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Stormy start to Indian parliament session

Parliament adjourned for the day amid heated debate over creation of new southern state.

Last updated: 05 Feb 2014 09:03
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The session gives the ruling Congress a final chance to woo voters before next elections [EPA]

India's parliament has been adjourned for the day amid heated debate over the creation of a new state after it convened for a last session before upcoming general elections.

The last session is seen as a final chance for the ruling Congress party to convince voters it is taking action on corruption and to showcase the resolve of leader Rahul Gandhi.

As the parliament met on Wednesday, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, appealed to all parties to help push through legislation.

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"I sincerely hope that parliament, in its wisdom, will transact the essential business which is the primary concern of any legislature in a parliamentary democracy," Singh said in a statement.

The world's largest democracy must hold a parliamentary election by May and the date is expected to be announced around about the close of the session on February 21.

After 10 years in power, the popularity of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), led by Congress, has sagged in large part over a series of graft scandals as well as its inability to halt a sliding economy.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) calls it a lame duck government that is merely making a last-ditch attempt to shore up support. It should leave decisions to the next government, BJP leaders say.

Opinion polls put BJP, a conservative Hindu nationalist party, and its prime ministerial candidate, Narendra Modi, ahead of the Congress and its chief poll campaigner Gandhi.

The bills due to come up for debate in the session cover issues that Gandhi, the fourth generation member of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty that leads Congress, has championed, including women's empowerment and graft.

Array of bills

Congress will try to push through 39 bills including six anti-corruption bills to address public anger over graft. They address issues such as protection for whistleblowers and corruption in the judiciary.

The coalition will also try to pass a bill that creates a new southern state and an interim budget expected to contain pre-election sops for voters.

The new state, Telangana, would be carved out of Andhra Pradesh. The bill should generate vote-winning support for Congress, but its passage is opposed by many sections.

There is also a bill on reserving a bloc of parliamentary seats for women - reflecting the growing prominence of women's issues after a series of sexual assaults.

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Source:
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