BY | March 12, 2012

New Delhi/Lucknow, (IANS) Brushing aside speculation of mid-term polls, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday said the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) had the numbers even as Samajwadi Party, an outside supporter of the ruling alliance, favoured the idea of a third front.

On the first day of parliament’s budget session, the prime minister sought to put at rest speculation of early polls and indicated that he was not unduly worried about the likely pressure from the opposition following the Congress’ unimpressive performance in the polls to five states.

“I think dealing with pressure is part of the parliamentary life. I am confident that we have all the numbers that are needed,” Manmohan Singh told reporters.

Opposition parties including the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Communist Party of India (CPI) criticised the government over its policies following President Pratibha Patil’s address to the joint sitting of the two houses of Parliament.

Trinamool Congress, a constituent of UPA, too said it had complaints with the Congress but the differences can be resolved through talks.

The prime minister said he was confident that the budget session would run smoothly.

“We are willing to discuss and debate all issues on the floor of the house. I appeal to all the political parties to work together and cooperate in meeting the challenges and opportunities the country faces,” he said.

Manmohan Singh’s assertion came even as Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister-designate Akhilesh Yadav welomed the debate on the possibility of a non-Congress, non-BJP third front.

“If the country is debating on third front then it’s a good beginning,” Akhilesh told reporters in Lucknow.

However, he added that his party’s primary focus was to take Uttar Pradesh on the road to development.

Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) leader Lalu Prasad, whose party also supports the Congress from outside, said there were “practical difficulties” in the idea of a third front.

“Where will be (its) office. Who will be in the selection committee. There are practical difficulties,” he said.

Trinamool Congress leader Sultan Ahmed said his party had problems with the Congress on issues such as the way it was pushing the establishment of the National Counter-Terrorism Centre (NCTC) without consulting the states on the issue.

“But the issues can be resolved through talks,” he said.

The speculation about a third front gained momentum over the past few weeks following several non-Congress chief ministers including Mamata Banerjee, Naveen Patnaik, J. Jayalalithaa and Nitish Kumar joining hands to oppose the NCTC.

Samajwadi Party’s victory in the Uttar Pradesh assembly polls and Mulayam Singh Yadav’s decision not to go back to state as chief minister further added to the speculation.

Meanwhile, the opposition was signalling its intent to build pressure on the Congress following its poor performance in the recent assembly polls.

BJP leader S. S. Ahluwalia said that the president’s address does not indicate steps that the government intends to take in order to revive the economic sentiments. “There is no mention of how the economy can be improved and how it will benefit common man,” he said.

CPI leader D. Raja said the UPA government had failed to check price rise and inflation and there were reports of oil marketing companies contemplating increase in prices of petroleum products. He said his party will raise issues of price rise and agrarian crisis during the budget session.

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