ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Keeping Politics on Top

THE facts have been clear enough. From the moment, on March 30, Congress president Sitaram Kesri met the president and handed over to him the letter withdrawing his party's support to the United Front government, the government of H D Deve Gowda had lost its majority in the Lok Sabha. This was expectedly established when, on Friday this week, the government lost the confidence vote in the lower house of parliament by 158 to 292 votes, whereupon Deve Gowda duly submitted his resignation and was asked by the president to continue in office in a caretaker capacity. In the midst of the high voItage political drama going on in the capital, the gross impropriety of the UF government's conduct after it had become clear that it had lost its mandate to rule has not received the attention the matter deserves. Normally a government in its position would have been expected to confine its actions and decisions to the minimum necessary to carry on the day-to-day administration till its fate was decided by parliament. In this instance, however, the government has done quite the opposite. It has tried to push through as many major policy measures, relating to the economy especially, as possible before its time ran out. There has been a flurry of notifications, many of them to give effect to proposals contained in the finance minister's budget speech, such as enhancement of the limit on in vestment by foreign institutional investors in the equity of companies from 24 to 30 percent and dereservation of 14 items hitherto reserved for manufacture by the small-scale sector. Other major policy announcements have also followed including the one liberalising the conditions governing external commercial borrowing by Indian companies and, most important of all, the export-import policy for the next five years. What is more, no one in the government, neither ministers nor officials, seems to think that there is anything at all the matter with what has been going on. The finance secretary, for instance, quite casually informed a business conference in Bangalore the other day that 'all budget promises' would be carried out speedily and that notifications in respect of some proposals which had not been given effect to yet would be issued as soon as the necessary 'processing' was completed. Far worse was to follow. Immediately after the UF government's resounding defeat in the Lok Sabha a high- pressure campaign has been sought to be mounted to secure the passage of the budget of the very government that has been shown the door. Taking leave of all sense of political decorum and decency, the finance minister in the defeated government has advanced the proposal that "passing the finance bill is the least we as parliamentarians owe to the people of India, who in my view have broadly welcomed the budget". This is not the occasion to debate whether his budget was quite the god's gift to this nation that Chidambaram so modestly believes it to have been and whether it had indeed been welcomed by the people of India. All that is entirely beside the point and irrelevant. What is material is that the government whose budget it was has ceased to exist and so has the budget with it. This is by no means a crisis or an unprovided-for development in a parliamentary democracy such as ours. There is the well established expedient of a vote on account to keep things going till a new government is installed and comes forth with its own budget.

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