parliamentary sessions.
The opposition wants a joint inquiry into an alleged telecoms license scandal that may have cost India $39 billion in potential revenue loss, triggered the sacking of Telecoms Minister Andimuthu Raja and raised questions over Singh's judgment.
It is one of several scandals that has rocked the Congress party-led coalition in the last month, including the arrest of eight executives from the private and state sector over a bribes for loans scam.
The Congress party insists it will let parliament run the full course of the winter session that ends on December 13, though it will likely have a tougher time achieving progress on more controversial, and economically key, bills such as over land reforms or a mining.
"There is no change in the situation, the deadlock continues," said Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pawan Bansal. "There is no chance of adjourning the house before December 13."
The last two additional spending bills have been passed by a voice vote, a procedure that has allowed the government to get around a threeweek stalemate between the government and opposition parties, spearheaded by the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party. Moves to push through spending bills demonstrate a toughening of the government's stance after efforts to come to a compromise by a key dealmaker for the Congress, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, proved fruitless.
The government feels a wider parliamentary probe into corruption would be seen as weakness, and would give the opposition extra political ammunition. The move to push through bills may also signal government strategy to pass other bills still pending by voice voting during the rest of the current session. But the bills passed so far have been uncontroversial spending bills that are crucial to the government's ability to function and were never seriously under threat of being thrown out by the opposition. But senior Congress party figures in private say they are uncertain whether such potentially divisive legislation could be passed in the current session amid the deadlock. -Reuters