Sibal downplays differences between Cong, Trinamool

Kapil Sibal
New Delhi, Jan 6: Downplaying differences between Congress and its UPA partner Trinamool Congress, HRD Minister Kapil Sibal today squarely blamed the Opposition for the Government's inability to get through the Lokpal Bill and FDI.

Dismissing the recent sparring between Congress and Mamata Banerjee as "vicissitudes" of politics, Sibal stressed that a "clear mandate ultimately" is required if an element of certainty has to come to policy-making.

He told Karan Thapar on CNBC's "India Tonight" programme that Mamata's support to Lokpal Bill would not have made a difference as the government did not have numbers in the Rajya Sabha and the Opposition decided to move the amendments only after realising it.

Asked about the Trinamool Congress supremo's role, he said, "even if she would have been on our side, we would not have been able to pass the bill."

On whether it was not the UPA ally that made the government roll back its decision on brining FDI in retail, Sibal replied in negative saying it was reversed as "Parliament became dysfunctional" for which he put the blame on the Opposition, including BJP.

He, however, said, "We are a coalition government. We do not have majority in Parliament. We have ideologies, which are disparate. We have to cobble up a government to give some direction to the nation. What we need is a clear mandate ultimately by the people of India to bring the element of certainty to policies and ideologies."

His remarks came when asked whether the Prime Minister has got the spirit to carry on amid the odds stacked against the government and with the resistance to the government's decisions coming not only from Opposition but also allies.

Asked about the recent controversy between Congress and Trinamool Congress in West Bengal over the proposal to rename Indira Bhavan, Sibal said, "These are all things that happen in politics. We will go through these vicissitudes and we will come around it. Do not worry about that."

He also rubbished rumours of the possibility of change of guard at the Centre before the completion of the term of the current Lok Sabha, insisting that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will complete his full term.

"Prime Minister will complete his term. This has been stated more than once by Mrs (Sonia) Gandhi...That the party is fully behind the Government. Doubting Thomases can always doubt because that is their hope that it would happen," he said.

Attacking the Opposition for playing "obstructive politics", he alleged there were enough facts to prove that their strategy was to defeat the Lokpal Bill.

BJP wanted to press for amendments to use it during elections to claim that they made the Lokpal Bill stronger while at the same time ensuring that there would no Lokayuktas in states ruled by them, he said.

The minister said he was worried about the polity and ideology of BJP saying the main Opposition party believes in actually "obstructing and paralysing" Parliament.

"If a leader of the Opposition of a national party says that obstruction is part of Parliament tactics and it becomes embedded in the ideology of the national party, it's a sad day for the Indian nation," Sibal said adding that the "charge of murdering democracy should actually be on the BJP."

Maintaining that running Parliament smoothly is a "joint responsibility", Sibal said that during the height of the Lokpal controversy he had attempted to meet a senior BJP leader, who declined to meet him despite giving three appointments. He, however, declined to name the leader.


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